- Ronald Ávila-Claudio – @ronaldavilapr
- BBC News World
In 2005, when Ileana Cabra (Ile) was 16 years old, her brothers René “Residente” Pérez and Eduardo “Visitante” asked her to collaborate on a song that would be part of the first album of the alternative music group Calle 13.
The single was titled “La aguacatona”, and its lyrics recount how a man in a nightclub tries to get closer to a woman “of the cutest with her style e’ Roma”. She then replies: “Lie back because my skirt has thorns / My black, I’m not your China”.
Despite singing that decisive and cutting lyrics, which harshly rebukes the approach of the male character, the today Anglo-Saxon Grammy winner and Latin Grammy nominee confesses that personally she was somewhat confused.
And, in general, the young Ile “I didn’t know what the plan was“ of their brothers in musical terms.
But the success of the song led her to be a permanent part of the musical group.
The young woman began to travel the world, and for 10 years she performed songs by the band, considered a milestone in Latin American music, for its unexpected mixtures of reggaeton, hip hop, rock, folklore and even bossa-nova.
Just a few years after finishing school, he would share the stage with important figures, such as Jorge Drexler or Rubén Blades.
Immersed in the music industry, Ile was looking for her own personality.
So he decided to look at “the only female figure that came to mind.”
It was about Ivy Queenone of the forerunners of Latin urban music, which at the beginning of the 2000s triumphed with the rise of reggaeton, a genre that in those years was dominated by men and their songs with macho lyrics.
“It helped me find my personality within what I did with them. I admire how she has been firm within the urban genre and has established her role as a reggaeton artist,” she says in conversation with BBC Mundo Ile, who although at that time she rapped with 13th Street, currently stands out for exploring bolero, ballads and Afro-Caribbean rhythms.
Since then, feminism, the representation of women and gender violence have been constant themes in her music, as heard on her first two studio albums “Ilevitable” (2016) and “Almadura” (2019).
This Friday, the singer-songwriter premieres a new production, entitled “Nacarile“in which he once again addresses the issue of women and in which he demonstrates his determination to rescue Latin American rhythms, but with the surprise of including what he has described as “astral” or electronic sounds.
On the 11-song album he also returns to hip hop, in a duet precisely with Ivy Queen, with the song “Something Nice”, in which he “inverts omnipresent misogynistic sayings” and transforms them into what he has cataloged as “statements of power”. “.
It also includes themes with the Chilean Mon Laferte and the Mexican Natalia Lafeitherurcade, two referents of feminist music in Latin America.
We spoke with the singer-songwriter about the context of her most recent work, which she says was created in the midst of a moment of “emotional madness” during the lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic, in her native Puerto Rico.
BBC Mundo asked her questions about music and feminism, colonialism and her future aspirations. We share their responses below.
Can you explain the context in which you worked on the album. You say that you composed it during the pandemic, at a difficult time emotionally.
I was trying to understand what was happening, that a lot of people were dying. Living the uncertainty of what is going to happen in a week, a few months, how long the pandemic was going to last.
I think that when I felt all this at the same time, all the ideas came out of me [para el disco].
doPWhy are love, colonialism and feminism the constant themes of your productions?
I am a woman and Puerto Rican. And everything that happens around me affects me. It is as if the violent situations that women go through happened to me.
Everything affects me in such a deep way that I need to find a way to release it.
We must continue to fight against the abuse of power. We do not deserve to continue living with this, we do not deserve to conform and we must continue fighting against patriarchy and colonialism.
Is this concept of music against power what led you to include singers like Mon Laferte, Natalia Lafourcade and Ivy Queen on the new album?
Look, I would tell you that it was not consciously. But I like the feminine force, so naturally I go looking for those colors of voice. Those feminine presences that for me are powerful and important within the feminist movement and within the artistic movement.
what?eitherWhat should music be like for it to be feminist?
At some point in the music there was a lot of confusion. There was a feminine presence, but you felt that their words or style were from men. Well, a lot has happened to us women, that to enter certain spaces, that to seek respect, we have to act like men. But no, people have to change.
We must talk about our female perspective. Get other people to put themselves in our shoes.
Many artists have transformed their music in the face of growing social awareness of violence against women and feminism. But there are those who criticize this practice, saying that they do it merely to gain public acceptance.
That’s one of the things I find hard to understand about the music industry. From where certain things are said, if it is honestly or not.
I think that if you are really going to support the rightful place for women in society, you should always be an ally of the movement.
Can you explain to our non-Puerto Rican audience what Nacarile means?
The complete phrase is “pearl of the east”. There is not much background on it, but it is something that we use a lot in Puerto Rico. We shorten it to “nacarile” and sometimes we can say “naqui naqui”. It’s basically saying “no” with a lot of attitude.
That was my way of working through all the difficulties that arose in the process of making this album. Each song is connected with a feeling, but my way out of that hole was to say: “nacarile”.
When you started as a solo artist in 2016, you said that youYoIt’s hard to be in the center of the stage. But a lot has changed since then. Who is Ileana today as an artist?
I think I’ll never know who I am exactly. Or rather, I know but I can’t describe it. But I have learned a lot, I have enjoyed this process more and more. Each transformation can be hard, complex, but it’s nice when you know more about yourself. I feel that on the first album I put a lot of limitations on myself and now I have fewer.
It’s nice to release things and that’s something I keep learning, clarifying the path more to be able to see a little better where I want to go.
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“It happens a lot to women, that to enter certain spaces, we have to act like men”: Ile, former member of Calle 13 – BBC News Mundo