Commentary: Viva la musica latina

This+graphic+illustrates+Karol+G%2C+Grupo+Firme+and+Anitta+who+all+attended+this+years+Coachella+Music+and+Arts+Festival.+The+annual+music+festival+hosted+20+Latin+American+artists+in+their+lineup%2C+which+has+been+the+most+in+Coachellas+history.+Watching+every+performance+made+me+feel+represented+as+I+saw+songs+being+sang+in+Spanish+in+one+of+the+biggest+musical+stages.

Photo credit: Graphic Illustration by Molly Solowitz

This graphic illustrates Karol G, Grupo Firme and Anitta who all attended this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival. The annual music festival hosted 20 Latin American artists in their lineup, which has been the most in Coachella’s history. Watching every performance made me feel represented as I saw songs being sang in Spanish in one of the biggest musical stages. 

By Lizette Gonzalez, Senior Reporter

During the first weekend of this year’s Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival, I came across a video on Twitter of the biggest reggaetonera in Latin music right now: Karol G. She wasn’t performing in her native Colombia or in a Latin music festival or award show; she was performing at the biggest festival in the United States.

I inevitably went through the Twitter rabbit hole of Coachella performances and reactions. As I scrolled, I noticed artists who rarely leave my Latin media in mainstream American media. I couldn’t hide my smile.

I felt a sense of warmth as I saw Karol G’s blue hair and the Colombian flag behind her as she sang songs that I knew by heart. Her performance was a shoutout to not only Colombians but Latinos everywhere, as she used her performance as a forum to honor emblematic Latin music icons from old and new generations.

She sang songs from the legendary Selena Quintanilla, salsa pioneer Celia Cruz and the reggaeton king Daddy Yankee. I grew up with all of the songs she sang, which I still hear on the daily, but now they were being sung to an audience that didn’t primarily speak Spanish or weren’t all of Latin descent.

Wow. Seeing the giant crowds watching her perform filled my heart with joy.

The fact that Karol G took the time to honor past Latin icons who didn’t have the same opportunity to perform on platforms like these epitomizes the perseverance of the Latino community. We are all a giant familia fighting to be heard and represented.

This year’s Coachella didn’t stop at Karol G; there were 20 artists representing multiple Latin American countries. In addition to Karol G, Mexican regional banda music made history. Grupo Firme and Banda MS were the first Mexican band ensembles to take the Coachella stage.

“I think the real challenge is actually for the people who don’t know banda music, people who don’t even know Spanish,” Banda MS’s lead vocalist Oswaldo Silvas told Billboard. “I just hope it can provoke something in them — to make them move, dance, scream, whatever — but something positive about Mexico.”

This genre of music, banda, is one that is integral to Mexican culture. As I saw videos of these groups performing, I was reminded of my own family. At every family party of mine, music is pivotal. Whether we had our own norteńo group perform in our backyard or heard the songs beat through the speaker, music has always allowed us to connect with our culture. Even more so, this genre of music has always felt like home.

Latin music is dominating the music industry; the numbers show it. Bad Bunny holds the record of the highest grossing tour by a Latino artist right now. 187 million people globally have listened to at least one Latin song on Spotify, and Latin music streams have grown 1,680%. According to a report from the Recording Industry Association of America, there has been an increase of 35.1% in Latin music revenue. So far, this is the highest figure in the genre’s history.

If it isn’t already noticeable, I’m extremely proud. In a world where there’s so much hate towards communities, it’s more than heartwarming to see people like me winning. It’s heartwarming to see how music can unite people from diverse backgrounds.

Not only is the Latino community supporting our artists, but people around the world are streaming and supporting us too.

It’s empowering to see artists who finally look like me and my community represented in mainstream radio stations, platforms and shows that are predominately white. It adds even more meaning to me when I think about how in the past, my community would be penalized for simply speaking our beautiful Spanish language. Now, Spanish words are being heard and sung, even by people who aren’t fluent Spanish speakers.

This is the start of even more history to be made and more representation for future generations. We cannot stop here. There is so much talent that often goes unnoticed because of prejudices that still exist. Music can connect people regardless of their cultural background, but because of the structural racism intertwined in our biggest institutions, these voices are not amplified enough.

Nonetheless, Latinos stay presente, and we demand our authentic voices be heard.

Take a step out of your comfort zone and check out some current trailblazing Latin artists. You will not be disappointed:

Angela Aguilar

Aguilar started singing at the young age of nine, and has quickly become one of the most popular artists in the Mexican ranchera genre. As a young Mexican-American myself, I have found her career more than inspiring as not only does she have angelic vocals, but she has used her platform to talk about the importance of women fighting against the machismo that is still prevalent in the Hispanic community. Her most recent album, “Mexicana Enamorada” has been on repeat since it came out.

Camilo

With his distinct fashion style and signature mustache, Camilo has risen to the top of the Latin music charts. The Colombian native is already known for his distinct vocals, yet his humble nature is what made him one of the Latin pop’s sweethearts. His songs “Vida de Rico” and “Favorito” are my all-time favorites and the perfect feel-good songs.

Omar Apollo

Apollo is the perfect example of indie pop meeting Latin beats. As the son of Mexican immigrants, he has meshed Spanish and English in each of his musical projects, which has led him to appear in both mainstream U.S. charts as well as Latin charts. His diverse style is a mixture of emotional ballads, indie sounds and a fresh take on traditional Mexican corridos and soul. Some songs to check out are “Go Away,” “El Olvido” and “Tamagotchi.”

Grupo Firme

Hailing from Tijuana, Mexico, Grupo Firme is a seven member norteño banda ensemble. In the midst of the pandemic, Grupo Firme began their career when some of their videos went viral on social media. Much of Grupo Firme’s success is owed to their fresh take on the Mexican regional genre. Their song “Cada Quien” meshes both Mexican banda and Latin trap genres as reggaeton hearthrob, Maluma, joins Grupo Firme.

Karol G

Karol G was born in Medellín, Colombia and launched her career in the Colombian version of the show The X Factor. Not only has she made a name for herself in the male-dominated reggaeton and Latin trap genre, but she has also been a prominent voice in fighting against beauty standards affecting women of color. Her women empowerment break-up anthem “MAMIII” and her hit ballad “Ocean” are definitely songs to check out.