Music

10 Artists Leading The New Guard of Chilean Indie

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres
Art by Stephany Torres

As the sun rises on the ‘20s, music heads around the world have plunged deep into our feelings reminiscing on the highs, lows and defining sounds of the past decade. Chilean indie is no doubt one of the most influential Latin American waves in recent memory, blasting a small, fledgeling creative ecosystem onto the global stage with cinematic synthpop operas, conscientious rap diatribes and more avant experimentation than a Björk album cycle. However, much has changed since our ears and minds were first blown by the likes of Javiera Mena, Gepe and the several other visionary art kids that made Chile a beacon of evocative fusions and eerily relatable storytelling. Following in the steps of giants, the end of the 2010s was largely shaped by a new generation of artists grappling with shifting cultural and political tides, – armed with new promotional tools, fresh perspectives and the revolutionary spirit that has burned in Chilean music since the 1960s.

So where do the indie OGs end and the new guard begin? The safest bet would be the dance floor.

While the early years of the Chilean wave were defined by disco-soaked synthpop, younger voices began echoing the global rise of urbano, most notably with the perreo-revolutionizing emergence of Tomasa del Real. The high priestess of neoperreo hit the scene halfway through the decade, going viral from her bedroom in the Northern city of Iquique with anthems like “Tu Señora” and “Bonnie N Clyde” – which injected refreshing DIY grit into a sanitized pop-reggaeton landscape led by the likes of J Balvin and Ozuna. The diverse and all-inclusive ethos of neoperreo and its subsequent parties empowered a new generation of Internet-savvy hustlers to broadcast their increasingly polished productions across SoundCloud, YouTube and rapidly democratizing dance floors around the world. In a few short years, the movement built such impressive momentum that it’s no longer unusual to hear Chilean neoperreo stars like Del Real, Talisto and Kamixlo sparking sweaty twerk melees alongside mainstream hits by Daddy Yankee and Karol G.

Santiago de Chile now consumes more reggaeton per capita than any other city on the globe, but it’s hardly the only genre making a splash. The worlds of Latin trap and R&B have also gotten the Chilean bump, most notably through Gianluca and Princesa Alba. Channeling the mental health anxieties and washed out aesthetics that have seemingly taken over music, fashion and film, the meteoric pair are possibly the purest representatives of Chile’s evolving pop star model. From Gianluca’s antidepressant-fueled G Love mixtape, to the coquettish charm of hit Princesa Alba singles “Summer Love” and “Convéncete” – their music sonically, visually and ideologically aligns with the work of international tastemakers like Frank Ocean and Solange.

The aforementioned artists also resonate with radical gender and sexual equality movements currently unfolding across the Chilean zeitgeist. Certainly, Alex Anwandter and Javiera Mena paved the way for local queer pop subversiveness, but acts like Namuel and the AMIK Collective – comprised of unyielding electro provocateurs Kamon Kamon Kamon, Reinder, Barbacius and more – have pushed boundaries even further by infusing their work with unapologetically explicit sexual themes and embracing gender fluidity. In fact, blurring the lines of gender has become so common that earlier this year, fast-fashion powerhouse H&M tapped Gianluca, Francisco Victoria, Playa Gótica, Fanny Leona and former Miss Garrison singer-drummer, Fran Straube, to star in a massive ad campaign for their major non-binary clothing line.

Of course, while the new kids continue making noise, many of the scene’s influential talents have evolved to maintain their relevance. Fran Straube might be the finest example of these artistic renewals, navigating her post-Miss Garrison career with the boundless sonic curiosity of her solo project, Rubio. Alongside producer Pablo Stipicic, Straube conceived a stunning, mystical universe on her solo debut Pez, unknowingly delivering an invaluable pearl of industry wisdom in the process. Pez was released between 2017 and 2018 as a 5-EP series that was later compiled into a full album – a distribution format that gave fans a window into Straube’s ongoing creative journey and made her music a more palatable time investment for the fickle attention spans of the streaming age. Nowadays, emerging artists regularly find success through algorithmic playlists on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, but many established musicians are still getting wise to these new marketing strategies. After the release of Pez, Milton James unveiled his own post-Dënver debut, Pretemporada, rolling out the record in three parts throughout the course of 2019 – with similar tactics employed internationally by acts like Wet Baes and Los Wálters.

Today, Chile finds itself at a pivotal crossroads as nationwide protests demanding a massive socio-political overhaul are continuously met with stonewalling and tepid concessions from President Sebastian Piñera’s maligned conservative government. Music is once again a vital platform of resistance for the Chilean people, with everyone from Natisú to Camila Moreno frequently joining marches and organizing free concerts, and even prompting long-defunct acts like Los Jaivas and Los Bunkers to reunite under a message of dissidence and national unity.

With a shaky future at hand, we’ve compiled a list of rising talents already shaping the next era of Chilean music. From urbano, to rock and folk, Chile’s artistic landscape is as vibrant as ever, and this generation of artists is perfectly equipped to handle the coming challenges.

Check out a playlist curated by the author here: 

 

Fanny Leona

As the charismatic singer of Playa Gótica, Fanny Leona spearheaded a riveting guitar-pop rebellion influenced by J-Pop, post-punk and brooding icons like Souxie Soux and Shirley Manson – setting stages and earphones a blaze with dynamic hits like “Extraños Visitantes” and “Reptil No Gentil.” Just before the group disbanded earlier this year, Leona released their own debut album Ningen, further exploring the halls of quirky dance pop with unshakeable earworms like “Fiesta Paraíso” and “Mi Chica Favorita,” and heralding a new rising supreme of Chilean indie pop along the way.

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Tomás Urquieta

While the last decade of Chilean indie was characterized by nostalgia and electronic fusions, the scene’s experimental spectrum led by producers like Imaabs, El Sueño de la Casa Propia and Mañaneros has gone criminally overlooked. Despite solo releases dating back to 2014, Tomás Urquieta finally broke through in 2018 with his burning manifesto Dueños de Nada, which infused punishing sonic canvases with the punk urgency of his fledgeling youth. After playing Festival NRMAL in 2017, Urquieta relocated to Mexico City and has remained busy performing and producing, hinting at some brutal new releases scheduled for 2020.

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Francisco Victoria

First emerging as Alex Anwandter’s golden protege, Francisco Victoria has rapidly outgrown the mystique of a pop ingenue. Early singles like “Marinos” and “Quiero Volver” foretold a clever pop craftsman in the making – suspicions later confirmed with the arrival of his 2018 full-length debut Prenda. Victoria released just one new song in 2019, the effervescent “Querida Ven” alongside Miranda!’s Jualiana Gatas, so we can’t wait to see where the young heartthrob leads us in 2020!

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Rubio

Back in 2014, at the height of Miss Garrison’s mounting buzz, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Fran Straube dropped a cryptic, exploratory single titled “Rubio,” simultaneously embracing the term as a mysterious and androgynous new alter ego. Since then, Rubio has bubbled into one of the most exciting and constantly surprising projects in Chilean music, unveiling their ambient-soaked self-titled debut in 2017, followed by 2018’s Pez – a masterful collaboration with producer Pablo Stipicic that collided electronic arrangements with pre-hispanic percussion and Straube’s own eccentric vocal gymnastics.

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Niña Tormenta

One of the newer members of Chini and The Technicians, Tiare Galaz has plunged even deeper into the waters of Chilean folk with her impressive solo project Niña Tormenta – weaving the raw earnestness of her songwriting contemporaries with minimalist guitar melodies and an angelic voice. Following the release of her 2017 full-length Loza, co-produced with Diego Lorenzini, Niña Tormenta has emerged as a poignant voice of the Chilean underground – crafting cozy, layered tales of heartbreak and loneliness that flow with dreamlike ease.

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Chini and The Technicians

Folk tradition is a pillar of Chilean music and Chini and The Technicians are at the cusp of a new wave spinning remarkably evocative poetry out of acoustic guitars. Led by singer-songwriter Chini Ayarza, the band hit the scene with the white knuckle ambition of 2017’s En El Fondo Todo Va Bien, an EP dripping with grungy alt-rock angst. Their follow up, 2018’s Arriba es Abajo, expanded the former duo into a full band, somehow delivering an even more intimate record than its predecessor. “Arriba,” “Ctlqhl” and “Espacio” open the album at lighting speed, thrusting the listener into a world of homespun folk rock designed for spellbinding packed living rooms and guerrilla art spaces.

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Niños del Cerro

With the release of their debut album Nonato Coo in 2015, and their 2018 follow-up Lance, Niños del Cerro signaled a local return to guitar-driven pop, bucking the synthesized sounds of the day in favor of power chords and high energy melodies. Bands like Patio Solar and Paracaidistas soon followed suit, kicking off a wave that re-embraced the sonic possibilities of rock n’ roll without the constraints of nostalgia, instead charting exciting new territory in a scene thirsty for fresh sounds.

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Princesa Alba

Believe the hype: Princesa Alba is the real deal and ready to take over the international charts. Bursting onto the scene with her 2017 bilingual mixtape, Del Cielo, Princesa Alba has been on a steady glow up from underground R&B chanteuse to glossy pop phenom. 2019 was a pivotal year for the 22-year old, booking Lollapalooza Chile, performing in Mexico and the US for the first time and landing three consecutive hits, “Convéncete,” “Summer Love” alongside Gianluca, and “Hacerte Mal,” which was produced by Francisco Victoria. All hail the new princess of Chilean pop!

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Gianluca

The rightful heir to Bad Bunny’s artsy trap throne, Gianluca has been making noise since 2017’s lo-fi SSR Mixtape, later becoming a glorified king of sad-boy trap with his 2018 follow-up G Love. While always working alongside producer Tytokuch, Gianluca finally broke into the global market with his 2019 full-length debut Yin Yang, his first release via foundational label Quemasucabeza. The adventurous young trap star enlisted studio wiz Pablo Stipicic and contributions from buzzy contemporaries like Pablo Chill-E and Pedro LaDroga, and Chilean indie OGs Javiera Mena and Gepe, making Yin Yang a spectacular yet grounded explosion of urbano innovation.

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Tomasa del Real

In 2015, Tomasa del Real became the star of a perreo insurrection long bubbling in the SoundCloud and nightclub underground, inspired by the mutated reggaeton sounds of influential producers like Deltatron and Paul Marmota. Neoperreo, a term coined by Del Real, soon grew into a way of life, building momentum as a movement parallel but separate from mainstream reggaeton – drawing from fashion trends blossoming on Instagram and Tumblr, and a commitment to cultivating safe spaces for all revelers. Today, Del Real is an international sensation, performing at globally renowned festivals like Coachella and EDC, featuring burgeoning production and vocal talent across every new release, and even collaborating with genre OGs like DJ Blass.