The term "Latin alternative" has typically been used as a catch-all for the diversity of music that Latinx artists create, whether it be electronic, hip-hop, rock, reggae or punk. What it really means is an alternative to what you typically hear on mainstream commercial radio.
In the late 1990's, Chicago was home to the nation's first 24/7 Latin Alternative public radio station, Radio Arte, which ended 2012. The station was responsible for curating music and events that often times brought artists to Chicago who were on the brink of greatness, e.g. Julieta Venegas and Ely Guerra. It was also the space for music discovery and a source of inspiration for many in Chicago who were eager to learn more about the range of Latinx music in our city and across the globe.
As a homage to this important cultural zeitgeist, Vocalo Radio launched Domingos en Vocalo with hosts Rocio Santos and Jesus Echeverria in 2012. They are part of an ecosystem of promoters in Chicago that continue to curate opportunities for Latinx musicians and creators to get their shine.
Here are some of the artists Jesus and Rocio have talked to recently and are keeping an eye out for as they rise in 2019.
Leopoldo Bello, a.k.a. Bumbac Joe, is a Venezuelan DJ and producer born in Lima, Peru that globe-trotted his way to Chicago five years ago. He has since stamped his musical influences on our city beginning with his 2015 EP The Hot Revolution, released through Sonoroma Records. His latest project, a collaboration with songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist Tim McNulty, is called Parlant Parlant.
The duo recently released a fresh, new 7″ vinyl record featuring the hit singles, "Barquito" and "Black Roses." Side A presents the song "Barquito" with lyrics inspired by Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén, layered onto an Afro-Peruvian Landó rhythm, boogaloo breaks, wild sax, and an epic Brazilian '70s-era-infused chorus. Side B revisits Barrington Levy's song but spiced up with Colombian cumbia percussion, Stevie Wonder style synths and the beautiful voice of Amanda Huff.
In an interview with Jesus Echeverria on Domingos en Vocalo, Bumbac reflects on the psychedelic Afro-rock that inspired the project and his global trek through places and sounds.
Tatiana Hazel started making music at 11 years old, and started posting videos of herself performing songs on YouTube at 13. Now, at 22, she's making waves with her eclectic pop and dance ballads.
In 2017, Hazel released a string of self-produced singles including her first-ever Spanish single "Dimelo," which landed her the cover of Spotify and Remezcla's Nuevo Noise playlist. Following the success of those singles, Hazel released her debut EP TOXIC in 2018.
Tatiana not only sounds like a superstar, but she also looks the part. In addition to her music, she's a designer that is creating a blueprint for young aspiring Latinx creatives to look up to in the fashion world.
Based in Chicago with roots in Latin America, Divino Niño is a band known for its dreamy, psych-inspired pop. The Chicago band experiments with washed out reverb, dynamic vocal ranges, and lush soundscapes. The band just dropped a brand new single called "Coca-Cola" as a preview of its upcoming album Foam, set to release on June 21 via Winspear.
French Police, are a quartet of musicians from Chicago with Mexican roots and in less than a year, the group has released a self-titled album with an approach to post-punk sound that is accompanied by stories based on personal experiences. French Police is made up of brothers Brian (vocals and guitar) and Jesse Flores (bass), José Vega (guitar) and Kevin Peralta (drums).
Lester Rey's journey from playing congas in his family's Humboldt Park church to becoming a producer and vocalist all over the country is one that's very Chicago, very Puerto Rico but most importantly very Lester Rey. His new EP is called Santuario, and it's just in time to usher us into spring and summer on a tide of dreamy beats and introspective lyrics.
The titled single, "SANTUARIO" features Ric Wilson, a hip-hop artist from Chicago, who we featured in this month's Slingshot Scenes. The EP is a deeply personal project that finds the "Latin Soul" singer and songwriter in search of a sanctuary as he addresses pain and trauma of the past and re-examines his previously held beliefs. Lester spoke with Jill Hopkins about the project and its themes. Listen to our conversation below.
For more of this month's Slingshot Scenes, check out the 5 Chicago DJs To Watch In 2019 and 6 Chicago Hip-Hop And R&B Artists To Watch In 2019.
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