The new wave of independent female artists coming from Latin America - The sweet spot between local sounds and global pop aesthetics
More than ever, the Spanish language has become a powerful tool to create global hits. Contrary to the initial homogenization that sprouted from Pop Urbano’s success, the current landscape of Latin music reaching the charts is as diverse as you could ever imagine. A run through the region reveals a variety of artists that seamlessly fuse local music styles, such as banda, cumbia, huayno and traditional Latin songwriting heritage, with the aesthetic of the global sounds of reggaeton, hip-hop and even k-pop.
As you would expect, a lot of these new sounds are coming from independent female artists who print their own style into their music and, while doing so, defy many of the expectations of the Latin American mainstream music industry.
The following list is an example of the variety of faces pushing Latin American pop aesthetics to new frontiers, ranging from Regional Mexicano innovations coming from up North next to the U.S. - Mexico Border, to Colombia’s Pacific Caribbean Palenque sounds, all the way to the unique alternative pop wave coming from Chile.
“Being independent hasn’t been easy, but it allows me to be free to do the music that I want, to enjoy doing so and have no pressures about it” - Safara.
When you listen to Safara’s “Mi Rareza, Mi Belleza'' it's hard to turn your head away from it. There is something a bit quirky and very addictive about the way she goes back and forth between a strong Colombian accent-English and Spanish lyrics, as well as switching between U.S. funk and Colombian Palenque rhythms. After being nominated for the Latin Grammy in 2016, her latest works shake off most of the expected exotism of the “world music” label to reach a unique sort of musical eclecticism that promotes a strong Afrolatino identity. A quick listen to her newest project reveals a combination of influences that reminds us of the local Afro-Latino sound of Choc Quib Town clashing against the classic music of international icons of black music heritage ranging from James Brown to Bob Marley.
“When I started making songs, I had a hard time with lyrics [...] because I grew up listening to music in English. [...] This was until I started to pay attention to Violeta Parra’s lyrics. [...] There I found a way to make music in Spanish in a way that represented me better, that seemed very Chilean and very female, without feeling cliché” - Natisú
Natisú is one of the emerging voices of Chile’s Indie music scene, a collaborator of iconic artists such as Francisca Valenzuela and Camila Moreno and the first female artist to earn the award for Best Music Producer at the respected Pulsar Awards. Her sound has an intimate bedroom indie feel that is matched with epic songwriting ambitions. This is something that can remind the listener to the alternative edginess of Lido Pimienta as well as the indie pop sensibilities of either Vanessa Zamora or Astro. Her latest single “Amores'' is a great example of how she uses these elements. This epic pop song with a strong conceptual offering mixes synthpop foundations with melodic hooks reminding the style of Danish artist MØ.
Martina La Peligrosa
“I feel that everywhere people are trying to connect with the roots, to rescue those things that we identify the most with and put them into the trending sounds, into the urban sounds that connect with the whole world. [...] I think that the way we consume music today has turned the whole world into one same thing [...] and in the end we all end up connecting with each other. That’s why I feel that my own sound can be Latin and at the same time represent, not only Colombia, but many places from Latin America.” - Martina La Peligrosa
In the past couple of years artists such as J. Balvin or Maluma have turned Colombia into a powerhouse for Pop Urbano. Martina La Peligrosa is an artist that uses that powerful Colombian pop sound and adds its unique flavor by tapping to her Colombian Cordobés heritage. After cutting her teeth into the industry doing vocals for local stars such as Carlos Vives and Alberto Plaza, she’s become a mainstream personality with big success on social networks by consolidating a streak of pop anthems that pay tribute to a long list of female voices ranging from local and Latin heroes such as Toto La Momposina or Celia Cruz, all the way to Anglo pop stars such as Christina Aguilera or Beyonce. As a result, her signature style seems to be the ability to add a colorful dimension of emotions on top of different kinds of feel-good music. “Lo Mejor de Mi” is a great example of this - a summer anthem that mixes new Pop Urbano beats with all kinds of champeta inspired sunshine filled guitars
“I don’t want to be the stereotype from Regional Mexicano and that’s why I like to use different structures and themes in my songs. It’s the same with my videos, I put my own style on them by using wigs or different attires that aren’t so classic to Regional Mexicano, yet they express my essence” - Adriana Ríos
In the past couple of years Regional Mexicano has taken the Mexican American music industry by surprise, generating massive streaming numbers and creating musical innovations such as Corridos Tumbados, Mariacheño or Sad Sierreño. Despite its growth, the landscape of Regional Mexicano still has a strong deficiency of empowered female voices. Cue in Adriana Ríos, a singer-songwriter that is not only helping to reduce the gender gap in this scene, but also making a statement as an empowered female voice that defies the “trophy wife” stereotypes that Regional Mexicano is so used to including in its lyrics and videos. Her single “Ya No Importa” is a great example of this: a girl-power anthem and video that uses both hyper feminine and “ruthless kick ass” references to transmit the importance of being true to yourself. Additionally, this track proposes a refreshing new sound for Regional Mexicano by achieving a midpoint between Norteño, Mariachi and Pop elements.
“Our values are what defines us as human beings and allows us to be happy, to have empathy, control our ego and feel respect and love for ourselves as well as others” - Martha Paredes
Martha Paredes is a high-profile percussionist from Venezuela that is known for her work as part of Los Fantásticos Band, an all-star backing band that can be commonly found on some of the biggest stages of the Continent alongside Pop Urbano stars Chyno and Nacho. In the past year Martha has consolidated her career as a songwriter by releasing tracks such as “Valora”, an instant party classic that taps into the vallenato fusion vibe of Carlos Vives, Bacilos or Fonseca. The same can be said for her single "Agua de Mar", in which her compositional skills stand out by the use of orchestral arrangements reminding of the way Calle 13’s “Visitante” is able to tell a whole movie-like narrative just over 3 minutes on tracks like La Perla of La Jirafa.
“I have dreams, luckily I’ve been able to achieve some of them, and others are there waiting for me, but the truth is that music surprises you all the time and I like to keep alive the ingenuity of surprise” - Natalie Pérez
Natalie Pérez is an Argentinian actress that became a mainstay of mainstream culture by her role in teenager shows such as Chiquititas and Rebelde Way. In the past couple of years, she has done a powerful crossover into a music career, releasing albums that put her in the same conversation as artists such as Mon Laferte, Jorge Drexler or Juanes. Although she isn’t shy to explore all kinds of Latin American music, she finds a sweet spot with dancefloor-oriented tracks such as “Penita de Mi Corazón” that use the big band cumbia template to introduce all kinds of hooks that reconfigure melodies from the traditional Latin singer songwriter heritage. If this wasn’t interesting enough, her latest track alongside Lisandro Skar uses a combination of trap production values and bolero riffs that remind us of the way C. Tangana is pushing the Ibero American songwriting tradition to new places.
Gallardía is an upcoming Colombian artist from Bogota that stands out by her growing portfolio of killer covers on YouTube as well as for her very vocal discourse on TikTok about being comfortable in your own body despite the expectations coming from mainstream media. Although her repertoire picks up from different corners of Latin American singer songwriters’ heritage, some of her more outstanding ideas can be found in her track “Bolero Triste”. This is a piece that reminisces of the Swedish producer Max Martin works on the early Britney Spears or Backstreet Boys sound, infused with a Latin American songwriting heritage that goes from Los Panchos to Natalia Lafourcade. This is the kind of track you would imagine Christina Aguilera craving for during her Spanish crossovers of the early 2000’s.
Itzza Primera is a Venezuelan artist who has made Colombia home to her artistic career. Her rise to stardom came from the success of her “coversos”, a series of cover- inspired songs uploaded to YouTube that went viral, as well as writing songs for stars such as Chyno and Reykon. After that, it was her hit “Roma” with the late Legarda that turned her into a mainstay of the Colombian pop charts. Ever since, she has been on a streak of hits, whether it is by releasing her own singles, putting out tracks alongside The Winning Team Crew or writing for superstars such as Maluma and Piso 21. Her ability to ride any type of pop sounds makes it hard to pin her signature style to one type of music. However, it’s easy to recognize that she has a special talent creating lyrics that give traditional Pop Urbano an exciting and refreshing focus.
“A lot of people can sing songs, but when they live them it is different. When I rehearsed “Cholo Soy” it made me cry. [...] I wanted to prove that despite all of the obstacles, I could push forward, that “I’m a chola and you don’t need to have pity of me” - Ruby Palomino
Ruby Palomino is a singer that broke into notoriety after she won the 2014’s edition of “The Voice Peru” with her signature Rock Mestizo style, a musical genre that is all about bringing rock audiences to traditional folk music from Peru. Being the daughter of two recognized folk musicians (Polo Palomino from Dúo Mixto de Huancayo and the classic singer Gloria Ramos) she has been able to develop a special ability to translate the message of Peruvian folk songs into ambitious crossovers, such as her famous version of Chola Soy. Without being able to perform due to the pandemic, Ruby’s latest project is “Canto Por La Paz”, a power ballad that is all about giving her fans a much-needed solace during the current times.