Melissa Quijada Wants to See More Honduran and Central American Music in the Industry

Melissa Quijada’s love for music began in her early childhood, and what started as a passion and hobby led her to a career in radio. Her musical journey started in 1999 on a local radio station in her city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras for two years. “They were my beginnings on the radio and they were beautiful experiences through which I enjoyed and learned a lot,” she shares being at the now-defunct radio station called Stereo Color. In her realm of work, she has had the opportunity to work with a diverse range of artists, produce festivals, and even become an agent of change in the industry. But no matter what responsibility she’s taken on or space she’s entered, she’s always remained consistent to one mission: representing Honduras in different forums and markets.

When she began in radio, the main coverage areas for that station were of a musical trend with Anglo pop, rock, grunge and R&B music, but not so much Honduran music nor Central American music — the music she remembers growing up with. This disparity motivated Quijada, 42, took on emerging and indie proposals to different spaces. She showcased new local bands, and through her exposure in radio she was pushed into the world of production. She wore multiple hats that included radio content production, music programming and voice recording and product creation in general. Her contributions to promoting new music and promoting independent music has led her to become the creator of the new platform Nucleo Indie as well as the director/booker of the annual Nu Festival, which is devoted to Central American indie. 

Remezcla chatted with the director at the radio station Súper 100 and host of Núcleo Indie, which has been on the radio for 6 months, every Wednesday they share news, music premieres, musical industry issues, guest artists, events and other topics on the Latino local emerging scene. A resident of Tegucigalpa, Honduras for 21 years, she shared her musical journey and experiences navigating the industry as a major mujer. 

This interview has been translated, edited, and condensed for clarity.

What was that one moment or turning point in which you felt like you were in the right space?

Music has always led me to the right place, from music markets, festivals, production, management, or working directly with artists. Starting out [in the industry] has not been a job, but really a passion, something I’ve always enjoyed, making music on the radio too. If I were somewhere other than music, it would be the wrong place. This world has opened many opportunities and has even opened borders in my life. I have been able to go out, I have been able to make a living from music, I have been able to work and support other people who are starting out. Now, with experience, I have been able to migrate to different platforms where groups are given visibility, groups that are new but are very good so that others can enjoy them. I don’t see it as a job, even though producing a festival is a lot of work, managing many things, solving problems, etc. It’s also quite gratifying, you enjoy the party as well as the others, but my work really makes a difference, and someone has to do it.

You know how it is on social media, people always sharing the big news, but obviously, people never share difficult times or bad times. Have you had any of those moments, and how did you overcome them?

It really has to happen to you at some point. As a producer of events, I remember] a festival in December. It rained all day, and we had a fantastic show prepared. We brought bands from the Dominican Republic, Panama, all over Central America, and the Caribbean. The rain never stopped, the dressing rooms were destroyed, everything was destroyed, people were scared because the rain did not stop and it was quite disappointing, to the point of tears. It is a learning experience you have to have at some point in this industry, but it is something you overcome. There were losses, but everything was understandable. It was something that was out of our control. That has been one of the most negative moments of working and dealing with something out of my control.

Were they any mentors, or other women who have inspired you or helped you get to where you are now?

It’s always inspiring to work with women. In my work team, I have a sound engineer who is the only female with the kind of preparation she has here in my city, I also work with a woman in video. Most of our team is made up of very talented women — we always look for that inspiration and that learning that happens when we all come together. At least in the team that I have, the experience of working here in the country has been very enriching. There have been important people from whom you always have to learn from, and it doesn’t matter if you learn from someone younger than you or older. It is a matter of connecting and working on ideas together and doing much better with each other’s contributions.

What is one of the biggest hardships that you’ve faced, as a woman, or as a Latina in the industry?

The lack of equality. You have to put in a lot more effort to earn respect because it is “a men’s industry.” In general, music production and even radio production are dominated by men, so you have to try to show your potential, even with salary issues and positions of greater power or authority has always been a struggle. I can have all the qualifications, but a position will be given to a man. You have to do more to demonstrate that you are more than capable of working in this industry and have the technical and learning capabilities just like anyone else.

What has been your favorite part of your career and journey?

[My favorite part] is discovering new music. I always love learning more online and receiving emails from new bands. Every week I dedicate time to listen to what’s new, and I make my playlists. I have my radio show on Wednesdays where we present all of these [discoveries], mainly focusing on Honduras, the region, Central America, and the Caribbean. That is the part that I enjoy the most—discovering music and being able to share it, either on the radio or at live events.

My work really makes a difference, and someone has to do it.

We’re seeing more women artists and music creators speak up about how their work went unprotected or their trust was abused in the industry. What has been your perspective on this, if you have any, and is this something that you have seen happen before?

In the case of Honduras, in the last decade, things have changed a lot for the better. You didn’t see many female artists at the beginning of the decade. Little by little, they have been gaining a lot of respect and opportunities in this industry, which has been dominated mainly by men in the sectors of studies, production, radio broadcasting, music, singers, instrumentalists, etc. This last decade has seen an awakening for women— I’m telling you because I have been a part of El Festival de Mujeres for more than seven years now, where women are showcased, not only in music but in arts. Many women have gone on to have solo and DJ careers — there are good representations of catracha women.

What do you hope to personally change about the music industry?

I believe education is essential. If I would change something, it’s not having well-established cultural policies, having support from governments, making the migration of music easier, and eliminating the paperwork or obstacles to be able to move within the same region. Those things are what have to be changed from above, the system, there has to be a little more support. Having more rights and policies so that an emerging or developing artist can begin to make themselves known, have more massive promotion in the media. Here in Honduras, it is very restricted, there is no public education for music, and the private route is not that great either and there’s not a lot of encouragement for training in music. There is no formal industry, and I think that when the entire industry begins to be formalized, we’ll begin to see the benefits. There is hope for people who are starting out, to be able to work in the industry, and for society to stop seeing artists as people we have to support, these poor artists, but to see it as a serious job and that they’re doing your best, they’re investing in your career and they’re making plans.

For the audience that doesn’t know, what are the artists or the sound or the genre that you think is coming out of Honduras that people should be listening to? 

Right now, in Honduras, there’s an exciting situation happening with music. Many good bands are emerging. After the pandemic, it has multiplied, almost as if it made us want to create more. Speaking specifically of women, very talented artists have come out. For example, we have Goddessey, a singer from Roatan with a more traditional sound from our Garifuna and Black communities, which has not become widely known outside of Honduras and outside of our community. There’s Afrodance, a combination of Latin with contemporary, traditional music, folk music, and autochthonous sounds that are very different from what they usually present. It is something unique and a part of our identity. There has also been a relatively good musical combination and diversity, an effervescence as well, of events, not only for women but in general, you can listen to a lot of indie folks, indie rock, you can listen to R&B, you can listen to music in English and Spanish, Spanglish too. But what you have to know about Honduras is what is hardly known: the folk music, traditional and Garifuna music, and the fusion between Garifuna, Black and dance, and Afrodance.