iLe, Villano Antillano, y Buscabulla: The New Order

El Sonido: Cancioneros
Albina Cabrera

El Sonido: Cancioneros is the first season of KEXP’s newest podcast series, El Sonido, and the first produced fully in Spanish. 

What keeps us rooted in a world where everything is changing? Music. We each have songs that connect us to our origins, and through those, we can draw the sound map of our lives. The first season of the El Sonido podcast offers a musical tour through the personal songbooks of key artists in modern alternative, popular and independent Latin music to explore what it means to be from a place and what Latin music is today. Host Albina Cabrera guides us through each artist's story across eight episodes, from the song that decided the destiny of Mon Laferte to the visual and political approach of Lido Pimienta, from the revolution of Villano Antillano to the childhood of Trueno and the comeback of Buscabulla. As we journey through the songs that shaped each artist, we get a portrait of the present and future of their music scenes.

Listen to the podcast with English subtitles on the KEXP Podcasts YouTube channel, or read an English transcription of our latest episode below. A Spanish transcription and audio is available here.

[ SOUND CUE: Natural Sound of the Carribean Sea ]

Albina Cabrera: What you’re hearing in the distance is the Caribbean Sea. I’m laying on the sand at Rincón, on the West side of Puerto Rico, after a perfectly sunny January day, and during one of the first sunsets of 2023. I’m thinking of everything but leaving.

They told us that from Rincón you can see some of the best sunsets in the world so I decided to spend my last day of vacation there with my friends, 

This is where I began to think of the history that will continue throughout our next episode and the second season and that will feel like a journey through one of the many stops in one of the most valuable gems for Latin American music – the Caribbean. before returning, without them, to freezing Seattle. 

We stop here first, in Puerto Rico.

[ MUSIC CUE: Roberto Carlos Lange - El Sonido Theme ] 

Albina Cabrera: Welcome to episode five of El Sonido Podcast, the first Spanish-language series from KEXP. On our first Caribbean stop, three important artists in the Puerto Rican Scene – iLe, Buscabulla, and Villano Antillano – will open the doors of their homes and share the songs that they grew up with, and tell you about the musical journeys that contributed to some of the fundamental albums of Puerto Rico today: NacariLe, Regresa, and La Sustancia X.

Albina Cabrera: How are you?

Luis Alfredo Del Valle: Thank you so much, Albina.

Raquel Berrios: Welcome to Puerto Rico.

Albina: Wow, this island is incredible. Just gorgeous. 

Luis Alfredo Del Valle: We really have to give you a little tour. Just down the road there are amazing views, Aguadilla is a really special town. 

Raquel Berrios: And you came at the best time because the weather is absolutely perfect. 

iLe: The nature here is so healing for us, the beaches are so close. As a colonized country, we project a lot into the ocean and the mountains. 

Villano Antillano: I’m so happy you’re here at such a beautiful time as Christmas in the Caribbean.

Albina Cabrera: These three powerhouses of Puerto Rican music embody three different experiences that will help me explain what it means to be from somewhere where there are many ways to live. It’s a very personal adventure, and every one is very valid.

iLe: I love living here. It’s paradise. The scenery here is incredible. The weather, despite the occasionally-heavy humidity, is also delightful. 

Albina Cabrera: I told you that we’d be making many stops because I really want this to be a tour of modern Caribbean music, guided by Caribbean voices, whiLe we're in the Caribbean. 

What does it mean to be from a place? That is one of the founding questions of this podcast. It’s a concern, I believe, that results from a project done from a distance. 

The Puerto Rican identity can provoke a lot of preconceived notions that generates a lot of conflicting ideas but that, at the same time, is also super authentic. Puerto Rico is both a pillar of Latin American culture and a U.S. territory, it’s at the mercy of two very different currents, occasionally in opposition, around which identity is formed.  

Where am I from? Where is my home? How do I know whether to stay or to leave?

iLe finds a lot of answers after Hurricane Maria and the healing presence of nature on the island 

iLe: When Hurricane Maria happened, for example, there was almost no green left and we were awestruck, many of us saying "this looks like the U.S." We need that green, it helps us feel good. It heals us. 

Albina Cabrera: The personal and artistic vision of iLeana Mercedes Cabra Joglar, best known as iLe, began at a very young age. She was part of the group Calle 13 for a decade alongside her brothers and that allowed her to bring the music of her island to the world whiLe she experienced first hand how Puerto Rico was positioning itself in the international panorama.

iLe: Our colonial reality passes us by, which I feel is so off-base from who we are as Puerto Ricans today. 

Albina Cabrera: iLe explains the tides that both coexist and are in constant friction when you’re Boricua. Boricua means Puerto Rican, and it comes from the word ‘Boriquén’, which is how the indigenous Taíno community spoke of the island in their language. iLe is sensitive and politically-minded, she has a deep sense of belonging to where she comes from. For me, it’s emblematic of the strength that I see as a common factor among Puerto Ricans as well as the warmth that makes you feel welcome even though it’s your first time on the island. Here’s how she describes her people: 

iLe: Very familial, we’re such a small country and the way we work is very communal. But I feel like the political divides, and the colony in itself is the only thing that could tear us apart. 

Albina Cabrera: This is the second track on Nacarile, her most recent album released in 2022 that’s become one of my favorite iLe songs so far. I think it paints a picture of placelessness that many of us who travel with our countries, cultures, and music in our backpacks can relate to.

Albina Cabrera: Although it was via her solo career that she found her musical identity, that political rage was already very strong alongside her brothers René Pérez and Eduardo Cabra. iLe’s songbook starts with Calle 13. 

iLe: I feel like I grew up in a house where we listened to everything. There were lots of emotional songs. Also socially critical songs. And so I have to acknowledge that very transformation, I have to talk about “El Aguante” by Calle 13. 

iLe: It’s a very powerful song that makes you remember a bit, revisits our past, and also has a connection to the moment we’re in now. It’s that energy that gives us strength. 

Albina Cabrera: I walked through the eternally hot Old San Juan during a time of festivities, with NacariLe playing in my earbuds. It’s a very secure album, highly committed. Like iLe herself. And, as she says, like her people. 

iLe: We’re the kind of people who genuinely want to feel good, feel accompanied and take care of eachother. Oppression and humiliation make us feel like we’re not enough. But it’s the opposite, in moments of crisis, when you see the government literally abandoned us. It’s really us who have rebuilt Puerto Rico. I think that’s what keeps me here. It makes me proud but at the same time it frustrates me, makes me feel a little helpless. 

Albina Cabrera: It’s no surprise that my conversations with iLe are politically charged. The first time I interviewed her was in July 2019 in New York during the LAMC (Latin Alternative Music Conference). There, she revealed the agitation that was in the air on the island three days before what would later be known as the Summer of ‘19 in Puerto Rico, a wave of protests sparked by a WhatsApp gate that would lead to the first resignation of a governor in the history of the island, Ricardo Rosselló.

Albina Cabrera: iLe got on stage at SummerStage in Central Park and told everyone what was about to happen. The following weeks, people organized and took to the streets daily until they achieved justice. It was the artists Ricky Martin, Residente, Bad Bunny, and iLe, among others, who communicated this to the world. 

Albina Cabrera: Visionary, committed, and full of strength are characteristics that have defined her from a very young age. I ask iLe about the songs she grew up with and which ones she connects to that time. 

iLe: There are a ton of songs that always inspire me and get me going, but I’m going to mention one song that’s a little older. It’s older than salsa, it’s a song called “Fuera Yankee” by Daniel Santos con Davilita. 

iLe: Daniel Santos was a very well known Bolero singer in Puerto Rico, Davilita as well. And I loved it because it was a very nationalist album. And so there’s this album called Los Patriotas, and this song called “Fuera Yankee.” I love that they have so much power, they’re saying "Yankee Go Home," and everything that represents for us in Puerto Rico. 

Albina Cabrera: iLe grew up between nationalist albums, anti-imperialist ideas, and Puerto Rican pride in a place that birthed many big stars. In her songbook she finds that the heritage of salsa nests in other rhythms of the island like reggaeton, at least the reggaeton she likes to listen to. 

iLe: I feel like there’s definitely a connection. Many reggaetoneros know about salsa, there’s something there. 

Albina Cabrera: Salsa has been making the world dance since the 60s. With Afro Cuban origins, it was a rhythm popularized by immigrants in New York, Cuban artists and Puerto Ricans mainly. In Puerto Rico, Salsa is fundamental. 

Within that genre, there’s an entire catalog of the life of the working class as its main theme. It was that musical message, one that Tego Calderón took and fused with rap, poetry, and Black pride, turning it into a phenomenon, creating a new and incomparable sound that spanned a generation at the beginning of the 2000s on the island and defined a lyrical style. 

iLe: "El Abayarde" by Tego Calderón. 

iLe: I think Tego, once that song came out, blew everyone’s minds. He’s not only a Black man but he’s from Loiza, Loiza is where Puerto Rican Bomba is from. Our more folkloric side comes from Loíza, and its message is also very political. 

iLe: He changed a lot of what reggaeton and rap is here and Puerto Rico, I think he’s an influence for a lot of people, maybe for the entire genre. I think it’s due to his authenticity, he wasn’t imitating anyone. 

Albina Cabrera: It appears as though there’s no song without substance in iLe’s songbook, and the island has a path marked by clear and bright lights. Another one of them is a big part of a struggle very close to iLe and is also part of her songbook, La Caballota, Ivy Queen. 

Albina Cabrera: What you hear is “Algo Bonito,” from her most recent album where Ivy Queen, singer, composer, rapper, and actress known as the queen of reggaeton and music matron of the island. Many of iLe’s contemporaries grew up with Ivy Queen as a reference, a fortunate exception to the male domination in the early years of reggaeton, the influence of which we’re seeing today.

Albina Cabrera: The Puerto Rican journalist, co-founder of the production company La Coctelera Music Nuria Net – also the editor of the podcast you’re listening to right now – gives me her opinion on the impact of this new generation of women artists who are dominating the scene in Puerto Rico today.

Núria: Things are finally changing. I mean, after 30 years of male domination, I’m talking about reggaeton, female voices, who weren’t even given credit in the songs before. It also has something to do with the fact that in the media women journalists are also drawing attention to this… But it’s very important that they’re women, like iLe, Villano, Raquel. I mean, wow, so necessary. 

Albina Cabrera: If we look towards the future, there are solid figures pushing the new order in modern Puerto Rican music. And here, my friends, is where la Villana enters the picture.

iLe: Villano Antillano particularly. I put on the song "Mala Mía" that she did with Bizarrap.

iLe: Her presence as a trans woman and also everything she wants to say, "mala mia," which is an expression we use here a lot. 

iLe: There’s something that I connect to a lot with her, the disruptive side. As if she was never afraid of anything. She gives everything her all and it doesn’t matter what people think, I love that she establishes that energy knowing that she’s in a really complicated position in our society.

Albina Cabrera: iLe incorporates Villana in her songbook as a disruptive figure and la Villana sees in iLe a an ally of the transfeminist movement, a comrade in the journey, and an artist she respects. 

Villano Antillano: I admire iLe a lot and I grew up knowing who she was and seeing her turn into the incredible artist she is today. It’s a dream to me to be in the same panorama and with similarities and differences, and each with their own story: me as a trans woman, her as a cis woman, but both of us leading the movement.

Albina Cabrera: Villano Antillano is who made the musical union between herself and iLe possible on her last album, La Sustancia X, one of the most ardent and unforgettable of 2022. The song, of course, is called “MUJER.”

iLe: It’s so moving and despite the possibility that it could be quite painful, it elevates her. To witness how she transcends those difficulties and destroys them through her songs and how she gets even in her music. I want to keep listening to her. 

Villano Antillano: My experience has been very tumultuous, very crazy, but at the same time very powerful, because I think that going into it I know that nobody would give me a break. 

Villano Antillano: For me, I know that there are people who are never going to give me a break for the mere fact that I’m trans. Period. I want to create for open minds and minds that know where we can move towards and where we can get to. I think that categorization is very limiting and the art that we’re able to do following society’s norms is very limited. So yeah, queer people are the future, not just of humanity but also of art and everything.

Albina Cabrera: The interview with Villana was confirmed last minute as it was the holidays and artists also need to rest. She had just released Sustancia X, and nevertheless, she accepted. I traveled with my friends who had become my production team to the legendary Estudio Fantasmes, birthplace of alternative music in Puerto Rico. I love that we recorded this conversation here.

We prepared a set in 24 hours and we waited on a very hot afternoon on King’s Day in San Juan. When she arrived, her energy captivated. La Villana doesn’t look down when she talks to you, she keeps eye contact. She listens intently and responds to every question firmly but also with a touch of sweetness, even those that require her to travel to the past and look at her history. She lives a different experience of being Puerto Rican.

Born in Bayamón and recently moved to San Juan, Villano Antillano revolutionized her own history. Her own revolution. But let’s start at the beginning. How did la Villana grow up?

Villano Antillano: My life was actually in danger. I was at risk of dying for the fact that, at that moment, I was seen as a boy who liked boys. So imagine how much more dangerous it would be if I did the other thing. There was no space for that. Trans women were never spoken of in the country. I learned what a trans woman was when I came to the city, when I saw more of the world, when I started university, when I became friends with people like me, queer people, and integrating myself into these circles that gave me the tools to understand myself and know the right words to value things. 

Albina Cabrera: On the album La Sustancia X, she honored a long personal and musical journey that established herself as a beacond for her community and led her to embody the present and future of the Puerto Rican songbook, which is why la Villana is a part of this episode. She tells me what it was like to grow up a queer artist in PR.

Villano Antillano: The general population doesn’t have access to the healthcare system. There is no access to health, the system is completely broken, it’s a disaster. Imagine being trans in a country where doctors generally don’t know what they’re doing, much less so with you.

Albina Cabrera: Their existence, being part of a community that doesn’t have basic rights covered nor respected, doesn’t randomly appear in a song by Villano Antillano, it’s a part of their daily life. That existence is the main reason why she began to write nonstop. That process conveyed by writing, of finding and fighting for her place as a trans woman, made space for rap to enter her life.

Villano Antillano: I don’t think that I decided to become a rapper, I just think it happened because there were many things in my life that led me there. I was very angry and fed up, a lot of things happened to me. And many things that I didn’t understand, and everything began to come out.

Albina Cabrera: I ask her about the songs she grew up with in Bayamón. Villana comes from a very musical household where there was a balance of extremes from tons of traditional salsa to rap and ‘90s pop.

Villano Antillano: There was always music playing in my house, usually lots of heavy salsa, but also lots of rock, lots of rock en español. And I grew up with all of these influences. My mom, of course, was more of a girl from the '90s. She was very into Missy Elliott, Destiny’s Child.

Villano Antillano: And Missy Elliott was one of my first big influences, I think she’s a huge influence, she did so many amazing things, and continues to.

Albina Cabrera: An indisputable pioneer in a genre dominated by men, Missy Elliott became the first rapper (and third hip-hop artist) to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. She’s also the first female hip-hop star to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, just in 2023.

Albina Cabrera: Among the musical pillars that Villana grew up with, there are distinct sounds that helped her piece together her personality and artistic bent. From the beacons of U.S. rap like Missy, we return to PR to navigate part of the DNA of Puerto Rican reggaeton.

Villano Antillano: I was eight, 10, and reggaeton was in its golden era. Seeing figures like Héctor el Father, Tego Calderón, who is the king to me, Daddy Yankee, Don Omar and all of these people, Jowell y Randy, Ivy Queen, of course. 

Villano Antillano: Growing up with that strong rhythm nearby was very powerful for me, but I also absolutely remember how political it is. I recognize that reggaeton was born in the hood and from poverty and was criminalized for a long time. 

Albina Cabrera: The journey through her musical bases doesn’t begin with rap nor does it end with reggaeton. 

It strikes me how the era of Rock en Español permeated the entire continent without exception. La Villana discovered the music of Gustavo Cerati years ago and nothing was ever the same again.

Villano Antillano: I have many tattoos and most of them are related to Cerati.

Albina Cabrera: You’re kidding. You liked him?

Villano Antillano: Yes, I loved him a lot. Here I have ‘mereces lo que sueñas’.

Albina Cabrera: Ay, no. 

Villano Antillano: So I never forget it. 

Albina Cabrera:  Villana tattooed one of the few poems that Gustavo Cerati turned into a song and I see, in that connection, the love that Villana has for poetry and lyrical quests that take you to where fantasies, dreams, and secrets live. Gustavo’s writing always spoke of the love for oneself and for others from a dream-like perspective. Villana found a lot of relief in writing as it was a tool to make her dreams real. 

Her lyrics are chronicles of the life that she’s lived bravely and responsibly. 

Villano Antillano: It’s not the same to hear the story of a queer person, a gay man, or a lesbian, or whatever, told by a hetero person who believes life is a certain way for that person versus when it’s told by the person who’s lived it. 

Albina Cabrera: It’s not only her rhymes, her flow, and her poetic methods that set Villana apart but her presence on stage. The hypnotic effect that she generates from the moment she enters the studio to record an interview, to her movements during a live show. The performance aspect is key for her.

Villano Antillano: For me the biggest influence in everything having to do with performance is Iris Chacón who, to me, is the number one artist from Puerto Rico and I admire her a lot.

Villano Antillano: She’s literally like god to me. 

Albina Cabrera: In Villana’s Puerto Rican musical universe, there’s a new star that she wants to show me. 

Villano Antillano: Ana Macho. I think she calls herself the quintessential Caribbean popstar. She’s very much a pop star and what she does is excellent. 

Albina Cabrera: Villana shares this admiration with iLe. 

iLe: Of new artists, I’d say Ana Macho who is a trans woman and she has a song called “Caribbean Style”. Her music is very light, super simple, but at the same time it’s talking about how to live in Puerto Rico in a very fun way. 

Albina Cabrera: And on January 7, 2023, with a heat unbearable for this Mendocinian who lives in gray Seattle, we drive three hours from Aguadilla to San Juan after spending the day with Buscabulla and running in search of the sunset in Rincón where this story came to be. 

It was a day that lasted 58 hours but didn’t stop me and my friend Gia from arriving at Ana Macho’s concert at Vivo Beach Club during Di Tropics. The venue has access to the sea and a beautiful pathway of palm trees that, at night, opens up to a cosmic view of the city at the edge of the sea.

Gia and I embraced eachother and sang the song “Amiga'' by Ana Macho, my favorite, while attempting to untie the knot in my throat that appeared a day before leaving the island, and that is re-appearing in this very moment, to go back to my new home in the north. My friends would fly south, returning to our country, Argentina.

What does it mean to be from a place? I spoke to Ana Macho two months after that night and we talked about that show and her musical contemporaries. 

Ana Macho: I’m making music for Puerto Rico. As long as I prioritize creating for my national identity, that is the most important, and the rest of the world will have a positive reaction. 

Albina Cabrera: Ana Macho is a composer, performer and nonbinary trans artist from Puerto Rico but, above everything, she’s a pop diva in the songbooks of iLe and Villano Antillano. She was a part of the soundtrack for the second season of the original podcast La Brega produced by Futuro Studios, a series that El Sonido strongly recommends. Ana made a version of the legendary dance pop hit “El Gran Varon” written by the Panamanian Omar Alfanno and sung by Willie Colón in 1986.

Ana Macho: The important part is that I didn’t try to be something that I’m not. I think music is so important for cultural identity. I mean, music is a very strong manifestation of a society, of the human experience, of the experiences of Puerto Rico and the music that a Puerto Rican makes is very genuine.

Albina Cabrera: Puerto Rico is amazing, and I’m not just saying that because I was there, Puerto Ricans have known it since long before Bad Bunny said it. iLe, Villano Antillano and the duo who make up our third act, understand that the eyes of the world and the music industry are on their island, and that’s due in large part to one person: Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio.

Albina Cabrera: Bad Bunny has an endless list of triumphs but I want to focus on what I consider his most political act: the album Un Verano Sin Tí, released in 2022. In 23 tracks, Benito paints a picture of his experience as a Puerto Rican and a Latino. A process that wasn’t done alone, but calling on two different waves of support: the star-studded selection from the reggaeton scene including Jhayco, Rauw Alejandro, Chencho Corleone and Tony Daze, and also gems from the Latin Alternative scene like The Marias, Bomba Estereo, and the voices of this third part, Buscabulla. 

Raquel Berrios: It was crazy because he called us to do “Andrea” but I had tons of questions. I mean, he called, and we talked to him for half an hour, and he explained what he wanted for “Andrea.” And I’m talking to Luis and asked, “And since when does Bad Bunny listen to our music?" We hadn’t talked about it, that he likes this band. Since when does he listen to us? It was a mystery. 

Albina Cabrera: Buscabualla’s experience with the island is different from iLe’s and la Villana’s. They left for New York, where they lived for over a decade, and returned six months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. They met in New York, fell in love, started a project, had a daughter, and decided to return and settle down in Aguadilla and release their album Regresa at the beginning of the pandemic which – with a lot of luck and some witchcraft that we’ll tell you about later – became the soundtrack for thousands of people, including Bad Bunny. 

That extremely hot and eternal January 7th which we told you about not long ago began at 8:30 in the morning when my friends and I traveled three hours from San Juan to one of the northwest corners of the island, my friend Camola, the only driver in the group, heroically drove five souls, all visiting the island for the first time. Raquel, Luisfre, and their daughter, Charly, met us in Aguadilla on a calm morning. We talked, we ate pastries, and we walked on the beach. 

Luis Alfredo Del Valle: No, none of us are locals here… this area has a magic that just captivated us. And we wanted some of this in our life, and to capture it and use it for our art, our inspiration. 

Albina Cabrera: The music journalist and founder of La Coctelera Music, Nuria Net, coincided in time, space and experience with Luis and Raquel in a Brooklyn that spanned the second decade of the new millennium. She agrees that being Puerto Rican is, and for many, being so off the island.  

Núria: Buscabulla could have only come from New York. You arrive in New York as a Puerto Rican and you meet the nuyoricans, the immigrants who arrived from Puerto Rico decades ago, and as a racialized minority, have their own identity as Puerto Ricans. So when Buscabulla started their project, they embraced that nuyorican side. Stylistic and symbolic things that are viewed as derogatory in Puerto Rico and they kind of turn it around. Their lyrics also reference reggaeton, even though the music is not reggaeton, like vulgar lyrics and typical reggaeton expressions. That high and low was very interesting on their part. 

Albina Cabrera: Regresa, that first album from Buscabulla, impacted me strongly since its release. I was preparing to move to the United States and the Latinx scene of New York came to me like a shared secret, but I was going to a place that they’d already left. The scene was very dystopian: they released an album about returning to a home devastated by a hurricane, analyzing the freedom to choose your home, and at the same time a pandemic that surpassed any work of fiction seen before, locked everyone in the homes they happened to be in at that moment. 

These contradicting and comically tragic elements that formed the context of the release gave the 11 songs a special tone, much like a spell. 

Raquel Berrios: Regresa is an album that talks about how you talk about your homeland, but not necessarily from a political point of view. Regresa touches on the more emotional side of the problems that our island has and the Puerto Rican DiLemma, who like many Latinos have to go to the United States or other countries, and the diLemma of the homeland and returning to it. 

Albina Cabrera:  Nuria Net also lived this experience and shares it with me. 

Núria Net: All Puerto Ricans, friends of mine in New York, we always talk about when we’re going to return to Puerto Rico, but everyone’s afraid that once you leave New York you lose your career and there won’t be anymore opportunities. So that is Buscabulla’s Regresa and the fact that Bad Bunny listens to it and also defends it and says “no, I want to live in Puerto Rico.” Even though things are bad, even though the ‘Crypto bros’ are coming and taking land from us, we’re not going to let it happen. 

Albina Cabrera:  Whenever I think about returning to my country I panic, not because I don’t want to but because once you leave you feel like you can never go back. Raquel agrees with me that it’s not easy, but it’s also not impossible. 

Raquel Berrios: Actually when people criticized us and said “you’re romanticizing the idea of going back.” Returning is difficult for many Puerto Ricans. I have to say that for us it has not been easy. I mean, the United States is definitely a country with opportunities, but we weren’t happy. There was something beyond economic security, or the contacts or being a band.

Raquel Berrios: We listened to a lot of “Plateado sobre plateado” by Charly (Garcia) and I love this song because I listened to it and was like “wow, us Latinos have been living this for years.” It’s the same story. 

Albina Cabrera: This song by the Argentine Charly García is part of the album Clics Modernos from 1983 that was recorded in New York. Its cover shows Charly on an iconic street corner next to graffiti by the artist Richard Hambleton. When Buscabulla mentions this song, I spent the rest of the trip listening to it nonstop. “Why do we have to go so far away to be here?” says the song, the dilemma of being from a place, an infinite question that I attempt to answer in this series. Will I be able to? 

Buscabulla was part of an important scene in the Big Apple. One that contains artists like Xenia Rubinos, Noia, Combo Chimbita, and the composer of this podcast’s original music, Helado Negro.

Luis Alfredo Del Valle: Roberto is a mentor, really. From the first time we met him, he’s been a hugely positive and lovely influence and we always learn a lot from him.

Albina Cabrera:  We’ll hear Roberto Carlos Lange’s, AKA Helado Negro, songbook in the last episode of this series. We’ll talk a little more about the diaspora experience and music production with Latin American roots in the U.S. 
Luis Alfredo Del Valle:  Just as we were about to leave New York was when we started to feel like we were part of a scene. Like, oh wait, now there are so many people. There’s him and Ela Minus…

Albina Cabrera: Buscabulla released Regresa Remixes with remixed versions of the songs on the albums by many artists and producers from their scene. The track “Regresa” was remixed by the Colombian based in Brooklyn, queen of synthesizers, Ela Minus.

Raquel Berrios: We like to stay aligned and play with artists who also weave between English and Spanish, who define that sound and the mix of Latinos who live in the United States. That breaking down of barriers that says “you’re from Latin America, you’re from the United States”, we like remixes as a way to collaborate in a way that’s not necessarily singing, but a way to flip it a bit, create a new sound. 

Albina Cabrera: Nuria talks to me about that scene that was brought together by the digital outlet that she co-founded. It’s actually called Remezcla (remix) for that very concept, the transgression of remixing and breaking down barriers and cultures.

Nuría Net: The scene that we promoted at Remezcla, those Latinx artists, Helado Negro, Noia… was a mix of Latinos born in the United States, some not, immigrants or coming from Puerto Rico, Xenia Rubinos… What united them beyond their unique musical styles were themes of identity, the decision to sing in Spanish as a statement of pride or challenges with the alternative scene, and the siblinghood of cultural Latinx, I’d say. They supported each other a lot. 

Albina Cabrera: So touching on the experience of distance and returning, I ask Raquel and Luisfre if they feel like they’re part of a scene.  

Raquel Berrios: I definitely do, it’s a Caribbean scene. For me, it’s a more honest scene. It’s the modern Caribbean and the situations they’re living in now. These are the conditions in the Caribbean, our economic situation, politics, and the diverse mix of people here. 

Albina Cabrera: It’s the honesty of what Buscabulla tells me about the conditions of being in the Caribbean, that is seductive about the music of Buscabulla and it’s exactly what would lead the number one artist in the world, Bad Bunny, to listen to their album and invite them to participate in his. But for Raquel, it wasn’t just coincidence, but also manifestation and a bit of witchcraft. 

Raquel Berrios: I think the way we talk about the problems of Puerto Rico is what touched him. We never would have thought that we could influence someone at his level. 

Albina Cabrera: But they did it. They never would have imagined that the song they secretly dedicated to Bad Bunny, almost like a spell, would make it to his ears. Bad Bunny came to that revelation when he heard an interview that YouTuber Chente Ydrach did with Buscabulla around the release of Andrea.

Raquel Berrios: We say that we manifest the things that we want to happen. And on Regresa, the song “La Fiebre” is Bad Bunny’s song. 

Raquel Berrios: “La Fiebre” is the second track, it’s like an interlude that talks about a figure the whole world is watching. And it’s Bad Bunny! I say “la liebre” (the rabbit) in the song. It’s a very short song, like a minute and a half long.

Luis Alfredo Del Valle: A minute and a half, yep.

Raquel Berrios: So when we’re sound-checking for the shows in Puerto Rico, Benito tells me, “you guys made me cry” and I say “But why?” and he says “Because I was listening to the interview that Chente did and I didn’t know that the second song was about me.” And he said that at that moment he was on tour and he got home and looked up the lyrics on Genius and when he read them, he cried. 

Albina Cabrera: Ay, no. 

Raquel Berrios: It’s the craziest thing. It’s like sorcery. 

Albina Cabrera: My first stop on the path of understanding the Caribbean identity had to be seeing Puerto Rico firsthand, through the eyes and voices of fundamental artists of the new order of Puerto Rican music. An order that is maintained, curiously, thanks to elements that are in opposition to each other. The leaving, the staying, or both at the same time, generated infinite combinations of unique and personal experiences of being from a place. Experiences that today coexist with the pride one finds in creating from an island for the entire world. 

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