Smaller Latinx Musical Artists to Support for Hispanic Heritage Month

You have most likely heard “telepatía” from Kali Uchis. Does “Pepas” mean anything to you? And did you think you could go the rest of your life without remembering “Despacito”?

With stars like Bad Bunny, El Alfa and Kali Uchis bringing international attention to reggaeton, dembow and related genres, Latin music is expected to generate over $1 billion in the United States alone in 2022. The growing number of collaborations between artists of Latin American and American origin is another testimony to the expansion of this sphere of Latin influence. Indeed, this paradigm seems to be reflected even on campus, from crowded stadium concerts at theme nights.

Blinding commercial success aside, it’s easy to forget the roots of Latin music genres widely enjoyed today. The dance music styles of reggaeton and dembow were created by black and brown Latinas in the urban centers of the Caribbean. The reggaeton scene began in downtown Puerto Rico as an underground youth culture, bearing the direct musical influence of Panamanian interpretations of Jamaican reggae. Artists in Puerto Rican towns like Bayamón and Carolina – where my father grew up – would record in their garages and then distribute tapes in the streets.

The fast pace and layered rhythms of dembow were similarly inspired by dancehall artists like El General from Panama. The genre originated in the Dominican Republic, with obvious influences from other Dominican musical styles like merengue and even Brazilian funk.

For Hispanic Heritage Month this year, dear reader, you might want to dive deeper into the vast world of Latin music! To that end, this list is my love letter to the creative musical spirit that flourished across Latin America before reggaetoneros dominated English-language music awards.

YENDRY

Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Italy, YENDRY creates music that embodies multiculturalism. Caribbean reggaeton and dembow, European electronica and West African Afrobeats come together in songs like Viral Sound’s “Nena” COLORS show or a contagious dance tune”KI-KI.” YENDRY’s silky Spanish voice is sure to impress fans of all genres.

Estevie

This 19-year-old Mexican-American cumbia singer impresses with a haunting and captivating sound on standout tracks like “La Cumbia Del Cucuy” and “Cumbia Loca.” The traditional cumbia accordion rings almost teasingly through these songs. Estevie seems to embody a villain twirling, turning, watching her prey. It also takes advantage of the grill, a Mexican vocal expression, in the background to build that effect. Synths and other techno influences are subtle, but contribute to the disembodied feeling.

Villano Antillano

At the forefront of the trans and queer revolution in the urban Caribbean music scene is Villana Santiago Pacheco, a native of Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Aside from her fast flow – as seen on her Bzrp music session — Villano Antillano is notable for breaking down boundaries within history misogynistic and homophobic kind of reggaeton. His musical clapback to homophobic reggaetonero Anuel AA »Pato Hasta La Muertealso showcases her precision in songwriting.

Lido Pimienta

Layered textures and dreamy vocals abound in “Miss Colombia», the second studio album of this Afro-Indigenous Canadian-Colombian singer. The project’s first single, “Nada,” uses haunting vocals and bright, upbeat music to sonically evoke an enchanted garden. From sound to visuals, “Miss Colombia” is a nod to the artist’s Wayuu and Afro-Latinx heritage. Bringing together the traditional and the modern in its flowery electro-cumbia tunes, Pimienta’s sound is sure to put a smile on your face.

Rita Indiana

Rita Indiana, a multi-genre Dominican musician and author, creates high-energy electronic rock tracks that often include references to Latin American politics. His latest album,Mandinka time“, was produced by a member of the iconic reggaeton duo Calle 13. Among my favorite moments on the project is the mention of the Puerto Rican revolutionary leader Pedro Albizu Campos on “The Heist” and the tribute to tragic disappearance of 42 leftist Mexican students on “Pa Ayotzinapa”.

Boza

Panamanian reggaeton artist Boza produces the classic Caribbean beats on tracks such as “In La Luna” and “Hecha Pa’ Miwhich brought him national and international attention. Boza’s musical career started in jail, where he says he took the time to think about his future and explore his creativity. Today he is known for his place in the fusion of dancehall, reggaeton and trap (called “canela” in Panama).

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes thoughts, opinions, and subjective criticism.

William N. Fernandez