By Fernando Ruano Jr.
If you’re an 18-35 year-old bilingual Latino– you’re used to standing in front of the mirror accommodating the right fit before a night out under fluorescent bulbs and thumping beats– you’re probably not grinding up a wall in the dar to Gloria Estefan’s “Oye Mi Canto”.
But while the Spanglish generation is entranced in genres such as regaetton and hip hop and wouldn’t recognize Estefan if she were sitting at the head of the dinner table, there are plenty of fresh voices and distinct sounds emerging that might be music to their ears for the remainder of 2013 and beyond.
Close your eyes boys before calling the drive-in and ironing your plaid shirt and turning up the radio: You’re going to hear the soulful charm and elegant harmony of the blues-influenced, Guatemalan singer/songwriter Moreno… that’s if you can’t believe it’s not the late Amy Winehouse coming through your speakers. A fresh and rangy voice sprinkled of blues and soul, Moreno, 31, scored loads of (Latin pop) mainstrean play in 2012 — after years of laying int he weeds– with “Fuiste Tu,” her soothing-duet with international Latin pop star Ricardo Arjona.
Despite hitting a few unexpected record label snags early on, Moreno is young enough to make a dent in an industry lacking in distinct talent. And nobody needs further proof than one listen to the edgy “Postales,” her third and first all-Spanish album. Promise, you’ll be itching for sweet salt and honey water while wearing your Keds.
Moreno, who signed to Arjona’s Metamorfosis label, is coming off touring parts of South America and the United States opening for Arjona with a 30-minute opening act, including a performance in Miami in which she fashioned everything from a polka dot dress to a classic and vibrant sound.
Raul y Mexia:
The rapper/brother and California-based sons of Los Tigres del Norte bassist and vocalist Hernan Hernandez, made quite a splash with roots-influenced “Arriba y Legjos,” their first album as a duo. The combo, already signed to National Records, has brought Latin pop a different sound and made a rapid rise by rapping over a fusion of Mexican regional music, beats hip hop, and dance, that has earned them plenty of radio play throughout California.
Antonio “Toy” Hernandez, one half of the duo and hip hop pioneer also known as Toy Selectah, cooked up the recipe genres and produced much of the 10-song CD. Antonio Hernandez produced 3BallMTY’s electro carnival, top-selling “Intentalo.” A trip to Miami to pitch their music turned up no takers, but the duo was scooped up shortly after by National Records president Tomas Cookman.
Selectah is intent on building on his experience with ‘3Ball’ which opened his eyes to following generations and their lifestyle as opposed to rehashing the same-tired trends. Whether or not anybody on South Beach gives a F@#$.
Y La Bamba:
Odd that a pop band from indie-crazed Portland, Oregon would rise from the ashes playing off their Latin roots. But it doesn’t sound strange after you’ve heard the powerful and melodious chops of Mexican lead vocalist Luz Elena Mendoza, who grew up on accordion and mariachi. After honing her skills at local gigs, Mendoza added five folk musicians (all men) and the sextet made its debut in 2010.
“Court The Storm,” the band’s follow up released in February, is a 11-track cultural cacophony playing on harmonies and pop and jazz influences, and a clear demonstration of their ability to fuse styles, from traditional pop to Mexican music and slight dance beats. Partly named after Mendoza’s cat, Y La Bamba is just beginning to scratch the surface.
The 18-year old Dominican-American, New York-bred Grace, an ex-choir girl, effortlessly nails a wide-range of notes and shows off the versatility in her soulful and sultry voice, while dropping hints of a young Alicia Keys, in her latest single “Day One,” a tender and emotive recounting of falling in love for the first time.
In her debut last summer, Grace traces her roots and musical influences and takes us back in time with a Spanglish, bachata, R&B-fused cover of 60s classic “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” Again, Grace’s resounding and lovely timbre allows her to weave through singing genres in a rendition that will move you from holding hands on the pier to breaking out with a little bachata by the shore. Her first album drops later this summer.
This young Venezuelan band made waves in Latin Alternative pop circles with a mix of indie rock and Latin bolero, yes bolero– in their self-titled album– released in February. Lead vocalist Alejandro Sojo possesses the smooth and melodic vibe of a throwback romantico that will make you fall hard, if not make abuelita want to steal your iPad.
About Fernando Ruano Jr.
Miami-bred writer and music enthusiast Fernie Ruano Jr., has covered pop culture and Latin music genres for a diverse list of publications over the last decade from Miami New Times and Billboard. He contributed to VOXXI after covering select events at the Latin Billboard Music Conference in Miami. He has been published in Miami New Times, Hispanic Magazine, Vista Magazine, Aventura Magazine, Key Biscayne Magazine and Latin Heat. His contributions date back two decades and include the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post where he covered University of Miami sports.