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We're still dreaming of Sueños Festival, Chicago's marquee reggaeton fest

Kenny Perez

Reggaeton is a global phenomenon that draws millions of listeners to digital platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and more importantly, cool festivals. The genre's humble beginnings in the 1980s shifts, transforms and morphs itself throughout the decades, leading us to this very festival.

I won't attempt to tell its history, but I can suggest a podcast that will provide you information about the origins of the music. Take a listen to its history straight from the mouth of "La Diva," "La Caballota," the only Queen of reggaeton, Ivy Queen, as she delivers her first-hand accounts and interviews the movers and shakers of the genre in the podcast called, " Loud."

Now, onto recapping a fun and vibrant festival called, Sueños Festival. This event took place 90 miles south of Milwaukee in the big city of Chicago. To learn more and check out an inspiring music playlist, keep scrolling.

Memorial Day weekend in Chicago was amazing on first day of Sueños. The weather was right and the city itself was aglow with thousands of people admiring the skyline. Walking to the festival grounds, you could feel the excitement in the air, as well as the smells of the mouth-watering Latin foods. The event kicked off with the festival's resident DJ, Freddy Fresco, who for sure understood the assignment when it came to commanding the crowd and keeping their attention as the acts would change over. He was dropping very necessary gems to set the mood for the weekend.

Blessd | Photo by Kenny Perez

I got the chance to play 88Nine photographer both days. Can I say how much respect I have for those folks that write and take pictures?! I digress. On the first day, I got to see artists from different parts of the world like Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Columbia, such as up-and-coming artists Eix, Blessd (photo above), Tokischa and Natanael Cano. I could not stay for Ozuna, El Alfa, and Myke Towers. Might I add that the organizers did a fantastic job of programming the reggaeton acts and really outdid themselves by booking a couple young Mexican corrido artists. The Latino/a/e/x population in the city of Chicago is dominated by people from Mexico, so it was only right that they have a voice representing them. It was also a great change of pace from the heart-pound bass and soothing rhythms coming from the reggaeton performers. Low key (without saying it loudly), I was really excited to finally see Tokischa perform. Having more women being represented at major festivals is one that all events can work on but seeing an Afro-Latina/x was inspiring. She commanded the stage and delivered a performance with uptempo dembow vibes and amazing visuals.

Tokishca | Photo by Kenny Perez

On to day two; it was a warm one! It felt like 100 degrees, and the crowd was set for a serious evening filled with four of the hottest acts in the world. The Dominican Republic's, Sech, Puerto Rico's own Jhay Cortez plus Wisin Y Yandel, and, of course, Columbia's superstar, J Balvin. Jhay Cortez jumped out on stage with a bang! He performed hit after hit and had amazing dancers who played with the crowd and matched his energy song for song.

When I say Lengedarios (Legendary), it only means one thing to the islanders of Puerto Rico and here stateside. Wisin y Yandel is a reggaeton duo that not only has inspired young singers and rappers all over the world to pick up a mic but has also given inspiration to Milwaukee's own Gego y Nony to start creating. Their show was magical and literally brought a tear to my eye.

Then came J Balvin, the act that I was most curious about. Lately, he has been criticized for several things I don't have time or the energy to get into (I'll let you do the research). I do have time to report on his performance and stage presence. Man, the crowd was ready, the lights were heavy and the show was lit, literally. An already long fun night was capped off by hit after hit, and does he have them! Equipped with only a DJ and mic, Balvin played with the crowd, tied his shoes between songs (true story), got a phone tossed his way and loved on the city of Chicago. Closing with fireworks and praise for an amazing crowd, he was done.


88Nine Asst. Program Director / On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee