meta-scriptEddie Palmieri On Pioneering Latin Jazz & His Blue Note Residency: "We're Talking About The Greatest Jazz Room In The World" | GRAMMY.com
Eddie Palmieri

Eddie Palmieri

Photo: Rob Davidson Media

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Eddie Palmieri On Pioneering Latin Jazz & His Blue Note Residency: "We're Talking About The Greatest Jazz Room In The World"

At 84, pianist and bandleader Eddie Palmieri is grateful to be alive and performing. And even though he's been at the forefront of Latin jazz for 60 years, he's more interested in the future than the past—as his latest Blue Note residency attests

GRAMMYs/Jul 21, 2021 - 01:44 am

To fully appreciate an Eddie Palmieri show, it helps to see it twice. First, catch the pianist outdoors at New York's Lincoln Center and soak in the space and balance between the septet. Later, head downtown to Blue Note and behold the same ensemble—with the horns mere feet from your face. The effect, as Palmieri said during a recent Blue Note set, is of "a herd of elephants, or 99 Mack trucks."

Why is this music so viscerally overwhelming, capable of pulling your head in seven directions while maintaining precision? It's simple, Palmieri says during a recent phone call. "After I take a piano solo, I give it to one of the drummers and then we synchronize," he tells GRAMMY.com. "And when the horns come in, I guarantee you I'm going to put you to dance in your seat!"

Now, music fans of all backgrounds can watch that equation play out before them. If you're on the East Coast, Palmieri's current run of shows at the West Village institution are a masterclass in swinging and dancing rhythms. 

His next Blue Note gigs are August 2 and 16—and if you can't make those, there are bound to be more. Because, to hear Palmieri tell it, traveling overseas is an ordeal at 84—and the Blue Note is his temple for now. "We're very fortunate to perform at the greatest jazz club in the world," Palmieri says humbly. "But when I'm playing there," he adds with an audible grin, "It's the greatest Latin jazz club in the world!" 

GRAMMY.com caught up with the 10-time GRAMMY winner and 14-time nominee to discuss his 60-year career, the lessons he learned along the way and why the Blue Note is, in his words, "the greatest jazz room in the world."

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This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

How are you, Mr. Palmieri?

Never been better, my man!

That's good to hear!

Never been. Ever!

Why do you say that? Having a particularly good day?

It's just wonderful to be alive under the conditions that exist. There's so much danger out there and unfortunately, that virus has affected the whole planet. At my age, I've seen so much, but never anything like this. 

There was a bandleader called Vicentico Valdés. That was the singer for Tito Puente in the '50s when my brother, Charlie Palmieri, played piano also for Tito Puente, for two years. Vicentico Valdés made his own orchestra in 1954; I joined in 1956. He taught me this. He said, "Palmieri, remember this. It's dangerous to be alive, but you can't live if you're dead." You know what I mean?

I'm happy to be so healthy and alive and that I can perform. I celebrate that every day.

While the virus remains a threat throughout much of the world, it's calmed down significantly stateside. How does it feel to be onstage again?

Well, you know, the pandemic is still around. That variant is still around. Now, they want to give you a booster and it could be like that for many more years, which is unfortunate. But that's what we have to deal with. It's the most wonderful feeling that I could have ever had [to be back onstage]. We didn't perform for a year and four months, at all.

I thank the gods for the Blue Note that gave us these five engagements. We did two in the summer, July 4 and 5. Then, we're going there on the 19th. Then, we have two more in August, and that's it.

The agency that I work with, Kurland, coming out of Boston, has all the jazz greats in there. Because of the pandemic, by the time they start booking for next year, that means that we're not going to be working until 2023. So, it's been a situation of two and a half years of financial drought because there's no income coming in.

It made it completely hard on every musician. Broadway closed. It changed music in seconds, unfortunately. But there's a saying that without music, the world would be flat.

I was at the Lincoln Center gig and loved it. What's the difference in energy between playing a giant outdoor show like that and the Blue Note?

We did Lincoln Center outdoors and there was a select crowd. They had to get a COVID test. We did that and it was great to play again. But to answer your question, the reason is also that on July 4 and 5, we broke the record playing at the Blue Note. No one put as many people as we put in there July 4 and 5 because we put over 750 people—around there—in four shows. 

So, it wasn't expected. expected it because of the long time [since] we had performed. I predict that on the 19th that it'll be a sellout, the two shows. I predict that for sure because people are hungry to hear the music and we're very fortunate to perform at the greatest jazz club in the world. But when I'm playing there, it's the greatest Latin jazz club in the world!

The difference is the rhythm section! I call our jazz the fusion of the 21st century mainly because of the rhythm section that stems from Africa. That's called the 8/8 series, and we play in 4/4 time, 6/8 time or 2/4 time. The 8/8 series came from Africa when the captives were brought by force all over the Caribbean and South America.

But I'm talking about one island: Cuba! Cuba was the most incredible cultural exchange between the Spanish and the Africans. Out of that cultural exchange came the mulatto, and the mulatto put the world to dance with the drum. The drum is the pulse of my life. It can make el rumbero del piano, and that's because I'm a percussionist at heart.

I started playing timbale when I was 13 years old, which is the drum in the rhythm section and what creates the rhythmical tension and resistance. Put them together, and you'll reach the high degree of a musical climax—a rhythmical and harmonic climax. After I take a piano solo, I give it to one of the drummers and then we synchronize.

That creates tension and resistance. It starts to swell. And when the horns come in, I guarantee you I'm going to put you to dance in your seat! And like I say as always, that's because I comprehend well the African rhythm, and that African rhythm will always getcha.

Tell me about the material you're performing at these gigs. With your debut album turning 60 soon, does it feel like it's time to look back and survey your career? Or are you more interested in the future?

No, no, no. You've always got to look forward. That's for sure. But the recordings that I have done—remember that my forte was with the big band, OK? Always with the big band.

When I started my orchestra, the trombone was important. [We had] a genius called Barry Rogers, another genius called Jose Rodrigues, a Brazilian. Two trombones up front, a wooden flute, a singer. Timbale and bongo—that was played by one man, Manny Oquendo. Then, we had a conga player, Tommy López, and a bass player, Dave Pérez. Then, Jose Rodrigues came in and then Dave Pérez came in again.

When I was presenting the music, my structures for Latin jazz were danceable. I'm a dance orchestra leader. When we played the Palladium Ballroom, the greatest ballroom in the history of Latin music that started in 1949—and I closed it in 1966; I started playing there in 1963—you had a thousand people dancing. I'm wanting to put people to dance, and little by little, that is the way. 

My wife, who passed away in 2013—Iraida Palmieri—told me: Look at the writing on the wall. The Latin music that you play is not what they're playing now. They have watered it down to a disaster and put it on commercial radio.

When I was a young man, commercial radio had the Machito Orchestra, the Tito Puente Orchestra, the Tito Rodriguez Orchestra coming on commercial radio. But when you turn on commercial radio now, you've got to run to the pharmacy to try to get the largest bottle of Pepto-Bismol because of what you're hearing! That's how bad it is!

So my wife says, "If you can do Latin jazz, then do it. That will extend your career and keep you going with employment." She was completely right. We did the first one, [1994's] Palmas, with the great [trumpeter] Brian Lynch, [saxophonist] Donald HarrisonChief Donald Harrison from New Orleans! And a great trombone player, Conrad Herwig.

Eddie Palmieri. Photo: Rob Davidson Media

We did three albums. We did Palmas, [1995's] Arete and [1996's] Vortex. Then, I went back to Latin dance music with [1998's] El Rombero Del Piano. Then, before Tito Puente passed away, that was [2000's] Masterpiece. Then, Tito passed away and we never went on tour after that because he died right after the album was done. So, we keep going and keep going and keep going.

Now, the Blue Note has given me the opportunity to present my new works and the new arrangements I'm doing. I really appreciate the home I have at the Blue Note. I'd like to keep something out because if I keep something out, I can have it—more important—at the Blue Note. 

Which helps me, because at my age—look, I've played five continents already! We've done more than 2,500 concerts since I started going to Europe, and that's many, many years ago. I started in 1974. Being home means a lot to me—staying home and not traveling so much. 

Those trips are very hard to do. We went to Australia five times, Japan seven or eight times. That's 13 hours. When you go to Australia, it's 27 hours. You've got to do 13 hours, then you stay overnight and fly over the Indian Ocean for four more hours. Because from Sydney to Perth is a thousand miles longer than New York to California. It's 4,000 miles. Unbelievable!

So, we did all that. We went to Africa. All over Europe. The body can only take so much. I like to stay more local, and that would be the Blue Note for me. That's why the Blue Note means everything to me. I love the Blue Note very, very much and what they've done for me. 

I hope we can extend these with more and more presentations there with my septet, which is an amazing septet. And that's it for now. You know what I mean?

I do. You're staying here and settling in at your chosen home.

Well, yeah. We're talking about the greatest jazz room in the world! And at the same time, I've played the one in China. I've played the one in Japan four or five times. Then, we went to the one in Italy, in Milan. Now, I want to do the one I'm missing in Hawaii! I want to go, but that's a little bit of a tremendous, long trip.

I'm a Blue Note member. I appreciate them calling me because when we play there, we play hard and we play very good. We've started to pack them in. And when you start packing in the hall, then you've got yourself employment, and that's what I'm after. Health and employment have been my prayers always. I'm 84; I'll be 85 in December. The great Chocolate Armenteros taught me that after 50, you have to start counting by one again. So, I'm 34—I'll be 35 in December!

I'm a happy camper with all my experience. I would say my brother was the pianist; I'm the piano player. It's an incredible story between two brothers who loved each other very much. He died at 60 years young. I've made it my business to not only extend my legacy as far as what I do, but to live as long as I possibly can because there's so much work to do.

Right now, I'm recording a young lady called Arlene G. A lot of this is now back to dance music, and it's going to be a great composition that I did for her. It's going to turn out to be another album. What I want to do at the end of the year is Harlem River Drive, Vol. 2. The new one will be Poverty is the Parent of Wars and Crime.

The importance of staying healthy and alive to me means everything as I reach this stage. Let me put it this way: The great Pablo Casals from Spain—the greatest cellist in the world—was 92. The reporters asked him, "Maestro, at 92, when you've been acclaimed as the greatest cellist alive in the world, why do you keep practicing?" His answer was so simple and so true: "I hear progress." 

So, I hear progress in my playing and see progress in my writing. I'm writing some new compositions with exchanges for five horns. Things that I'm doing and experimenting with. I'm still healthy enough to perform, and that's all of it in a nutshell. Would you agree?

Yes, absolutely. Do you feel that the future of Latin jazz is in good hands? You mentioned that young musician you're working with.

Oh, yeah. Latin jazz is the fusion of the 21st century.

Great talking to you, Mr. Palmieri.

I think you've got enough for a book, my man!

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Photo of Carlos Vives wearing a black shirt, black leather jacket and a silver necklace.
Carlos Vives

Photo: Natalia Gw

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Carlos Vives Named The 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year: What To Know About The Latin Music Icon

Vives will be honored at a star-studded gala leading up to the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs, which this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Latin GRAMMY Awards.

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 01:53 pm

The Latin Recording Academy today announced that 18-time Latin GRAMMY winner and two-time GRAMMY winner Carlos Vives will be the 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year. He will be honored at a star-studded gala leading up to the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs, which this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Latin GRAMMY Awards.

The heartfelt tribute concert will honor Vives' celebrated career, which spans more than 30 years as a multifaceted singer and composer, and will feature renditions of his renowned repertoire performed by an array of notable artists and friends. In addition to his achievements in music, the 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year gala will honor Vives' continued commitment to environmental and social initiatives.

Details about the coveted event, which takes place during the 2024 Latin GRAMMY Week in Miami, will be announced at a later date.

An architect of Latin music's ongoing evolution and global expansion, Carlos Vives is one of the most respected artists in Spanish-language music around the world. He helped pioneer a new Latin American sound, redefining traditional Colombian vallenato by incorporating pop and rock. The first Colombian to win a GRAMMY Award, he boasts more than 10 billion streams on digital platforms, 20 million albums sold, and enduring hits like "La Gota Fría," "Pa' Mayte," "La Tierra Del Olvido," "Fruta Fresca" and "Volví A Nacer."

Vives has become an ambassador of Colombian and Latin American culture around the world, and his commitment also transcends the musical realm. In 2015, he created the Tras La Perla initiative to promote the sustainable development of Santa Marta and its ecosystem.

In addition, he created the Escuela de Música Río Grande to offer artistic experiences to children and young people and founded the record label Gaira Música Local to promote new Colombian talent. As part of his ongoing commitment to music education, Vives has been a strong advocate and generous supporter of the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation since its inception and sponsored its annual Prodigy Scholarship in 2018.

"Carlos Vives is one of the most prolific and beloved artists of our time, whose commitment to Latin music and support for the new generations truly personifies the values of our Academy," Latin Recording Academy CEO Manuel Abud said in a statement. "We honor him as our Person of the Year for his vast contributions to our musical heritage and for his many philanthropic initiatives."

"I am honored and moved to have been chosen as the 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year. It is the reward for an authentic journey, for a wonderful team, and, above all, it is the recognition of the musical spirits of our Latin American diversity," Vives said in a statement. "These spirits taught us to love and enrich our language, to take care of it, and to respect it in order to exalt humanity with it."

The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honors musicians and their artistic achievements in the Latin music industry as well as their humanitarian efforts. The past honorees are Laura Pausini (2023), Marco Antonio Solís (2022), Rubén Blades (2021), Juanes (2019), Maná (2018), Alejandro Sanz (2017), Marc Anthony (2016), Roberto Carlos (2015), Joan Manuel Serrat (2014), Miguel Bosé (2013), Caetano Veloso (2012), Shakira (2011), Plácido Domingo (2010), Juan Gabriel (2009), Gloria Estefan (2008), Juan Luis Guerra (2007), Ricky Martin (2006), José José (2005), Carlos Santana (2004), Gilberto Gil (2003), Vicente Fernández (2002), Julio Iglesias (2001), and Emilio Estefan (2000).

Net proceeds from the Latin Academy Person of the Year Gala will go toward the charitable work of the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation.

The 2024 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year gala will take place days ahead of the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs, which take place Thursday, Nov. 14, in Miami at Kaseya Center, in partnership with Miami-Dade County and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB). The nominations for the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs will be announced Tuesday, Sept. 17.

This year, the Latin Recording Academy will introduce two new Latin GRAMMY categories and a new field: Best Latin Electronic Music Performance, housed within the new Electronic Music Field, and Best Contemporary Mexican Music Album (Regional-Mexican Field). These additions also include several changes, including additional category amendments, to be added to the 2024 Latin GRAMMY Awards Process.

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Grupo Frontera Press Photo 2024
Grupo Frontera

Photo: Eric Rojas

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Grupo Frontera On 'Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada' & Fully Expressing Themselves: "This Album Was Made From The Heart"

With their second album, regional Mexican music stars Grupo Frontera aim to honor their roots while showing their wide-spanning musical interests. Hear from some of the group on the creation of the album and why it's so special to them.

GRAMMYs/May 16, 2024 - 08:12 pm

In just two years, Grupo Frontera have gone from playing weddings in their native Texas to joining Bad Bunny on stage at Coachella and performing on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." No matter how rapid their rise to fame has become, the Texas sextet has held the same ethos: celebrating their Mexican heritage while embracing the American culture they were born into.

Embracing that balance has helped them transcend cultural barriers with their modern take on regional Mexican music, which incorporates a wide range of musical styles. That holds true on Grupo Frontera's second album, Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada, out now. 

With bright accordion lines and a high-energy blend of urbano party anthems, cumbia-inspired ballads, and forays into pop, the album is a masterful display of the group's mixed cultural background. It retains the same Latin cowboy spirit of their first LP, 2023's El Comienzo — which had roots in the norteño genre, a traditional style originated in Northern Mexico — while tapping into the music they grew up listening to in the States, like hip-hop, corridos tumbados, and country music. 

While El Comienzo introduced Grupo Frontera as loyal traditionalists, Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada aims at speaking to younger generations. It's a fitting approach for the group, whose ages range from early twenties to early thirties across its six members — Alberto "Beto" Acosta, Juan Javier Cantú, Carlos Guerrero, Julian Peña Jr., Adelaido "Payo" Solis III, and Carlos Zamora — that also speaks to their evolution amid their whirlwind success. It's proof that they aren't afraid to create music that is completely true to them — and that's exactly what makes Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada special.

Below, Cantu, Guerrero, Peña, and Solis speak with GRAMMY.com about their cultural roots in South Texas and the making of Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada.

The last two years were a very prolific time for Grupo Frontera. What was it like to create Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada after everything that's happened to the group?

Adelaido "Payo" Solis: Last year we were working a lot, playing four or five concerts a week, and that didn't give us time to structure El Comienzo as well as we wanted to. Now we made time to record all these different types of songs. It was amazing to have time to work on the album cover and all the songs the way we wanted to, and have everything set in a certain way to represent the new album to its highest potential.

Between 2023 and this year, were you able to take any time off to work on this new record, or was it done in between touring?

Juan Javier Cantú: There were times when we were touring El Comienzo that we would record before the people got inside the theater. We would record onstage. We'd be like "Wait, don't let the people in — 20 more minutes, we have to finish this session!" That happened with our new songs "Quédate Bebé" and "Nunca La Olvidé."

Solis: It's a little bit of both because those were recorded live, but then two months ago, we locked ourselves in the house for a good four or five days, and out of that came, like, 15 more songs.

You mentioned that, for this new record, you had more time to work on the order of the songs. What's the general feeling behind this track list? Starting with "F—ing Amor."

Solis: The general feel of this album is literally the album's name, Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada [which loosely translates to "pretending everything is OK"]. Since we had more time to think about it, we tied many things to that name, to that phrase.

Everyone, at some point, has pretended everything is OK when in reality, it's not. You can see it in the album cover — the truck is on fire, but our character, who represents Grupo Frontera, is sitting in the car as if nothing is wrong. So the idea — and I know everyone experienced this — is that when you get in your truck, you can play our record and you can drop the act. You can stop pretending everything is alright. You can get in your feelings.

So the way it's structured, starting with "F—king Amor," is that you don't want to know anything about love, then in the middle, you have "Ya Pedo Quién Sabe," which says "maybe I miss you," and then by the end, "Quédate Bebe" [which translates to "Stay Baby"]. So it is a ride, an experience, which starts with you being hurt, or left behind by someone, and you being sad about it, then slowly wondering how is she doing, then saying "I miss you," and finally "stay with me."

Cantú: More than anything, we are playing with genres. In this record, you have our traditional cumbias, country music, and then songs like "Desquite." So that was also the goal, for people to know more about our music and the music we like.

Solis: Each member of Grupo Frontera listens and plays different styles, so starting from that, we each had a big say in the genres we wanted to play and styles we wanted to record on this album. 

More than anything, we were thinking of new generations. The Latinos of newer generations that don't speak Spanish, or don't get to come back often to Mexico or the countries where their parents are from. They don't want to hear just cumbia, so in our album, we want to make all these styles for them to find, in our songs, the genres that they like.

You mentioned that each of you has different styles and genres you brought to the new record. How did you work in the studio to generate these new sounds?

Solis: Grupo Frontera doesn't really use a lot of computer sounds, most of the music we play is through our instruments. We used to work on our songs starting from guitar and voice only, but now because we had more time to work on things, we each took a song and would listen to it for days. Then we'd meet again as a group and work on it in the studio: everyone's opinion counts, and no one's opinion takes precedence over the other. That's how, slowly, each new song took shape.

When you talked about the moment in which you get in your car or truck, and finally get to stop pretending everything is alright — does that car culture come from your upbringing in Texas?

Julián Peña: That culture is definitely from where we are from, from the Valley [the Lower Rio Grande Valley, which spans the border of Texas and Mexico], where there are a lot of troquitas tumbadas [lowered or customized pickup trucks]. You'd hear la Raza zooming by, blasting our songs, with the bass booming, from their trucks. So it's kind of like a relief, your safe space.

Like the album's title says, "pretending everything is fine"... you're pretending to be fine and then once you get in your car and you pass yourself the aux, you turn that up and you start bawling, or feeling whatever you're feeling. Then the album's over, gotta get back to work, clock back in, and go back to pretending everything's fine. It's like an escape that we know many people have, it has happened to all of us; you go on a drive to decompress, turn the music up, let it all out, and feel better. That's what we wanted to capture with that image.

What songs did you each play when you needed that kind of moment?

Cantú: When I broke up with a girlfriend, around 2012, my go-to was Drake.

Peña: Mine was "Then," by Brad Paisley. I was just sad and going through a country phase. [Laughs.]

Solis: I would listen a lot to a song by Eslabón Armado called "Atrapado."

Cantú: When I feel a little trapped by this street lifestyle I go, "I Should've Been A Cowboy"! [All laugh.]

I read some of you grew up raising cattle, or come from families of farmers and ranchers. What aspects of that lifestyle do you miss, in contrast with being in a city like LA, and actively involved in the music industry?

Solis: Juan had his ranch around General Bravo [a municipality in Mexico], and I was born in the States, but I would go every weekend to Mexico, to my parent's ranch, where they had cattle. I know Juan can relate to this — when you are at the ranch and play a song, and can sing out loud without anyone around listening or judging you, that's a really nice feeling. When you are on stage, in the industry, you're not singing only to yourself, but to make the audience's day better. So no matter what you're going through, when you're on stage, your job is to make people happy.

Cantú: Going to a place — like a ranch, an open space — to disconnect, it's like a reset. I feel a lot of people have not experienced that, they don't know the power that has.

Through your lyrics, you adapted old love songs and romance to modern times. Some songs even mention emojis, DMs and texting. Do you have any favorite emojis?

Solis: Oh man, I love the black heart emoji because it can mean many things. A dead heart, or that you're not feeling anything. It can mean your heart is broken and needs mending to go back to being red. I think it's super cool.

Carlos Guerrero: I like the thinking face emoji.

Cantú: Sometimes he uses it out of context and we don't know if he's thinking, or he's mad. [Laughs.] For me, the one I use the most is the "thanks" [praying hands emoji].

Peña: I like the heart hands emoji. Like "Hey what's up," and throw a heart hands emoji.

Going back to your music, what's your favorite part of making songs?

Solis: I'm not sure if we all have the same answer, but for me, my favorite part about being able to sing, record and write these songs is to sing them with all the feeling in the world. And that is amazing, to be able to let that out.

Cantú: The simple fact of creating something and getting to test it out, seeing people sing it, it's like, Wow, we made that.

Peña: Yeah, that you do something and then put that out there right and you're like, I wonder if this feeling is gonna get translated the way we want it to. And then, like Juan said, when people go to concerts, and sing it back to us, or we see people post stories of them singing it and going through it. It's like, we made that! We got that point across, and it feels good for all of us.

How do you navigate being an American band with a cross-cultural upbringing?

Cantú: It's really cool. We were lucky to go to Puerto Rico, Colombia and Argentina, to collaborate with artists like Arcángel, Maluma, Shakira, and Nicki Nicole. That helped us understand their culture and meditate on what it means to be Latino, not just Mexican. Latino identity entails so many cultures in one, and even Mexican identity is vast. Latinos are from everywhere.

How was it to collaborate with all these other artists, and open your group to collaborate with them in Jugando A Que No Pasa Nada?

Solis: Basically, we are like a group of brothers. We sometimes spend 24/7 together. We see each other every day, and we spend all our time together on the tour bus and at home, even when we don't need to see each other. So when we collaborate with other artists, like Morat, Maluma, or Nicky Nicole, they sense that vibe — we carry that with us. I feel that carries through, to the point where we can all have that vibe together.

When we are collaborating with other artists, it feels as if it was a friendship that has been around for a while. Like, have you ever felt or had that friendship where you can go like a month without seeing each other and when you see each other is like you had seen each other? That's basically how it is when we collab with other artists.

I know it's hard to pick a favorite song from the new album—

Solis: It's not that hard! My favorite is "F—ing Amor."

Why?

Solis: Because before Grupo Frontera started, that was more the style that I listened to. I got into the music of Natanael Cano, Iván Cornejo, and others. I grew up listening to old cumbia songs that my parents played for me, but in high school, I started listening to new stuff and new genres, so I think that's why my musical style is more versatile. So "F—ing Amor" is more Sierreño, has more bass, and the congas and percussion; the vibe of that song reminds me of how, in high school, I would drive my truck listening to Natanael Cano. 

Peña: Mine is "Echándote De Menos." Ever since we recorded it, it has that rhythm in the middle where we all drop, on that note… I like all of them, but that one, in particular. 

Cantú: I have to go with two. When I first listened to them, "Los Dos," our collaboration with Morat, and "Por Qué Será" with Maluma. That song, when they first showed it to me, I felt chills down my back.

Guerrero: Mine is "Los Dos," with Morat, because we liked Morat before being with Frontera.

Cantú: To make a song with them is an achievement for us because our big song ["No Se Va"] was a cover of theirs. So making a song together is pretty cool — not many people get to do that.

Solis: We had people tell us that we were stealing their song! We get that Morat is some people's favorite group but we were like, bro, it is our favorite too, that's why we did that song!

What is your dream for this new record?

Solis: We were talking about this yesterday in the van. We don't want to expect anything out of it — success, or big numbers — because this album was made from the heart. We are just so happy and proud to be releasing it into the world.

Guerrero: I just hope that people like it, because, as Payo says, we explored a lot of different genres, so we hope people dig that. We put our best into it.

Cantú: I want what Payo and Carlos said, but also, to go to Japan to play our songs.

Peña: I want what the three of them want, but for people to really connect and identify with the songs. Even if they connect with one or three, what I want for the album is that — to connect with people.

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Luiza Lian singing
Luiza Lian

Photo: Filipa Aurélio

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5 Artists Leading A New Wave Of Latin Trip-Hop & Downtempo: Céu, Natalia Clavier & More

As Latin GRAMMY winner Mon Laferte embarks on a U.S. tour of her new, trip-hop flavored album 'Autopoetica,' get to know five acts who are also fusing traditional Latin rhythms with downtempo beats.

GRAMMYs/May 6, 2024 - 01:54 pm

The explosive Latin music scene is moving in many directions: from brassy corridos tumbados to pounding perreo tracks. Yet another, slower movement is quietly brewing: Latin trip-hop and downtempo. 

Trip-hop originated in the 1990s and typically refers to downtempo music with a degree of electronic experimentation and an elusive sense of eeriness. While it's a contentious term that has been shunned by the very artists’ whose sound it was coined to describe (Portishead’s Geoff Barrow once tweeted "call it anything else but that";), it has been widely embraced in Latin America, which has imprinted on the genre since it’s infancy.

In 2001, the Franco-Argentine act Gotan Project poured tango into trip-hop musings to create their seminal record La revancha del Tango. Brazilian bossa nova has also featured heavily in the peripheral trip-hop scene: London-Brazilian outfit Smoke City’s 1997 Flying Away was awash with the rhythms of Rio de Janeiro. 

Latin GRAMMY winner Mon Laferte recalls listening to the sounds of Portishead in the 1990s, gazing out the window of her Chilean home in portside city Viña del Mar. "I loved Beth Gibbons’ voice," she says. "I remember the television was showing a Portishead concert, and I thought, Who is this captivating voice?"

That interest has followed Laferte throughout her career. On 2023's Autopoetica, Laferte brings back the Latin twist on trip-hop — drawing on traditional styles that have been a staple to her previous catalog (bolero, salsa, cumbia), then blending them into a downtempo electro canvas. "40yMM," a song that navigates the ups and downs of turning 40, begins with atmospheric strings, whispered vocals, and slow, pulsating beats, before unexpectedly branching into a rhythmic salsa. 

Laferte is one of a new wave of artists exploring the boundaries of traditional Latin styles through poignant, reflective experimentation — whether it be pasting a hypnotic double cumbia beat onto a trippy electro soundscape, or combining regional folk guitar with shuddering synths. Read on for five artists who are at the forefront of a new wave of Latin trip-hop and downtempo.

Karen y Los Remedios 

Hailing from Mexico, Karen y Los Remedios is a Mexican trio that makes "existential Cumbia." Their 2023 debut album, Silencio, is a gorgeously dark exploration of the realizations that occur through silence. On "Cartas Marinas," Ana Karen G Barajas asks "What would your voice be without mine?/What would your hand be without mine?"; her profound, prophetic tone that chills the spine.

The trio, formed by Barajas, guitarist Guillermo Berbeyer and producer Jonathan Muriel (Jiony), first met on projects under Jiony's Mexico City label, VAA, which specializes in electro, techno, funk and traditional Latin sounds. The trio eventually teamed up to put out two EPs, cumbia-driven
Botanas, Vol15, in 2020, and lo-fi hip hop effort Recuerdos de Expiación in 2021.

Federico Aubele

Singing with shivering stillness, Federico Aubele’s music is soft, pensive and haunting. Mixing jazz, trip-hop and folk, the Argentine is signed to ESL Music, which is headed by U.S. electro act Thievery Corporation. His musical footprint is similarly global: Aubele released his debut album, Gran Hotel Buenos Aires, in 2004 while living in Berlin, and then spent time making music in Barcelona, before settling in New York.

His latest album, 2023's
Time Drips On My Bed, is a meditative reflection on the past inspired by his early life in Buenos Aires, a city he grew up in, but is at once a stranger to. His music is informed by Latin classical guitars, nodding to the tango and folk styles present in Argentina, and mixing in contemporary electronic elements to hone his eclectic and exploratory style. 

Luiza Lian 

Signed to international independent label ZZK Records, Luiza Lian is a Sao Paulo-based musician who toys with experimental techniques, bouncing basslines and erratic vocal arrangement. On the latest album, 7 Estrelas | quem arrancou o céu?, she uses voice manipulation to explore themes of reality and deception, holding a mirror up to a consumerist world to question where our real values should lie. 

Lian’s deep mediations on the record translate to an immersive live show that has won awards in her native Brazil. With frantic projections, flashing lights and costume design that form part of the stage backdrop, she creates a deliberately disorientating and harrowing mood, encouraging viewers to join her reflection on humanity. 

Natalia Clavier

Like Abuele, Buenos Aires vocalist Clavier is another protegee of the Thievery Corporation and spent a large part of her early career as the band’s lead vocalist. Clavier kindled a love for singing as a child after listening to her grandmother’s jazz records and eventually grew to love electronic music after discovering the sounds of Massive Attack, Björk and Portishead. 

After spending the first chapter of her music career as a session and live vocalist, Clavier released her debut album,
Nectár, in 2008. She's since crafted a body of solo work that combines hushed, jazzy vocals with gorgeously downtempo tracks. Her most recent album with Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton, 2023’s Corazón Kintsugi, combines Bossa Nova, dub, and trip-hop into a rich soundscape. 

Céu 

Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças, known as Céu, is a Sao Paulo musician whose music veers into a particularly dub vein of downtempo. 

Since releasing her first self-titled album in 2005, Céu has worked with a mixture of jazz, reggae and samba, her blissfully smooth vocals weaving between the genres. The self-titled album was a critical success, earning her a Latin GRAMMY nomination for Best New Artist in 2006, and a GRAMMY nomination for Best Contemporary World Music Album in 2008.

Céu continues to make soft, blissfully melodic music with an electronic edge. On 2024 single Coração Âncora, she teams up with producer RDD to sing a breezy, summery ode the "anchored heart," committed and assured. 

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DJ Deorro performs  during the Mextour Live Concert at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles in 2023
DJ Deorro performs on stage during the Mextour Live Concert at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Photo: Omar Vega/Getty Images

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8 Essential Latin Electronic Releases: Songs And Albums From Bizarrap, Arca & More

Electronic sounds can be heard throughout Latin music and will be recognized in a new Field and Category at the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs. In honor of the new Best Latin Electronic Music Performance award, read on for eight Latin electronic music essentials.

GRAMMYs/May 2, 2024 - 01:22 pm

Electronic music is embedded within the diverse world of Latin music and, for the first time, will be recognized in a new Field and Category at the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs. Within that field, the award for Best Latin Electronic Music Performance was created to shine a light on DJs, producers, and artists blending proudly blending electronic music with the sounds of their cultures.

Electronic music embodies various subgenres like house music, techno, trance, electronica, and many others rooted that have been popularized by DJs and producers. Latin artists have long enriched those subgenres: Mexico's Belanova globalized the electro-pop wave, while Bomba Estéreo blended cumbia with electronica in Colombia. 

The explosion of EDM in the 2010s also allowed the careers of Latinx DJs to flourish. Mexican American DJ Deorro has showcased both cultures during sets at music festivals like EDC, Coachella, Tomorrowland, and more. Arca's music pushes the boundaries of electronic music through a Venezuelan and Latin American lens. More recently, Colombian producer Víctor Cárdenas bridged the gap between EDM and reggaeton with the global hit "Pepas" by Farruko. Since then, electronic music has seeped through the work of Latin hit-makers like Tainy, Caleb Calloway, Bizarrap and Diego Raposo. "Pepas" and many of Bizarrap's music sessions crossed over onto Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic Songs.

"That’s something that’s very big for us," Deorro tells GRAMMY.com about the new category. "How beautiful that this is happening, because it shows that what we’re doing is working, we’re breaking down doors, and we’re creating more opportunities for artists like us in the future." 

In honor of the Latin Recording Academy's new Field and Category, here are eight must-hear Latin electronic music essentials.

Belanova - Cocktail (2003)

Belanova revolutionized the Latin music space with their 2003 debut album Cocktail, an atmospheric LP that seamlessly blends Latin pop with electronic music. In the dreamy deep house of "Tu Ojos," singer Denisse Guerrero sang about getting lost in her lover's eyes. The trippy techno of "Barco De Papel" was reminiscent of the music from Madonna's Ray of Light album. Electronic music on the ambient level wasn’t common in Latin music until Belenova changed the game in Mexico, which later reverberated into the rest of Latin America and the U.S. 

The trio — which includes guitarist Ricardo Arreol and keyboardist Edgar Huerta — later delved into electro-pop on 2007's Fantasía Pop, which won a Latin GRAMMY for Best Pop Album by a Group or Duo the following year. 

Arca - Kick I-II (2020)

Venezuelan producer/artist Arca is a pioneer in the Latin electronic music space. Arca first began producing her experimental electronica in Spanish with her 2017 self-titled album.

Arca then masterfully mixed the diverse sounds of Latin America and beyond with EDM throughout her Kick album series. 

For Kick I, she combined Venezuelan gaita music and reggaeton with a cyberpunk edge in "KLK" featuring Spanish pop star Rosalía. Arca then blended electronica with neo-perreo on Kick II's "Prada" and "Rakata." Both albums garnered Arca GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY nominations. 

As a trans and non-binary artist, she is also breaking boundaries for the LGBTQ+ community in the genre. Arca is just not creating more space for queer artists in Latin music, but also in EDM at large by embracing the totality of herself in song.  

Bomba Estéreo - Deja (2021)

Bomba Estéreo, which is comprised of core members Simón Mejía and Liliana "Li" Saumet, has masterfully melded the music of Colombia’s Caribbean coast with electronic music. Since breaking out in 2008 with their sophomore album, the group has often reimagined the African and Indigenous rhythms of their country like cumbia through dance music. Bomba Estéreo’s folkloric approach to EDM has led to collaborations with Bad Bunny, Tainy, and Sofi Tukker.    

In 2021, Bomba Estéreo released its most ambitious album Deja, which garnered a GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY nominations. The title track put a funky spin on the band's signature electro-tropical sound. House music collided with the Afro-Colombian rhythms of champeta in "Conexión Total" featuring Nigerian singer Yemi Alade. Their album that was based on the four classical elements was a breath of fresh air in the Latin music scene. 

Bizarrap - "BZRP Music Sessions #52" (2022)

Argentine producer Bizarrap launched the BZRP Music Sessions on YouTube in 2018, first remaining behind the console for freestyle rapping sessions with local acts. The sessions quickly went viral, and have featured increasingly larger names in music.

Over the past five years, Bizarrap worked elements of electronic music into his hip-hop productions. In 2022, he fully delved into EDM with his global hit "BZRP Music Sessions #52" featuring Spanish singer Quevedo. The traptronica banger peaked at No. 4 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic Songs and earned Bizarrap his first Latin GRAMMY Award. 

Since then, his music sessions have become a global event. Bizarrap later infused electro-pop with a trap breakdown in "BZRP Music Sessions #53" with Shakira, which garnered him two more Latin GRAMMY awards. 

Javiera Mena - Nocturna (2022)

Javiera Mena first debuted as an indie act in 2006 with Esquemas Juveniles. With that freedom as a producer and artist, the Chilean star pushed Latin music into the electronic space with her 2010 album Mena

She fully immersed herself into Latin electronica on her latest album, 2022's Nocturna — an album filled with nighttime club bangers that invite everyone to dance with her. Mena also proudly sings about being part of the LGBTQ+ community in the alluring "La Isla de Lesbos" and the fierce house music of "Diva" featuring Chico Blanco. Considering the influence of queer artists in the formation of electronic genres like house, it’s refreshing to see an artist like Mena remind people of those roots and bring that into Latin music.  

Deorro - Orro (2022)

Mexican American producer Deorro has established himself as one of the world's top DJs, and is known for mixing both of his cultures into his music festival sets. Even before the música mexicana explosion last year, he was one of the first mainstream EDM acts to bring the genre to music festivals around the world through his songs and remixes.   

With his debut album, 2022's Orro, Deorro fully bridged música mexicana with house music. He collaborated with Latin acts like Mexico's Los Tucanes De Tijuana and Maffio in "Yo Las Pongo," which blended the band's norteño sound with EDM. Deorro also explored cumbia with deep house in the sweeping "Dime" featuring Los Ángeles Azules and Lauri Garcia. In his recent sets, he is spinning a fiery remix of "Ella Baila Sola" by Eslabon Armado and Peso Pluma

Sinego - Alterego (2023)

Sinego first broke through in 2019 thanks to his house bolero sound like in "Verte Triste," which put a refreshing spin on an age-old Cuban genre. With traditional genres within the Latin diaspora often falling to the wayside as the years go on, he is reintroducing them to new audiences through EDM reimaginings.   

For his debut album, 2023's Alterego, the Colombian producer pushed his electronic music to another level. Sinego traveled to different Latin American countries and Spain to record with local musicians, reimagining genres like cumbia, tango, and mambo through Sinego's EDM lens. With the sultry "Mala," he blended Venezuela's variation of calypso with house music. He also gave Brazilian samba a house music makeover in "Boa Noite" featuring Tonina. 

Diego Raposo - Yo No Era Así Pero De Ahora En Adelante Sí (2023)

Dominican producer Diego Raposo has helped Latin acts like Danny Ocean, Blue Rojo, and Letón Pé embrace elements of electronic music. In 2018, Raposo released his debut album Caribe Express, which demonstrated his knack for mixing the sounds of the Caribbean with EDM. 

Raposo took that inventive mix into overdrive with last year's Yo No Era Así Pero De Ahora En Adelante Sí. The otherworldly "Si Supieras" featuring Okeiflou blended house music with reggaeton, while "Al Contrario" with Akrilla aggressively mixes drum 'n 'bass with dembow. Rapaso also channels Dance Dance Revolution-esque electronica in the spellbinding "Quédate" with Kablito. 

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