The influence of all things bilingual and bicultural is being felt in the new acts coming down the Latin pipeline, with young talents making early waves on both sides of the sonic and language divide.
Likewise, a slew of new festivals are mining unverntured territories throughout the continent. Here, a glimpse of artists who have already impressed us and have a special year to come, plus a few, key festival choices to watch out for.
Kat Dhalia, @KatDhalia
After a couple of promising singles in 2013, including the chart-pleasing “Gangsta,” Dhalia is slated to finally release her debut album, “My Garden,” this Spring. Although Cuban American, she’s working on a future Spanish-language album and despite some of her material being Latin-tinged and inspired (notably “Tumbao,” based on the Celia Cruz hit “La Negra Tiene Tumbao”) Dhalia’s music doesn’t fall under the Latin pop moniker.
Instead, she blends rap with blues, soul and a unique delivery that immediately caught the eye of Vested in Culture chief Sylvia Rhone, who signed her after listening to one song. “She’s a special artist,” says Rhone. “She’s an artist that can carve out new spaces for herself in multiple genres.” -Leila Cobo
Siblings Alex, Marcelo and Andrés were born in California, raised in Argentina and are fully bilingual and bicultural, boasting catchy, well-crafted pop songs that caught the attention of Sony Music Latin. It helps that the three sibs all write and perform their own songs and range from cute to hot.
Expect material in both English and Spanish this year. “There isn’t a group of kids who could be the Jonas Brothers of Latin America,” says Sony Music U.S. Latin GM Nir Seroussi. We agree. But Sonus are cuter. First single “Vecina” already boasts close to half a million views on YouTube, while English version “Save Me Tonight” has garnered close to 250,000 views. -Leila Cobo
Becky G, @IamBeckyG
Rebbeca Marie Gomez, known to her fans simply as Becky G, is on the cusp of turning 17 and already making noise in hip-hop and pop. Born in Inglewood, California, the teen rapper/songwriter-singer has an illuminating personality that's wise beyond her teen years. She's sassy, witty and fast with her words. A fan of Jennifer Lopez, the L.A.-based entertainer even wrote a cover last year of her music inspiration Jennifer Lopez's "Jenny from the Block," replacing "Jenny" with "Becky."
Signed to Kemosabe/RCA, the Sony Music Entertainment imprint founded by Dr. Luke, Gomez is determined to make 2014 an even bigger year. Her single, “Can’t Get Enough," has been getting love on the radio. In February, as part of MTV's Artist to Watch Tour, the songstress will team up with teen heartthrob Austin Mahone. -Justino Aguila
Carlos Santana’s (@SantanaCarlos) First Ever Spanish-language Album, “Corazón”
Featuring collaborations with artists ranging from old friends Maná (who joined him on the 2000 hit “Corazón Espinado”), to Romeo Santos, Gloria Estefan, original rowdy Argentine ska band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, and popular compatriot Diego Torres, the supernatural star’s first Spanish and Portuguese-language set should see multiple incarnations on the Latin charts over the next year.
The first single, a remake of Spanish group Jarabe de Palo’s “La Flaca” sung by Juanes, debuted at No. 7 on the Latin Digital Songs chart in December. The Portuguese “Saideira,” with Samuel Rosa of Brazilian rock-reggae band Skank, is currently at No. 14 on that chart. Santana kicked off the return to his roots with a concert in his native Guadalajara late last year with album artists, filmed for an HBO Latino special to air in the Spring. “Corazón” is expected to drop in March on RCA/Sony Latin. -Judy Cantor-Navas
Quique Gonzalez, @Quique_Gonzalez
Quique González’s exquisite “Delantera Mítica” (Last Tour Records) was voted best album of 2013 by readers of Rolling Stone Spain. At 40, González perfectly hits the sweet spot where rock and trova meet with his ninth recording, and the album received similar kudos from critics and brought star status to the singer-songwriter in his native country.
Although “Delantera Mítica” was recorded in Nashville, with producer Brad Jones and a band of American musicians, the artist’s U.S. appearances have been few, and the album, available here digitally, passed virtually undiscovered. In 2014, González’s current momentum will hopefully bring him back to stateside shores, where we bet he’ll have audiences asking, “Why haven’t I heard this before?” -JCN
Supersonico Festival/Caliruta Tour
If you hear a crashing sound in October, it could be Supersonico, a new Los Angeles festival aiming to break the borders down between genres and language once and for all. The dream team of Latin Alternative music guru Tomas Cookman (LAMC, Nacional Records) and Coachella promoter Goldenvoice, will jointly produce Supersonico, a “multi-stage, multi-lingual” festival at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium in October.
Expect well-known Lat Alt acts and Spanish-speaking newcomers to turn up on stage alongside English-language artists for this all-day, anything goes “cultural happening.” Goldenvoice will continue touring a similar concept called Cali Ruta, which pairs young U.S. and Latin American-language bands that play at venues along the coastal region from Pomona, Calif. to Tijuana. -JCN
Lollapalooza Argentina and EDM Mexico
The arrival of Lollapalooza Argentina this Spring—joining Lollapalooza Chile and Brazil—makes the fest a triple Latin threat. The added country allows for far more booking leverage, resulting in a traveling roster of acts that includes Nine Inch Nails, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arcade Fire, Imagine Dragons and Lorde. The inaugural Argentine experience is April 1 and 2 in Buenos Aires, following Chile March 29 and 30. Last stop is Brazil April 5 and 6.
Up North, Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) makes its Mexican debut March 15 and 16 in Mexico City. Presented by Insomniac with Ocesa, the two-day extravaganza features headliner Avicii plus over 50 more acts, including Baauer, John Digweed and The Martinez Brothers. -L.C.