Tango, cumbia, champeta, bachata, salsa, samba, and bossa nova… You probably guessed it, we are heading to Latin America. A continent where the electronic scene is booming right now.
In recent years, festivals have multiplied, artists have been emerging and labels have been growing in the electronic music scene. A musical genre that is far from the continent’s distinctive Latin sounds. Successful amongst young people, the countries of South America are hosting more and more festivals that attract world-renowned artists in the electronic scene, despite being the capital of reggaeton, a purely Latino urban style. This success is a symbol of a change in Latin American society and especially for its youth.
A journey that started in the heart of Argentina
It all started around 2005. During this time, various artists producing electronic music, mostly in Argentina, became somehow really assertive. They usually proposed a new mix between folk, popular and electronic music. Among those artists, Faauna for example, who are known for their taste for cumbia Villera and Drum & Bass and El Remolón, a producer of minimal techno. Eventually, all these artists were brought together by the Zizek Club, which started in 2006. This weekly party took place at the Niceto Club, which was the only space where these artists could perform at the time. After 3 years, the Zizek Club gave birth to ZZK Records, which quickly established itself as a pioneering label in electro-folklore, using dazzling visuals and offering new, intriguing and rhythmic music.
The activities of ZZK Records now extend to the entire Latin American continent and is one of the most influential labels in Argentina and more broadly in South America. Ecuadorian Nicola Cruz for example, had the whole world’s attention in 2015 with his hypnotizing track “Cumbia Del Olvido”.
Electronic scene thriving in Colombia
The biggest influence on Colombian electronica is certainly Sidestepper. The project formed in 1996 when British studio engineer and Peter Gabriel collaborator Richard Blair linked up with Colombian singer-songwriter Iván Benavides; the innovative albums that resulted from this partnership fused electronic beats with performances by Colombian musicians, paving the way for the nueva musica Colombiana to come, and since then, it came a lot!
By creating Baum in 2013, one of the most renowned electro clubs in Latin America, Columbian Hernán Cayetano contributed to the development of the genre, particularly through festivals that he’d been developing since 2015: Baum Festival, BreakFest in Medellín and the famous Tatacoa desert. Julio Victoria is also one of the major actors of the electro scene in the country. Starting in the first electro clubs of the capital such as Radio Berlin, Billares London or the Baum, he’s developing today the project Julio Victoria Live mixing electro and instrumental.
“Latino music and reggaeton are the most widespread and appreciated musical genres here, but Colombians are getting tired of it.”
Says Hernán Cayetano. “As soon as we opened the club, techno became trendy again, with a very curious audience. I think it was the perfect time to seize this opportunity.”
Big In Japan. Contrary to what its name suggests, this Colombian label is intended to promote the alternative electronic scene in Latin America. The history of the label takes shape in 2018, when two former Ninja Tune members – Seb Jenkins and Liam Nolan – reconnect 13 years later, the first lives in Bogotá and the second in Berlin. The two decided to set up their own record label together. On that year, the German-Colombian project gave its fourth production after fabulous EPs by the Colombians Cero93, Dani Boom and La Payara: a release produced by Mati Zundel (Lagartijeando), an Argentinian artist influenced by the European electronic scene and traditional Colombian and Argentinean sounds.
Lately, also established in Argentina and after wandering around Berlin, Barcelona, and Brazil, it is the creator of techno, minimal and progressive that drew international attention among the Colombian archetypes, along with J. Cruz (residing in Chile), Alex Young and Paisa Sano.
The revival of the Chilean scene
When we talk about Chile, we inevitably think of the great figure of socialism, Salvador Allende, the committed writer Roberto Bolaño, or the all-round artist Alejandro Jodorowsky. But Chile is also and above all an electronic music scene which, after emerging at the end of the 90s and then going through a period of stagnation, is in full revival. The evolution of a country’s culture is often linked to its political history. This is especially true for Chile. Back in 1973, repression was legion and, in the years that followed, many families left the country for Germany. Most of them settled in Cologne, a city where there is still a large community of Chilean origin. With emulation helping creativity, artists such as Matias Aguayo emerged and were supported by major local labels such as Kompakt Records. Their productions will be of minimal and microhouse inspiration. Matias Aguayo’s trademark comes from the fact that he doesn’t hesitate to use Latin sounds and to put his voice on his sounds, which allowed him to modernize the approach of tech-house and will inspire many other artists.
Of course, alongside Matias Aguayo, how not to talk about Ricardo Villalobos. Unlike Aguayo, Villalobos went into exile in Berlin. It was thanks to a Berlin label, Playhouse, that he gained notoriety in the 90s. Still in Berlin, it’s the label Cómeme Records (directed by Avril Ceballos and Matias Aguayo in 2009) that started to get a lot of attention from certain artists such as Rebolledo, Iñigo Vontier, Daniel Maloso, and Alejandro Paz.
In recent days, it is Pía Sotomayor, producer of some of the best festivals in Chile, radio presenter and DJ, that selected the best and emerging talent in Chile. She has performed in most of the nightclubs in Santiago, as well as at parties in New York, Buenos Aires, Lima, Colombia, CDMX, Tijuana, London, and Melbourne. In her selection, artists such as Andrea Paz, Tomás Urquieta, Quasio, Ochi, White Sample or RawC all deserve to be heard.
In 2015, Mexico started to become a growing market, respectively the 4th country streaming the most electronic music on Spotify. Mexican producers of electronic music have made a lot of effort in the last fifteen years to attract international attention and be part of a more global scene. Mexico City is a city that has been consuming a lot of electronic music since the eurodance of the 90s, then all the progressive sounds of the 2000s, the EDM in 2015, and now the electro-house beats (at least 5 festivals have been devoted to it this year). As a result, it’s a natural progression, from Nortec (late 90’s early 2000) and NAAFI (early 2010) to Rebolledo and Louie Fresco (late 2010’s-now), just to name a few collectives that makeup “movements” in the country.
Since 2016, the Mexican artist Hotmood has never stopped to flourish and now has more than 20 vinyl in different labels. “The style that reflects my productions is combining slo-mo boogie, groove-laden disco, quality house, 70’s funk, and deep sounds”. It is after reigning for 25 years in the music world, that the Mexican producer presents his new imprint Discoweey, a record label which is focused on releasing Funk, Disco, House beats. Hotmood’s journey is far from being over, in fact, he is ready to star in a future release with theBasement Discos, so be ready!
If you didn’t already know, Producer and DJ Alberto De Santiago, professionally known as Never Dull also coming all the way from Mexico, believes that music has the power to heal and enrich people’s lives. Merging Jazz, Disco, and House he is on a mission to produce feel-good vibes music with a funky soul. Young Alberto started to shine under the spotlight in the late 2017 thanks to his two self-released singles: Really Think about it and What is Jazz? generating a combined one million streams on various digital platforms. Following his first DJ performances in Europe, like in Switzerland, England, France, and Spain, Groovin’ EP was released in May of 2019 by theBasement Discos. If you still haven’t, make sure to listen to it!
To end this incredible journey, we can say that the music scenes in capital Latin cities such as Quito, Lima, Mexico City or Bogotá are exploding, and young artists are mixing their cultures and origins with musical influences from all over the world. This is the perfect recipe to make music more and more interesting.
Today, clubs like Laroc, Warung, El Fortin (in Brazil), Crobar, Cocoliche, (in Argentina) Baum, Octava, (in Columbia) Mamba and La Feria, (in Chile) are all examples of fantastic places to go and enjoy a good party in the Latin electronic scene. When looking at the musical history of independent record labels, there are some that stand out for leaving a special mark and generating unconditional followers. In particular, Music Garden Records, Minimalistic Art Records, (from Columbia) Casa Del Puente Discos, Alma-Electronica, Castelar Discos (from Argentina), Static Discos and Abolipop Records (from Mexico). From techno cumbia to deep house, these labels of today have stood firm during all this time.
So, the electronic scene is still evolving. Although it remains very underground, its representatives are present on bigger and bigger stages, in front of a growing audience. Nicola Cruz‘s presence at the Sonar festival in Barcelona, Bomba Estéreo’s collaboration with Will Smith in 2015, Guacamayo Tropical in Madrid, and the success of Movimientos in London are just a few examples. We’re rediscovering the richness and power of Latin American culture through electronic music, and it’s great!