On Wednesday, July 10, the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) underscored that Latin alternative is alive and well. Returning for its 20th year, the New York-based festival featured a troika of powerful women, Ximena Sariñana, iLe, and Nathy Peluso, at Central Park’s SummerStage with an important message: unity and empowerment.
“Welcome to this space,” shouted headliner Sariñana. “Where all the girls can come and dance,” she added, playfully alluding to her latest album, ¿Dónde Bailarán Las Niñas?, right before delivering the deliciously slinky number of “Pueblo Abandonado.” The New York festival sees the Mexican singer return as an established artist after debuting as a promising act eleven years ago.
Boasting her knack for crafting perfect pop ditties, Sariñana spanned through the hits of her career, such as early song “Mediocre” and the Latin pop kiss-off of “Sin Ti No Puede Estar Tan Mal.”
“I’m very honored to be here along with women who are putting music up high, all Latinas in charge of their own projects,” she said in between songs. “Let’s change the narrative that women are competitive between themselves, because that’s not true!”
LAMC opener Nathy Peluso never missed a beat during her riveting showcase. Wearing a yellow cha-cha-chá-styled jumpsuit, the Argentine firecracker slayed the stage. By that, we mean she literally sliced the air with her razor-sharp, accentuated dance moves with urban cool and folkloric swagger. “Queda un poco de manteca caliente. Quieren gozar?! Pues vamos a darle,” she slyly said, at times exuding a Chaka Khan vibe. With songs like “La Sangundera,” “Corashe,” and even a Nancy Sinatra cover of “Bang Bang,” she affirmed that mixing high intensity, tropical soul and hip-hop are one deadly combination.
“How many of you are embracing your hormones,” shouted performer iLe. “I’m PMSing!” With unflinching flair and a soulful mix of Caribbean rhythms, the Grammy-winning Puerto Rican singer delivered a heady set, ripe with conscious messages. “I hope you get angry with me,” she added, as she introduced the vintage-styled bolero of “Odio,” a track that candidly derides xenophobia.
Earlier that day, the conversations about Latin alternative’s place in the age of urban dominance took off. “To really break a Latin alternative artist you got to be really constant,” said Jorge Jimeno, who is label manager at Sony Music Spain, speaking on a panel titled “From Dive Bars to Superstars.”
“Rosalía is essentially a Latin alternative artist who has gone global,” pointed moderator Bruno del Granado, music agent at Creative Artists Agency who works with pop heavyweights like Ricky Martin and Luis Fonsi.
While strong promotion, podcast and playlist features, and meaningful artistic connections are key to maintaining success, Jimeno said, “If the artist has a good mix of roots, electronic, a vanguard approach, and live music as a backbone, you got everything to make it.” Just under the Latin alternative scope, a number of artists who started off alternative are now massive superstar. He mentioned Bomba Estéreo as a quintessential example of that mainstream success.
A few years ago, J Balvin made waves as the first Latino to play Coachella, but this year the festival welcomed 17 Latin acts, including Latin alternative performers like Tomasa del Real, Javiera Mena, and Rosalía.
“The music industry is changing,” said Manuel Morán, VP of Latin Touring at Live Nation. “Go back to [the career peak of] Gloria Estefan, Shakira, Ricky Martin. It used to be one breakthrough per decade. Now it’s happening at a faster speed. It is worldwide. That opportunity has helped artists like Los Tucanes de Tijuana. A band of their genre [norteno] was never expected to play Coachella.”
In the conversation about Synchronicity, moderator Yvonne Drazan, vp at Peermusic, questioned what the biggest trend is when placing music on the screen. While many markets look to the most recognizable Latin pop hits, which nowadays are genre-focused, Mayra Cortez, sync creative at Universal Music Publishing, identified an interesting component: togetherness. “That’s a big element that I’ve noticed in music integration. Anything that represents a ‘mi gente’ or ‘la familia’ vibe is what’s getting the most placements.”