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Born parallel to the 2016 US presidential election in response to xenophobic declarations and actions against Latin immigrants, Tulengua identify themselves as “a bilingual hip hop supergroup from both sides of the most crossed border in the world”. Tulengua seeks to demonstrate how Mexicans and North-Americans, Spanish and English speakers, can be combined through the universal language of music to reflect the beauty of the neighbouring countries and dissolve political, geographical, linguistic and racial boundaries.
All the profits from their latest record ‘Baja Funk’ were donated to an immigrant rights organisation. With lyrics denoting awakening and conscience, the protest tone is evident, yet they maintain a message of hope and positivity; the band’s aim is to recover the humanity that unites people instead of dividing them, using music as medicine to heal the world of hatred and excessive division.
The child of a French father and a Venezuelan mother, Sophia Helena Fustec Briceño is a collage of cultures. A one-girl-band who composes, writes, sings, plays and produces everything in her home studio, her energetic creations convey common messages of faith and authenticity. Frequently known as La Chica, she affirms that her influences are widespread; when she’s not dedicated to her productions, she listens to sounds ranging from late-era Beatles and Radiohead to Caribbean artists such as Fania All Stars and Rubén Blades. Currently residing in Paris, international tours and concerts have been recurrent since the formation of her project in 2014. Her latest single “Sola” is an ethereal journey, as looped vocals and driving synthesisers build to a powerful electronic crescendo.
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Today we take a look back 18 years, to recall a jewel from legendary Mexican duo Plastilina Mosh. Founded in 1996 by Jonas González and Alejandro Rosso, the band released their second album “Juan Manuel” in 2000; a 13-track masterpiece, the album features a diverse range of sounds that make it almost impossible to classify by genre, mood or language whatsoever, with lyrics in English, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese.
The journey begins with “Nordic Laser”, an entirely instrumental krautrock piece, perhaps the simplest piece of the album before the madness is unleashed; the grooves of “Boombox Baby” and “Bareta 87” give the album a retro dancefloor sensation, drawing on Giorgio Moroder-esque richness, while “Shampoo” and “Aropador” are subtle and seductive and the likes of “International Stereo (Bassass)” and “Let The Speaker Speak” demonstrate a raw aggressive energy.
A classic record that is powerful, unpredictable, and truly timeless.
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In the Aymara language, “Churupaca” is a giant adaptable, multi-talented insect that can swim, fly, jump and hunt, amongst other skills; thus, the Buenos Aires neo-orchestra found the perfect name for their project. Formed by a diverse group of musicians of various disciplines, Churupaca stand out for their acoustic sentimentality and the romanticism of their lyrics. Together, members Juana, Fefo, Ricardo, Darío, Joaquín and Pablo gave birth to their second record this year, entitled “Antes de Mañana” (“Before Tomorrow” in English). The fifteen-track masterpiece guides us on a journey through countless textures and styles from across Latin America and the world, with folk and soul influences alongside classic elements of the tango, burlesque and waltz. The album’s instrumental exuberance is defined by the dramatic qualities of the wind and string sections, the sumptuous accordion melodies and Juana’s emotive, longing vocals, creating a rich, multi-layered body of work to be savoured.
‘La Niña Quantica’ Julián Mayorga, is a perfect example of the enigmatic Colombian producer’s ingenious, surrealist creations. The “cumbia” begins and a continued mantra that spouts: “A la niña le gusta la física cuántica (the girl likes quantum physics)”; unexpectedly, the lyrics also describe the function of the theory of perturbations in quantum mechanics. With such irreverent themes in his writing, this track from his 3-track EP “Nixon en la Playa” uses tropical elements and Andean folklore alongside progressive electronic experimentation and a somewhat black humor, the most characteristic elements of Mayorga’s sound,
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Otura Mun, an African-American musician and Babalawo (high priest) in the Yoruba religion arrived in Puerto Rico in the late nineties, and quickly positioned himself as one of the most important producers on the island. Accompanied by musicians Rafael Maya, Beto Torrens, Anthony Sierra, Yarimir Cabán and dancer Pia Love, Mun founded the multi-national project ÌFÉ, a powerful progressive synthesis of electronic sound drawing on influences from Cuban rumba, Sacred Yoruba praise songs, Jamaican dancehall, and US R&B. IIII+IIII (pronounced “Edgy-Og-Beh”) is the title of the nine-song debut album from ÌFÉ, released last year. The 45-minute ceremony combines Mun’s fluid, percussive rhythms with spiritual lyricism oscillating seamlessly between English, Spanish and Yoruba. Genre-less yet focused and clear, serene and ethereal at times and determined and powerful at others, this is a record that in spite of its high production values is as unpredictable as it is natural and raw – an astonishing piece of music from a truly unique act.
La Garfield emerged five years ago in the Mexican city of Guadalajara as the victors of a high school band contest project. The 8-piece group were originally focused on jazz, but have been adding elements of funk rock, pop and disco as their sound has progressed over their three released albums to date. The intention of the band is to spread positive and loving sensations through their music; grooving basslines, rhythmic percussion and melodic wind sections provide the idyllic bohemian sound to La Garfield’s latest release “Todo Lo Rico”, while the soulful voice of lead singer Sofia contributes latin flavour and pure uplifting vibes.
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‘Koopa-Cabras’ is a unpredictable celebration of monsters and folklore. The latest release of Tropa Mágica, the musical project of brothers Rene and David Pacheco, the track stars modern mythological creature Koopa merged with a more cryptic Latin-American character in The Chupacabras, who’s name comes from the beast’s reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock.
The track starts with synth arpeggios that mark the “arcade videogame ultimate villain feeling”, before suspensive percussion appears followed by a bassline and surf style guitars that creates the tropical punk mood characteristic of the Pacheco Brothers. The siblings, based in Los Angeles but of Mexican roots, collaborated in this occasion with two other Latin artists: Fredo Ortiz and César Mejía.
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Almost a decade ago a dub legend, Mad Professor, originally from the tip of South Americas belly, Guyana, joined forces with the Uruguayan Alicia Dal Monte Campuzano known worldwide as Alika to give life to an iconic album in the history of dub: ‘Mad Professor Meets Alika’.
The complex work, entirely produced by Mad Professor, has seven tracks with their respective dub version of each. Alika’s powerful voice contributes direct, clear lyrics in both English and Spanish that speak of respect, dignity, and self-confidence as she rejects the oppression, consumerism and corporate dominance of Western society.
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An ensemble of woodwind instrumentation and beatboxed rhythms distinguish the sound of ‘Sistema’, a four track EP released last year by Eric Mandarina. An experienced musician, actor and all-round entertainer, since 2004 he has been studying self-taught percussion, classical guitar and acoustic drums. His latest proposal is a journey that mixes elements of dub and reggae with analogue house bass and funk-infused drum pulses, as lyrics loaded with mundane questions seek to demonstrate the systematic operations that we oppose.
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In 2016 Mercedes Nasta, former vocalist of Mexican electronic rock band Disco Ruido, undertook her solo adventure. Creating her own downtempo, hypnotic brand of cumbia (the carribean-infused folk music of northern Latin America), Nasta took the reins of the project as she developed her production skills; this, combined with her deep poetry, soft voice and the collaboration of gifted musicians under her direction produced a masterful project inspired by basalt, the form of cold lava from which the album takes its name. ‘Basalto’ is a experiment, record with a soulful, psychedelic touch that whispers a nostalgic and mystical lullaby, exploring a range of themes including architecture, internal transformations and pre-hispanic art.
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Tomás Justo delighted listeners this year with his debut solo album ‘Ronco y Bruxo’. A former member of successful acts Onda Vada and Michael Mike, the composer and vocalist moved away from constant touring life to create his most sincere and romantic work to date. In addition to taking care of the bulk of the composition and production of the album’s 11 songs, Justo also handles most of the instrumentation, playing guitar, bass, synthesisers and a range of analog and digital percussion, resulting in a unique blend of electronic folk and progressive pop.
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During the last few years a new wave of female rappers has emerged in Central America, using hip-hop as a force for social change. One of them is Nakury; born Natasha Campos, she first came into contact with hip-hop culture at the age of 13 through graffiti, alongside names like Mush, Sneak and PSK. As an activist, MC and social commentator, Nakury writes rhymes on social, philosophical themes to spread her message of inclusivity. Drawing from her experiences growing up in an environment of domestic violence, her desire to write about resilience and change distinguishes her from many of her peers. Her 2017 album ‘VIA’ is a 16-track project which she described “as the road, as the present, the now”, and features collaborations with artists such as Rebecca Lane, Barzo, Kumary Sawyers, YOGI beatbox, Nacho Páez, and Guadalupe Urbina. Nakury explains that she sees ‘VIA’ as an “introspective adventure that shows life as a way that gives you knowledge and spiritual power to face individual or collective situations”. Over a refreshing mixture of boombap, breakbeat and trap, she delivers lyrics that encourage a return to the roots and love of nature; Nakury speaks of protest and female empowerment, and sees hip-hop as a tool to approach women’s communities rather than an ends in itself, so that the voices of resistance can find an amplifier in her music.
Berlin-based, Argentinian producer and feline fanatic Catnapp combines rap, breakbeat, drum and bass and more to create an intense, nostalgic atmosphere. Fat beats are driven by lyrics confessing the deepest childhood memories over huge, compressed pads and synths, resulting in a unique, original sound. ‘No Cover’, her most recent release, is an aggressive two-track EP engendered by feelings of deceit, disappointment and anger. Heavy breaks and broken glasses give ‘No Cover’ an air of invincibility, belligerence and empowerment.
Mexican producers YOGUI and Dan Solo, members of the band Technicolor Fabrics, collaborated to give rise to a more dramatic sound in ’16: 20′. Released back in 2014, the single is characterised by a marching rhythm, imposing guitars and grooving synths, accompanied by lyrics describing breathless vertigo.
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The daughter of a renowned exponent of Argentinian tango, Juana Rosario Molina was raised with classic record collections and guitar lessons. In the mid-70’s, due to military disputes, the Molina family fled the country to go into exile in Paris, where teenage Juana’s musical scope expanded vastly. Nonetheless, when Juana was able to return to her native Argentina, she followed her actor mothers steps by beginning a television career. Her popularity rose exponentially and within three years she already had had her own successful comedy show, airing across Latin America and making her one of the most popular comedians in Argentina. Suddenly, at the peak of her fame, Juana took the hard decision to leave her successful work as an actor in order to pursue a career in music. After multiple releases, in 2017 she delivered her seventh and most solid LP ‘Halo’, which derives its name from one of the most famous folklore myths of Argentina and Uruguay; a halo of “evil light” that floats above the ground where bones were buried. The record evokes the occult in its music as much as in its lyrics. As in previous deliveries, her sound oscillates harmoniously between nature, folklore, humanism and fearless electronic experimentation.
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Omar Banos, better known as Cuco, is a teenage prodigy. In May, the 19-year-old chicano producer already delivered his third album: ‘Chiquito’, a record that floats through the movements of summer love. With uniquely calibrated synths and lyrics sung in both English and Spanish, his deft mixture of R&B, hip-hop and psychedelic pop has won him the support of Kali Uchis, Kevin Abstract and Steve Lacy, not to mention his loyal band of fans known as “Cuco Puffs”, who have turned him into something of a modern day dream-pop icon.
In the midst of territorial conflicts, making protest music in Central America can be a dangerous game, but Guatemalan sociologist, poet, actress, rapper and activist Rebeca Lane has stood strong against oppression as a passionate supporter of women’s rights and the preservation of Latin American heritage and natural resources. In the Mayan worldview, Obsidian – the precious stone that gives its name to her most recent album – represents the protective energy that helps to cut the negative and unveil mysteries. It is a stone used for healing, but also for war. This new album blends powerful rhythms and traditional instruments with powerful lyrics and the essence of boom-bap.
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Born in NYC but of Colombian roots, Crudo Means Raw stands out as one of the most exciting members of the golden generation of Colombian rappers. Both an exceptional MC and producer, Crudo adorns his beats with elements of jazz and soul, spitting raw lyrics that tell stories from the streets of Medellín.
‘Sangre en el Pool Party’ begins with the voices of Tanga, an old friend of Crudo, who one day casually passed by his studio. They left the track rolling, turned on the microphones and started talking, and that’s how this brilliant track was born.
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In Andean culture the most important festivity in the calendar corresponds to the summer solstice of June 21st, and it was on this day that Ecuadorian singer Huaira chose to release her first solo EP ‘Ñuka Shunku’ (“I am pure heart”). From the centre of the planet Quito on the day dedicated to the sun, Huaira (meaning “wind” in the Quechua language), the project opens with ‘Semilla Solar’ (“Solar Seed”), a song loaded with timeless Andean elements and beautiful vocals that seems to bring a message from the earth itself.