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Sebastián Yatra Talks Digging Deep & Finding Joy To Create His Exploratory New Album 'Dharma': "I Just Let Go Of Any Fear"
Sebastián Yatra

Photo: Erick Fernando Quituizaca

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Sebastián Yatra Talks Digging Deep & Finding Joy To Create His Exploratory New Album 'Dharma': "I Just Let Go Of Any Fear"

The Colombian star has been on an emotional journey in the nearly three years since his last LP. As a result, Sebastián Yatra's latest project is more than just his most personal — it's a reflection of an intentionally evolving man.

GRAMMYs/Feb 1, 2022 - 04:13 pm

Six months ago, Sebastián Yatra picked up a copy of Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yual Noah Harari. Little did he know, that book would solidify the vision for the project he had been trying to perfect for years.

Upon reading, the 27-year-old Colombian artist discovered dharma, a concept that is defined as the nature of reality. To Yatra, that term perfectly encapsulated his last three years, which saw the singer embark on a personal quest filled with intentional self-discovery and whimsy, learning how to love while also refining and expanding his sound. Thanks to Sapiens, Yatra hadn't just found his album title; he had completed what he calls his "masterpiece."

"I've been working on myself a lot, and I'm back to being myself," Yatra says. "I'm happy with the music I'm working on, and I think it's reflected in my videos, where it's like, they're being made out of love and enjoyment and not out of what the result is going to be — really having some valor agregado (added value)."

What's most important to Yatra now is having his music reflect his current state of emotions while helping fans feel all of theirs too, whether it's a profound feeling or something more rooted in fun. That approach resulted in a genre-spanning 17-track album, on which Yatra tethers between genre lines with ballads and vallenatos, incorporating sounds of punk rock and '80s retro pop to create boundary-pushing Latin sounds.

Yatra detailed his meaningful Dharma journey to GRAMMY.com, explaining how he was able to let go of any inhibitions and create his most personal album yet — one that he hopes will help, as he puts it, "heal all parts of your emotions."

Tell me what your elevator pitch would be for this project. Why do you think that it's the best Latin pop album of 2022?

I love that. You got me, I didn't have that answer prepared. [Laughs.] But I've just got to say the truth about what I feel with the album, and it's definitely my best album so far.

Dharma means the acceptance of reality and accepting our reality is accepting our emotions. And for me, this album reflects that, because our emotions are all over the place. It's not just one way of feeling things or one type of music that makes us connect with all our emotions.

I decided not to do this album based on any genre, but on emotions. And then, depending on the story I was telling or the emotion I was talking about, I decided what rhythm I was going to use or what style. So you can find all types of things in this album.

Each of these songs is very honest, very real, and it feels like you could build an album around any of them. But I didn't build an album thinking about wanting to win an award or wanting to get a result out of it. I built an album where people can actually feel any of their emotions and see themselves reflected and understand that it's all part of our reality, and we've got to accept it.

So your emotions are what guided the variety of sounds and styles on the album?

For me, [I think] why do you have to only sing one style? It's like if you were a doctor, and you only make pills for a headache, but you don't have something to like, treat kidneys or bones. I'm making music to heal all parts of your emotions and all your heart. 

You worked on this project almost entirely during the pandemic. How was that creative process for you? And what sides of your humanity do you think we see in this album that we haven't seen before? 

I think you see a lot of my humanity. I'm not a person that talks about my personal life in interviews or in public or anything, and you always see me with a smile. In my music, I've always been very dramatic and stuff, but I didn't [get] personal. 

 Something cool about this album is that I just let go of any fear. I was very honest about everything, and a lot of the songs have to do with me, 100 percent. Some of the songs are stories that the different writers would come and tell me in conversation. But we've all gone through so much in this pandemic and grown so much that there [were] so many things to write about all the time.

I want to thank this album a lot, because I feel like it's made me a better person. It's an album that I grow and I learn from. I'm learning lessons from the songs that I didn't even know that I was even getting when I wrote them.

What's an example of that? Like, where can we hear that reflected in the way that you're describing?

There are two songs that are mega special for me in the album. When I wrote "Adios," it was like an improv. I just improvised everything, and I didn't really know what I was saying. I understood the lyrics like a year and a half later — [realizing] what I was going through in my head and in my heart at that moment. I had a very big, internal crisis at that point of my life. That song marks the beginning of my process of where I was.

"Quererte Bonito" is the evolution of where my heart and my mind is now. I wrote "Quererte Bonito" like a year ago, and now I'm starting to understand those lyrics and the beauty of just letting life flow with no expectations, being present, and loving people for who they are. And, you know, not forcing anything to stay and not forcing anything to leave.

Out of the music I've done — it is so weird to use this word when referring to your [own] music — but compared to my other songs, I think it's like my masterpiece. It's like when you're in college, you know, "presenta la thesis." This is my thesis as a writer, and I'm really proud of this song and the message it transmits in the lyrics. I think it really gives you hope, and it makes you understand that relationships can have amazing outcomes, and positive outcomes, and they can last in time. 

It sounds like you had a lot of revelations during your journey leading up to this album.

Life can be full of fleeting things, or it can also be full of things that last. But that all starts with you, your self-love, taking care of yourself, and dedicating time to yourself. 

Dharma's brought me into doing yoga. This album, this process, this journey, and these lessons I've taken from it made me make the decision to start going to the psychologist and not be scared of therapy. This album is so much more than just music for me. 

Throughout the album, there is a strong sense of exploration of love. You explore cowardly love, unreciprocated love, saying goodbye. Like you said, it feels like love in all its phases is at the center of your work. Why is that? 

I'm just an emotional guy. I mean, my moon's on Pisces [Laughs]. 

That's fair! 

Maybe it's a subject that I talk about a lot because it's what I'm going through at this moment in my life. Maybe once I have that more resolved, I'll speak about other things, but I'm just being true to myself. This is where my heart is and my thoughts are right now. I feel like I don't have to jump to another phase when I'm not in it yet.

I have written other songs more about society and all these things, but I feel like I'm not at that point right now. When I do want to express that, I want to express it because I'm feeling good a million percent inside — not because I'm forcing myself to do it or [saying], "I want everybody to think that I don't just write about love. I want to be super interesting and write about society and do more protest songs right now."

When I do write that, it's going to be because it's what I want to communicate, and it's the emotion that I have that I want to leave forever. But I want to leave it in the right way. 

Did you feel like you got enough time with this album? Did you feel pressure to release it sooner, or are you happy with it?

I mean, thank God I got some pressure, because then we were never going to release. Like, I've been wanting to release it for a while, but it just wasn't ready. If I had done it earlier, the songs weren't there yet. The concept wasn't there. I found [the term] dharma in a book like six months ago. I had other names for the album, so it happened when it had to happen. 

I've always been a person that, even if I don't have [outside] pressure, I've put it on myself. I've had that wall, and it's something I'm working on. I feel like everyone is pressuring me, and maybe it's just me, my demons and my thoughts — sometimes [people] are pressuring me [Laughs], but, you know, you make it bigger in your head.

That's one of the things I'm overcoming right now, these past three or four months. It's like I'm myself again, because I'm not putting that pressure on myself that I need to be number one — which I've put on myself before, because we're all naturally competitive. If you're a well-known artist and it's something that you did consciously, it's because you like attention, and we've got to fight against that.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I don't like attention! If not, I'd be making music at my house and making it for my friends. I wouldn't be living this public life. But now it's transformed into something different — [something] a lot more beautiful, because I have the opportunities to transmit a message. 

Kali Uchis On What It Means To Be A Latin "Crossover" Star In The 21st Century

Maná Honored By An Array Of Latin American Talent At Latin GRAMMY Person Of The Year Celebration

Maná

Photo: John Parra/Getty Images for LARAS

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Maná Honored By An Array Of Latin American Talent At Latin GRAMMY Person Of The Year Celebration

Mexico's GRAMMY-winning band was honored with performances from Gilberto Santa Rosa, Pepe Aguilar, La Marisoul and more

GRAMMYs/Nov 16, 2018 - 03:04 am

Musical stars from all over Latin America came together on the night before the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards to honor superstar Mexican pop/rock group Maná, as this year's Latin GRAMMY Person Of The Year.

Lights resembling the night sky lit up around an image of Fher Olvera, Alex González, Sergio Vallín and Juan Calleros—the members of Maná—on stage as actor Jaime Camil and Argentine singer Soledad Pastorutti hosted the spectacular night filled with talent that included tributes of the group's biggest hits and most touching songs by some of Latin music' biggest rising and established stars. The celebration began with an interpretation of "Adicto A Tu Amor," one of the group's most seductive songs, by Draco Rosa and violinist Ara Malikian.

The night continued as Colombia's Sebastian Yatra took the stage to honor the group with his version of "No Ha Parado De Llover," a sad song about losing a lover without knowing why. Group Monsieur Periné—also from Colombia—lightened the mood with their take of  the upbeat, energetic rock tune "Oye Mi Amor," one of the band's most iconic songs from earlier in their career, from 1992's ¿Dónde Jugarán los Niños?

Puerto Rican salsa singer Gilberto Santa Rosa, alongside pianist Arthur Hanlon, performed a salsa version of Manás hit, "Bendita Tu Luz." Mariachi music superstar Pepe Aguilar performed a special rendition of "Mariposa Traicionera" with renowned group Mariachi Sol de México de José Hernández. Spanish rock star Enrique Bunbury covered "Vivir Sin Aire."

Other performances included José María Cano and Dani Cano, Iza Real and Piso 21, Vetusta Morla, Beatriz Luengo, Beatriz Luengo, La Marisoul and Orianthi, and Pablo Alborán.

Maná have become some of Latin America's greatest songwriters and musicians with a musical career that began in the 1980s. Inspired by rock groups of the U.S. and Europe, the band was among a group of Mexican musicians to begin writing the history that is now known as Mexico's rock scene. Since then, the band has created music that fuses rock, pop and Latin rhythms, transcending Mexico and into the world.

"We are very happy to see so many people here and to hear these super amazing covers that we weren't expecting, at times we didn't know what song was going to be performed and where it would end," lead singer Olvera said at the celebration. 

The GRAMMY-winning band closed off the night with a performance of two of their well-known songs "Labios Compartidos" and "Clavado En Un Bar." Tune in to the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards to catch another performance of the legendary band.

The Complete Latin GRAMMY Awards Viewer's Guide

 

Melendi, Rael, Kali Uchis: 7 First-Time Latin GRAMMY Nominees

Melendi

Photo: Getty Images

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Melendi, Rael, Kali Uchis: 7 First-Time Latin GRAMMY Nominees

Representing Colombia, Spain, Costa Rica, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Argentina, meet seven artists who have scored their first career Latin GRAMMY nomination

GRAMMYs/Oct 8, 2017 - 08:49 pm

Like an unforgettable first kiss, a musician is likely to always remember their first award nomination. In the case of the 18th Latin GRAMMY Awards, there are a variety of first-time nominees who are no doubt ecstatic over the recognition they've received from their peers.

In the form of a playlist, here's a closer look at some of the songs that helped seven artists score their first nominations, spanning artists from Colombia, Argentina, Spain, and the Dominican Republic, among other countries. And of course, congratulations to this year's entire field of Latin GRAMMY nominees.

Kali Uchis

The Colombian-American singer/songwriter received her first nod for Record Of The Year for her smash collaboration with fellow Colombian Juanes, "El Ratico." "I'm just so proud and happy for him to want me on his song and to make a video with him," says Uchis, who described Juanes as a "f*ing legend." "It meant a lot to me and it meant a lot to my family." Should the song take the prize, it would mark Uchis' first Latin GRAMMY win and Juanes' third Latin GRAMMY Record Of The Year win.

Kali Uchis On First Latin GRAMMY Nominations, Juanes & Colombia

Melendi

Melendi's eighth studio album, 2016's Quítate Las Gafas, topped Spain's sales chart. But it's the single "Desde Que Estamos Juntos" that has earned the Spaniard his first Latin GRAMMY nomination for Song Of The Year. The Cuban-inflected track was co-written by Descemer Bueno, who also co-wrote Enrique Iglesias' Latin GRAMMY-winning "Bailando." "It's a Cuban rumba. Well, it's a rumba, but we added a Cuban tres so it sounds a little like a Cuban son," Melendi told Billboard. "I have a Cuban subconscious because my grandfather lived his entire life in Cuba, and even though he died when my dad was just one year old, I feel the connection."

Sebastián Yatra

Hailing from Colombia, Yatra is riding high with his Best Contemporary Pop Vocal Album-nominated Extended Play Yatra. The six-song set runs the gamut from Latin ballads ("Traicionera") to up-tempo rockers and acoustic-laced pop ("Te Regalo"). In addition, the singer/songwriter is one of the 10 nominees in the running for Best New Artist. His 2017 output also includes viral singles such as "Devuélveme El Corazón," "No Vacancy," a teaming with OneRepublic, and "Robarte Un Beso," a collaboration with fellow Colombian Carlos Vives.

Vicente García

The Santo Domingo native is the former lead singer of the Dominican alternative rock band Calor Ubano. A solo artist for nearly a decade, he has earned four Latin GRAMMY nominations this year. His 2016 album, A La Mar, is up for Album Of The Year and Best Singer-Songwriter Album, and the track "Bachata En Kingston" earned a nod for Best Tropical song. He's also in the mix for Best New Artist. 

18th Latin GRAMMY Awards: Who Will Win Best New Artist?

Rael

Before going solo, the Brazilian rapper was previously a member of the São Paulo rap group Pentagon for more than 15 years. He's scored his first Latin GRAMMY nominations in two categories: Best Urban Music Album for his fifth LP, Coisas Do Meu Imaginário, and Best Urban Song for "A Chapa É Quente!" — a track with fellow Brazilian Emicida. Coisas Do ... features a variety of collaborations, including teamings with Daniel Yoruba, Black Alien and Chico César.

Maribel Guardia

A longtime popular Costa Rican actress/model, in 1978 Guardia was named Miss Costa Rica and she was a contestant for Miss Universe. With an intermittent recording career that spans more than 20 years, Guardia has scored her first Latin GRAMMY nomination for Best Banda Album for the five-song EP Besos Callejeros (Street Kisses). "Very happy with the [Latin] GRAMMY nomination," she wrote on Facebook. "To know that from our independent record label we are next to the big transnational. Blessed be God."

Patricia Malanca

The third time was the charm for Argentinian Malanca. Her third album, Bucles (Loops), netted her first Latin GRAMMY nod for Best Tango Album. Produced by Malanca, the LP includes her own songs, collaborations with contemporary poets and pieces of traditional tango such as "Alma De Loca" and "Yuyo Verde." The result is a modern mix of artful storytelling with a tango brushstroke. "Everything was bonding in a very loving way, it was coming out as a natural childbirth as without childbirth," Malanca told Telam.com. "Every song in itself is a story."

Jorge Drexler Wins Song Of The Year Latin GRAMMY For "Telefonía"

Jorge Drexler

Photo: John Parra/Getty Images

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Jorge Drexler Wins Song Of The Year Latin GRAMMY For "Telefonía"

The artist from Uruguay adds to his win tally with Latin music's highest songwriting award

GRAMMYs/Nov 16, 2018 - 08:16 am

The winner of the Song Of The Year at the 19th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards is Jorge Drexler for his song "Telefonía," adding songwriting's top honor to his growing list of accolades.

From Uruguay, Drexler is a previous winner of two Latin GRAMMY Awards as well as a previous GRAMMY nominee. Drexler's composition "Telefonía" was also nominated for Record Of The Year. His album Salvavidas De Hielo was also nominated for Album Of The Year and won for Best Singer-Songwriter Album at the Premiere ceremony.

Drexler has earned five other GRAMMY nominations in his career, including a nod for Salvavidas De Hielo for Best Latin, Urban Or Alternative Album at the 60th GRAMMY Awards.

Other competitors in the Song Of The Year category included established greats and newcomers from across the Spanish-speaking world, such as newcomer from Mexico, El David Aguilar, who received four Latin GRAMMY nominations this year. In addition to this nomination for writing "Embrujo," the singer-songwriter was also up for Best New Artist and his album Siguiente was nominated for both Album Of The Year and Best Singer-Songwriter Album. From Puerto Rico, Kany García is a previous winner of two Latin GRAMMY Awards and a previous GRAMMY nominee. García's song "Para Siempre" was also nominated for Record Of The Year & her album Soy Yo was nominated for Album Of The Year and Best Singer-Songwriter Album.

Chilean star Mon Laferte was also nominated with her co-writer/nominee Manú Jalil for their song "Antes De Ti." At last year's Latin GRAMMY Awards, she won Best Alternative Song. for "Amárrame." Another nominee "Danza De Gardenias" was written by Mexican star Natalia Lafourcade and her co-writer/nominee David Aguilar Dorantes. Its performance featuring Los Macorinos was also nominated for Record Of The Year. Her album Musas, Vol. 2 was nominated for Album Of The Year and won for Best Folk Album at the Premiere ceremony. A GRAMMY winner and previous recipient of eight Latin GRAMMY Awards, Lafourcade's Musas, Vol. 1 won the Latin GRAMMY Award for Best Folk Album last year.

"Bailar Contigo" was performed and co-written by Colombian ensemble Monsieur Periné, a previous Latin GRAMMY Award winner and GRAMMY nominee. The group was also nominated for Record Of The Year and their album Encanto Tropical was nominated for Album Of The Year. Their co-writer Mauricio Rengifo is a previous Latin GRAMMY Award winner and GRAMMY nominee who was also nominated a second time in this category, twice for Best Tropical Song as well as for Producer of the Year. Argentine rocker Fito Páez was also nominated this year for "Tu Vida Mi Vida." A previous winner of five Latin GRAMMY Awards and a GRAMMY nominee, Páez's composition won Best Rock Song at the premiere ceremony.

Bringing a flamenco folklore style very much her own, Spanish sensation Rosalía and her hit "Malamente" won Best Alternative Song at the premiere ceremony and were also up for Record Of The Year, Best Urban Fusion/Performance, and Best Short Form Music Video. Her co-writers/nominees were Antón Alvarez Alfaro & Pablo Diaz-Reixa. "La Puerta Violeta" has brought wider recognition for Spanish artist Rozalén's powerful talent both as a writer and performer. Her album Cuando El Río Suena… was nominated for Album Of The Year.

"Robarte Un Beso" was one of this year's feel-good anthems, bringing together Colombia's Carlos Vives and Sebastian Yatra. A previous winner of ten Latin GRAMMY Awards and two GRAMMY Awards, Vives won Best Contemporary Tropical Album at the Premiere ceremony for his album Vives. Fellow Colombian Yatra received his first Latin GRAMMY nomination last year. Their co-writers/nominees were Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres, nominated together this year for Producer Of The Year as well as additional songwriting nominations in Best Tropical Song and another nomination for Rengifo in the Song Of The Year category for his work with Monsieur Periné. Torres won at the 16th Latin GRAMMY Awards for engineering and both men shared in "Despacito"'s Record Of The Year Latin GRAMMY win at last year's awards, as the track's producers.

Poll: Which 2020 Latin GRAMMYs Performance Are You Most Excited For?
A 2019 Latin GRAMMY winner holds his three awards

Photo: Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images for LARAS

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Poll: Which 2020 Latin GRAMMYs Performance Are You Most Excited For?

Which 21st Latin GRAMMY Awards performer are you most excited to see rock the stage on Nov. 19?

GRAMMYs/Oct 30, 2020 - 12:00 am

In just three weeks, on Nov. 19, the 21st Latin GRAMMY Awards will bring the best in Latin music to viewers around the globe for an evening filled with shimmering performances and speeches from the evening's winners. As the anticipation for the big night grows, we want to know: Which performer you are most excited to see? Please vote in our poll below to let us know.

Related: More Performers Announced For 2020 Latin GRAMMYs: Anuel AA, Calibre 50, Julio Reyes Copello, Alex Cuba & More

The performers announced so far by the Latin Recording Academy are current Latin GRAMMY nominees Anuel AA, Karol G, Bad Bunny,  Calibre 50Julio Reyes CopelloAlex CubaGuaynaaVíctor ManuelleRicardo MontanerDebi NovaRaquel SofíaSebastián Yatra, Christian NodalPedro Capó, Alejandro FernándezKany GarcíaLos Tigres del Norte, Fito Páez and Nathy Peluso. Latin GRAMMY- and GRAMMY-winning salsa king Marc Anthony will also perform.

Don't forget to tune in to all the excitement on Univision on Thurs., Nov. 19 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT (7:00 p.m. CT). The broadcast will also air on TNT (cable) at 7:00 p.m. (MEX) / 8:00 p.m. (COL) / 10:00 p.m. (ARG/CHI) and on Televisa on Channel 5.

Learn more about the 2020 Latin GRAMMY Awards via the Latin Recording Academy's official website.

2020 Latin GRAMMY Awards: Complete Winners & Nominees List