meta-script6 Artists Reimagining Flamenco For A New Generation: María José Llergo, C. Tangana, Mëstiza & More | GRAMMY.com
Collage image featuring photos of (from left) Maka, La Plazuela, Mëstiza, María José Llergo, C. Tangana, Queralt Lahoz
(From left): Maka, La Plazuela, Mëstiza, María José Llergo, C. Tangana, Queralt Lahoz

Photos: Atilano Garcia/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images; Ricardo Rubio/Europa Press via Getty Images; Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images; PABLO GALLARDO/REDFERNS; Aldara Zarraoa/WireImage; Mario Wurzburger/WireImage

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6 Artists Reimagining Flamenco For A New Generation: María José Llergo, C. Tangana, Mëstiza & More

Contemporary artists like La Plazuela, Queralt Lahoz, and Maka are transforming flamenco by blending traditional roots with innovative sounds and global influences.

GRAMMYs/Apr 22, 2024 - 03:24 pm

Flamenco is undergoing a sweeping transformation. Propelled not by a single artist, but by a wave of creative talents, a new generation of artists are injecting fresh life into this storied genre. 

Six years after Rosalía's 2018 release, El Mal Querer, catalyzed a wider renaissance in the flamenco world with an approach inspired by the legendary Romani flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla a new wave of artists are rushing in to redefine the landmark Latin sound.  

A new generation of Spanish musicians draw deep inspiration from flamenco's rich traditions while redefining its contemporary form. Rooted in the flamenco traditions cherished by their ancestors, today's artists are innovating this heritage with a new set of sensibilities. Flamenco itself, with its diverse array of styles or palos, offers a unique medium of expression, characterized by distinctive rhythmic patterns, melody and emotional intensity. 

Discover the vibrant future of flamenco through the innovative works of trailblazers like La Plazuela, Queralt Lahoz, Mëstiza, C. Tangana, Maka, and María José Llergo. From Maka's trap-fueled infusions of reggaeton to Lahoz's innovations on traditional guitar-playing techniques, each of these artists, with their unique contemporary take on traditional styles, is reimagining flamenco and captivating audiences around the world. 

La Plazuela

La Plazuela duo Manuel Hidalgo and Luis Abril are both from Albaicín in the Andalusian city of Granada. It's a district infused with rich cultural history, where steep, winding streets are bursting with art and the sounds of flamenco. 

La Plazuela soaks the rhythms of flamenco in a distinctively sunny sound, forgoing the woeful connotations of the genre to explore new, optimistic possibilities. On their new song "Alegrías De La Ragua" the pair teamed up with flamenco singer David de Jacoba and electro producer Texture. The track is an ode to the sugar cane fields of Andalusia, highlighting the region’s agricultural importance and intrinsic relationship with the land — distinctly Granada both in sound and story.

Queralt Lahoz

Born in Barcelona to an Anducian family, Queralt Lahoz was raised on the sounds of flamenco at home where her Granada-born grandmother immersed her in the musical traditions of southern Spain. 

While her soulful, urban style deeply resonates with flamenco, Lahoz has stressed that she is not a purist of the genre and enjoys experimenting with different styles. Stripped back, brutally honest and direct, tracks like "De La Cueva a Los Olivos" is a multifaceted track that opens with rasgueado (percussive guitar technique integral to flamenco) that evolves into a brassy, jazzy chorus, and even includes a rap verse. She cites late flamenco great La Niña de los Peines alongside Wu-Tang Clan among her influences — a testament to her love of musical diversity. 

Mëstiza

Mëstiza envisioned flamenco for the nightclub: The DJ duo Pitty Bernad and Belah were already hot names in the Spanish club scene before they combined forces.  

Pitty hails from the southern region Castilla-La Mancha, and Belah from neighboring Andalucia. The two met in the Madrid DJ scene and shared a love for electronic music steeped in folkloric tradition. They are behind legendary Spanish club night Sacro, an immersive audiovisual experience rooted in ritualistic Spanish folklore. The duo has plans to bring their unique Sacro sound across the globe soon with to-be-announced performances planned for Europe, Asia, and the United States. 

C. Tangana

C. Tangana (full name Antón Álvarez) co-wrote eight songs on former flame Rosalía's El Mal Querer and demonstrates his dexterity and vision in the sounds of flamenco on his 2020 release, El Madrileño. The album explores regional sounds from across Spain and Latin America, employing the finest artists from these genres as collaborators. 

The album's first single, "Tú Me Dejaste De Querer" features flamenco stars Niño de Elche and La Húngara singing in the chorus between Álvarez’s rapped verses. Alvaréz’s tour of the album was based on a typical Spanish sobremesa (post-dinner conversation), with bottles of wine placed on a long table set with tapas, elbow-to-elbow with fellow musicians who clap palmas flamencas, play guitar, and provide backing vocals. El Madrileño earned three Latin GRAMMYs in 2021 and The Tiny Desk performance of the album is among the series’ most-watched concerts

Maka

Granada-born Maka has been a pioneer in viewing flamenco through an urban lens. A versatile artist, he is both a skilled rapper and prolific singer/songwriter. In his 2014 release, Pna, Maka combined flamenco singing (canté) over hip-hop beats ("La Dirty Flamenca") and reversed the formula to rap over flamenco rhythms ("Vividor").  

Maka returned to flex his mastery in flamenco in his 2021 album, Detrás de Esta Pinta Hay un Flamenco, which pays homage to the melodic pop-flamenco bands of the 1980s and 1990s with a throwback feel. His latest 2024 single "Amor Ciego'' combines a reggaeton beat with flamenco vocal embellishments, calling back to many of his early reggaeton and trap-fueled releases. 

María José Llergo 

María José Llergo released her debut album Ultrabelleza last October to critical acclaim, sparking an upcoming U.S. tour. As a trained flamenco vocalist, she graduated from the prestigious Escuela Superior de Música de Cataluña (Rosalía is a fellow alum.)

Llergo grew up in the small town of Pozoblanco, on the outskirts of the Andalusian city, Cordoba. Her grandfather, a vegetable farmer, taught Llergo flamenco from a young age, singing with her as he worked the land. 

Llergo’s music combines flamenco with the sounds of nature, reimagined synthetically through electronic experimentation that results in lush, immersive soundscapes. "I turn like the moon in the sky... If I stop moving, I’ll die", she sings in Spanish on the track "Rueda, Rueda," contemplating the rhythm of life. Her lyrics are deeply poetic and metaphorical, tying place to emotion, and nature to feeling. 

María José Llergo On Her Debut Album 'Ultrabelleza,' Her Upcoming US Tour & Flamenco As A Cultural Bridge

Nelly Furtado Press Photo 2024
Nelly Furtado

Photo: Sammy Rawal

interview

Nelly Furtado On How Remix Culture, ADHD & Gen Z Inspired Her New Album '7'

On the heels of announcing her seventh studio set, Nelly Furtado details her emotional return to the studio, and why she's having "more fun than ever" making music.

GRAMMYs/Jul 17, 2024 - 08:31 pm

If you're a millennial, odds are you have fond memories of Nelly Furtado's music. Her early hits are 2000s playlist staples, including her GRAMMY-winning debut single, "I'm Like A Bird," and Timbaland-produced classics "Say It Right," "Maneater" and "Promiscuous."

Yet the Portuguese-Canadian pop auteur is far from a relic of Y2K nostalgia. In the seven years since her last album, 2017's The Ride, Furtado has seen her back catalog resurface in many ways, from remixes in DJ sets to viral TikToks. Not only did the millennial appetite for her music remain, but Gen Z was discovering — and loving — it. And the singer/songwriter took notice.

"I really feel like I was called back to the industry by the industry, especially DJs. I would go out and hear my songs played before arena shows of other artists, and at house parties and clubs," Furtado tells GRAMMY.com. "There was a sense of joy and celebration in it…I thought, This can only be remixed so many times, I better go make some new stuff."

Enter 7, Furtado's aptly titled seventh studio album. Due Sept. 20, 7 is the product of four years of fully immersing herself in the catharsis and connection of the studio. The Canadian songstress is confident and vulnerable across its 14 tracks, showcasing the malleability of her rich voice with a wide range of sounds that result in a fun, largely upbeat collection of songs.

The album's energy is indicative of the freedom and openness Furtado not only felt in the studio — where she crafted over 400 songs during the process — but also in today's musical climate. Furtado has been tapping into the collaborative spirit of the industry, teaming up with friends new and old for her latest material. Producer Dom Dolla helped birth Furtado's first new music since 2017 with the dance floor heater "Eat Your Man," a coy nod to her own "Maneater" that arrived last June; their partnership has also included appearances at Australia's Beyond The Valley festival in 2022, Lollapalooza and Portola Fest in 2023, and Coachella 2024. Along the way, the singer has also linked with past collaborators Timbaland and Justin Timberlake ("Keep Going Up") and Juanes ("Gala y Dalí").

Even 7's first two singles are collaborations: the sultry electronic-fused bop "Love Bites" with dance pop experts Tove Lo and SG Lewis, and the confident anthem "Corazón" with Colombian electro-pop wizards Bomba Estéreo. Along with offering a taste of the joy and sonic breadth of 7, both songs prove that Nelly Furtado isn't just back — she's having more fun than ever.

Read on to hear from the "Maneater" herself about her new album, finding sisterhood with Bomba Estéreo's Li Samuet, leaning into ADHD as a creative superpower, and why she'll never tire of singing "I'm Like A Bird."

You feel really free on your upcoming album, 7. I was curious what sounds and styles you're feeling most excited to explore and lean into now and which ones made it on the album?

That's a good question. When I was touring over the years, you always soundcheck at each venue, which might be this big, beautiful space, like a theater. I love the way the music would come back at me through the big speakers and monitors of a large live space, and it's something I never quite felt in the recording studio.

When I started recording this album four years ago, I started getting a bunch of friends in a room, setting up wedges and monitors and speakers with a bunch of microphones on amps and instruments, recording absolutely everything we're saying and doing. I started recording in Toronto and would invite my friends, and all of a sudden, I found myself spending Friday nights there. It became this very social event with lots of collaborations. I loved the way my voice sounded back at me through the speakers in real time, much like those soundchecks I remembered so fondly.

Halfway through the recording process, I started meeting producers like Dom Dolla. We had reached out to each other because we were going to perform at the same festival, Beyond The Valley in Australia, where I also met SG Lewis. I was blessed to meet these really key collaborators for me who are making great current music I had special connections with. I just felt blessed to be so open.

I grew up learning a spontaneous style of improvisational singing called Desafio from Portugal, where people freestyle on stage together. [We channeled] the spirit of spontaneous freestyling in the studio. I have songs on this album that are freestyles. There's this beat that FnZ did, and I just opened my mouth and sang something, and that's the song. I went back and changed maybe three words and re-sang the vocal. You just kind of open the portal and sing. [Laughs.] For me, this album's really about community and, always, fusion.

Can you speak to how your daughter, as well as seeing Gen Z discovering your music on TikTok, and DJs remixing your songs encouraged and inspired you to go back to the studio?

Oh, that was cool. Dom had been communicating about [his Beyond the Valley] performance because he did a special mashup of "Give it To Me" and [his song] "Take It" that we premiered there. To top that off, he wanted to do the Bicep "Glue"/"Say It Right" [mashup]. He created this whole archway for me to come out and do this dramatic, beautifully received rendition of the song. That was a magical moment I'll never forget.

Four or five years ago, my daughter came home from high school and was like, "Mom, you're trending on TikTok." I didn't know what that meant. I'm not gonna lie; it wasn't until I walked out at Beyond the Valley and saw these Gen Z kids singing all the lyrics to my songs that I really understood the power of social media and TikTok. It was real; new people had discovered me. 

I just went to Stockholm and these kids were so young, singing every word of my old songs, and it blew my mind. I don't even know if they were born when the first records came out. [Laughs.]

I mean, people dressed up like Dom Dolla and I at Lollapalooza for Halloween with my same snake shirt. It was so meta and so cool. I love remix culture and nostalgia culture, and I lean into it. It's just like making a scrapbook.

Did that motivate you to want to make new music?

Oh yeah, are you kidding me?! I really feel like I was called back to the industry by the industry, especially DJs. I would go out and hear my songs played before arena shows of other artists and at house parties and clubs. I heard it in a lot of different contexts, and something clicked for me where I just wanted to have fun and party with my music. There was a sense of joy and celebration in it. People kept remixing all kinds of songs of mine from all my different albums. I thought, This can only be remixed so many times, I better go make some new stuff.

I love meeting artists online and making those connections in real time. I love the current climate of music. I think it is more fun than ever for artists, because we get to be very in the moment and we get to create moments. We get to focus on what we want to, we get to activate different things in our own way and on our own timeline. I connect with so many DJs online.

That's so my vibe; I've always been about collaboration. I feel like the industry is tailor made for artists like me right now who just want to collaborate and vibe out and make friends and have fun. I've always been in it for the music, so it's just so fun to be doing this.

7's second single, "Corazón" featuring Bomba Estéreo, is very confident and celebratory. What was it like working with them and how did that song come together?

"Corazón" started with this very special beat that T-Minus had made for me. He was such a champion of me doing this new project, and really pushed me to make sure I was putting my best foot forward with these new songs. The beat for "Corazón" was already magical, but I needed to find its stamp. [Working on the album] was like mining. You're digging until you see a glimmer, and then you chase it until you [hit] gold.

I co-produced the song and invited Bomba Estéreo to be on it. I brought them to the studio after a concert they had in Toronto. I got off a plane from recording in L.A., went straight to their gig, and embraced Li on stage. I hadn't seen her since I flew to her home on the beach in Santa Marta [Colombia] at the begging of my friend Lido Pimienta, who thought I needed to go meet Li. I'd never met her before [then]. I stayed at her home and met her family. She's an incredible woman. She's really a goddess.

We're at the studio [in Toronto], just eating chicken wings and having some tequila, and magic kind of happens. They're playing all these beautiful parts on their instruments. There, you get the fusion. It becomes something a little bit more than the song was before, and Li has her rap feature on there.

How did bringing Bomba Estéreo into the studio make the "Corazon" into something different?

I just knew it would make it more special. What's really weird is Li and I have another song that's not on this album— that will probably be on the deluxe — called "Corazónes" that we wrote in Colombia. I don't think it's a coincidence that this song is called "Corazón." I think it's some weird subconscious tick. [Laughs.] It was almost like the collaboration was meant to be more than one song.

Colombia made such a huge impression on me. I also spent time in Barranquilla because Lido was filming artwork for a project of hers; we were right in the thick of it in downtown Barranquilla. Li and I wrote a song at her treehouse jungle studio called Papaya Studios in Santa Marta. I really needed that sisterhood at that time. That trip was almost like a woman's retreat.

I just knew Bomba Estéreo needed to be on the song. I wanted [Li] to rap. On "Soy Yo" she's rapping and doing her thing. She's a really amazing rapper. She's an amazing singer and writer too; she's pretty rare. She's in her own lane.

I really connect with how Bomba Estéreo's music has a love vibration that I think is very rare. That's what sets them apart. That's why I knew they had to be a part of this song called "Corazón." They embody that idea.

Can you speak a bit more to the creative process of working on this album, as well as the emotions you were processing through it?

On this album there are some cool moments where I just let the music happen. Something clicked in me the last couple years where I realized it's really quite simple: You just have to enjoy what you're singing.

I was in the studio with Dom Dolla, producer Jim Beanz [who worked on Loose] and singer/songwriter Anjulie [Persaud] in Philly last Valentine's Day. We recorded and wrote "Eat Your Man," a track I put out with Dom last summer. Very early on when we were working on demos, Dom was like, "Why are you pronouncing every word when you sing?" 

There's something to letting yourself relax into the music and just letting it be. I kind of forgot that. In the studio with Dom that day in Philly, it was a real aha moment for me. It was like, Oh man, I remember what this is like, just singing for the joy of it all.

Emotionally, I got into the studio four years ago with a bit of a broken heart. I'd been through a lot in my personal life and I was quite sad. The first day I opened my mouth, I almost felt like I was having a heart attack from the amount of emotion moving through my chest. I had been a stay-at-home mom for about three years straight — my two youngest children were born a year apart — and I didn't go to the studio at all. So that first time back was quite impactful for me. 

That pain quickly turned into joy because I started spending Friday nights at the studio with my friends and collaborators. We would often jam until 7 in the morning. The studio is my happy place. I really learn so much about myself every time I make an album. It's uncanny; I have this moment before I put the album out where I'm almost sad because I have to detach from the process.

I've become overcome with emotion a lot of times making this album, hearing the mixes back and completing songs. I did purge a lot of emotions, but it's amazing how happy the album is. 

I think that comes from the sense of community and really leaning on people I've met along the way. I met moms who make music during this process, like Li and Lido. I'd be coming home from the studio texting them, and they'd be coming off the stage in Holland or Paris and I'd feel so motivated. Community is such a huge part of this album. I loved welcoming that into the mix. It was really fun to make.

How did you take all of that — four years, so many emotions, over 400 songs — and narrow it down into an album? I can't even imagine.

I was diagnosed with ADHD about two years ago, and it was really an aha moment. I've had it my whole life. People always say, "Hey, Nelly, you're so spaced out. Where'd you go?" I got used to people making fun of me for spacing out and used to the procrastination. I [also] got used to the self-judgment and beating myself up about it.

So, getting diagnosed kind of changed my life. It is a superpower in the studio. I can write five songs at once. I can invite so many people. We can have two rooms, sometimes three, going at once and we can keep making stuff all night. So I leaned into the ADHD, embraced it, claimed it — and there we have it, so many songs.

Luckily, I have great people around me, like my engineer, Anthony [Yordanov], really kept me in check. He became that North Star of, "Okay, these are the songs we have. What are we working on today?" Also, my daughter Nevis [Gahunia] is one of the A&Rs on the album. She works in the music business and is very organized. 

I leaned on other people to help me hone it in. I don't know how a bunch of stuff magically becomes 14 songs. It kind of happened by bringing a lot of friends in the studio for these long, fun parties just listening to stuff and everybody being like, "We like this song."

I have a lot of my favorite people on the album. And there's a lot more to come. I really feel like the deluxe [version] is going to be jammed with a bunch more stuff.

It's your seventh album and it's been seven years since your last, but is there any further meaning in naming it 7?

To be totally honest, the songs are all so different. It was the only title that made sense because it's more like a collection. Fashion collections don't really have titles, they're just called collection number 10 or 21. This is my collection seven. 

And yeah, it's been seven years since my last album, and it's my seventh album. I love the simplicity [of the title]. Honestly, sometimes I feel a bit like a music librarian trapped in a pop star body. So it's really appropriate for me to put together this random collection of songs and just call it a number, like a librarian. [Laughs.] Go to the seventh section.

I want to go back to the very beginning, to "I'm Like a Bird," your GRAMMY-winning debut single. How does it feel now when you perform that song you wrote when you were 20?

I wrote it in a little room by myself before [going to] the studio. When I sing it, I love it. It's wild, I love it more every time I sing it. It feels incredible singing that song. 

There are certain songs in my set that almost feel like one big fun karaoke session with the crowd. Who doesn't love that? It's fun every single time.

More Sounds From Latin America & Beyond

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

Photo: Natalia Gw

news

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.

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

Grupo Frontera Press Photo 2024
Grupo Frontera

Photo: Eric Rojas

interview

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.

Meet The Gen Z Women Claiming Space In The Regional Mexican Music Movement

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. 

6 Artists Reimagining Flamenco For A New Generation: María José Llergo, C. Tangana, Mëstiza & More