Latin music grows in popularity
Just as I was heading out the door for an evening jog, I discovered that my iPod was defunct. Dead as a doorknob. Since I can't fathom the idea of running without music - trapped with my thoughts for an hour - I dug my old Walkman out of the closet. I impatiently flicked through the stations in search of good workout music. When I reached the tail end of the radio dial, I heard the Spanish version of Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" hit. An unabashed Shakira fan, I set off running with renewed vigor.
"Hips Don't Lie" was followed by another lively Latin beat, along with a few songs that I recognized from my Zumba class. The infectious beat kept me moving. La Mega 107.5 soon became my go to music selection as my broken iPod gathered dust. I listened to the station while riding my bike, driving my car, and of course writing this article. Music even streams live from the website, so La Mega accompanied me just about everywhere I went!
Though I couldn't understand the words, —despite several earnest attempts to learn Spanish—I found myself shaking my hair and jiggling my hips to the quick tempo (I swear it puts a little sway in my step when I jog).
Then I wondered. Where did this radio station come from? And how long will itstick around? Some radio stations have a tendency to slip into obscurity just as I've declared myself a fan. But I had a good feeling about La Mega.
So I stopped by the offices of La Mega 107.5, for what I can honestly call my most lively interview. Program Director Omar Romero and General Manager Yadira Hernandez, along with on-air personalities JC Bertrand and Daphne "Potris Stylez" Hernandez, filled me in on the origins of the station and its involvement with the community, while gushing about their goals for the future.
La Mega 107.5 KXMG, which essentially spins Spanish Top 40 hits, launched in July of 2011. The station was originally on the AM dial, under a different name. The format included several genres of Spanish music. "We were playing everything under the sun," says Yadira Hernandez. After fifteen years of airtime, the station split.
"We left the Spanish country on the AM, which became La Raza 830 AM. La Mega became Spanish hits," Hernandez explains. Though faithful listeners of the original station were initially upset about the split, they were thrilled to hear La Mega 107.5 streaming on the FM dial.
"La Mega is your Spanish Top 40 station and La Raza is your Mexican regional station, which is like your country station," seconds Omar Romero. Artists on La Mega include: Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, Wisin & Yandel, La Quinta Estacion, and Camila, among others.
He explains that the station came into place since the market for spanish music was growing. "We saw the need," says romero. La Mega's sister stations, in such cities as Los angeles, Dallas and Houston were already experiencing success. romero, who spent eight years working for a top 40 station, knew that La Mega had great potential in the Crescent City. "We've got these radio stations that have been successful in all of these markets and we've replicated them here in the city of new orleans."
And there is indeed a market. nearly 200,000 Hispanics live in the Greater new orleans area. their presence and influence on new orleans culture is palpable - from the rowdy soccer games at Pan american stadium and the popularity of salsa dance lessons, to their diverse cuisine that can be found at countless restaurants and food trucks across the city. sexy Mexican chanteuse Paulina rubio—a La Mega artist—is one of the featured performers for this year's Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Latin culture has even impacted the way that new orleanians exercise. on any given day, gym-goers flock to a crowded class for a dose of Zumba - an exercise craze that has seemingly swept the nation (another article, another time)—where they burn calories to the rhythmic sounds of Central and south america.
Since La Mega obviously appeals to listeners beyond the spanishspeaking market, they've added music from mainstream pop artists, like Lady Gaga and rihanna. and the number of new listeners continues to grow. "i think we're reaching people who were settling for different radio stations," says Romero.
He also notes that Hispanics and non- Hispanics in new orleans share the same interests. "We love soccer, but we also love football," he says. Hispanics and non- Hispanics have attended school together, shared workspaces, and developed friend ships. Naturally, they have some similar taste in music.
La Mega plays an active role in this diverse new orleans community. DJs spin music at soccer games, participate in food drives, and assist numerous charities and organizations in the area, such as Children's Hospital. For thanksgiving, La Mega helped feed 500 families.
"We owe a lot to the community," asserts romero. "We're sitting in front of a microphone reaching thousands of listeners a day, so we're going to make sure that our talent is well used." Morning show hosts Hernandez and Bertrand like to toss jokes back and forth while on air and chat with listeners, but they share that serious, genuine desire to give back to the community.
The fruitful outreach efforts of La Mega stems from its success. since the station's fan base continues to expand, it can help more people, which amplifies the contributions that it makes to the community. and they don't show any sign of slowing down.
"We're number one and we're kicking ass," exclaims romero. "it's not about making it to number one. it's about staying there," he adds. With that attitude, i think it's safe to say that La Mega will dominate the market for a long time. this unique station has staying power. and like shakira's hips, i don't lie.
Spanish Music 101
You want to listen, but you're not sure where to start? Let La Mega 107.5 offer you some suggestions. You'll be shaking and shimmying in no time!
1. Mana—El Verdadero Amor Perdona
2. Romeo Santos ft. Usher—Promise
3. Prince Royce—Las Cosas Pequeñas
4. Daddy Yankee—Lovumba
5. Don Omar—Dutty Love
6. Juan Magan—Bailando Por ahí
7. Romeo Santos—Mi santa
8. Rihanna—We Found Love
9. Don Omar—Taboo
10. Pitbull ft. Chris Brown—International Love