It’s a strange time to get in the fiestas patrias vibe, but many countries across Latin America are celebrating unconventional birthdays this week. In Mexico, valiant feminist collectives have hijacked the conversation surrounding ‘el grito’ (and the offices of Mexico City’s Human Rights Commission), demanding answers and solutions from government officials who remain unresponsive in the face of staggering rates of feminicides and other gender-based violence. In Chile, small demonstrations have already begun filling Santiago’s re-baptized Plaza de la Dignidad; the first wave of clashes since the country’s gradual reopening began in late August. By the time Friday’s festivities roll around, you can expect to see massive protests once more, this time fueled by discontent over the government’s poor handling of the COVID-19 crisis and fanning the flames of the impending plebiscite for a new constitution, scheduled for October 25.
Today, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica celebrate their independence too, with many still reeling from the socio-economic brunt of the Coronavirus pandemic, while others haven’t yet recovered from violent coup d’etats or the disappearances of land protectors and Indigenous leaders. These holidays are usually a time to set animosity aside and bask in the joy and resilience of national pride, but our current limits on traditional congregations are also sparking sober reflection. Skin deep celebrations won’t cut it this year as many Latinos across the continent fight for freedom, equality and justice at this very moment; core values behind the many revolutions we usually remember at this time.
We believe one of the best ways of empowering these communities is by spotlighting underrepresented voices, so to commemorate Central American independence day, we’ve compiled a list of rising artists from across a plethora of underground music scenes that you should run out and support right now.
A rising star of Honduran Afro-dance, Queen Kartel first made a splash two years ago with the release of club banger “Moffandeh,” inviting us into her wild and inclusive world of euphoric dancing. The Garifuna rapper and choreographer released follow up single “Confia en Tí” last year, dropped in for a feature with local heavy hitters JCP el Especialista and Merek Supraboy on “Dugule,” and is steadily climbing through the ranks of Honduran Afrobeat alongside the likes of Asael TNC and Eminente.
A dreamy dose of Guatemalan shoegaze, Asimov first caught our attention following the release of their moody 2019 EP Todo Lo Que Buscamos Es Desaparecer, where ethereal vocals dance effortlessly over hazy guitar melodies and hypnotic percussion. Early cuts like “Tara” and “Furtivo” will draw you deep into the band’s minor key fantasies, a possible allusion to their famed sci-fi namesake, while their latest single “Obelisco” hints at affecting and far more robust sounds to come.
Nakury & Barzo
Over the past decade, the Costa Rican underground has been defined by a thriving garage and punk rock scene, but often overlooked are the vibrant MCs paving new avenues for local hip-hop, trap, and reggae. Nakury has emerged as a beacon of Tico rap with incisive yet empathetic tracks like “Desde Adentro,” “Necesario,” and “Para Mi Gente,” which delve into themes of land rights and Latin American feminism while producer Barzo spins colorful sonic canvases for every witty rhyme. Make sure to check out their brand new collaborative album, O, dropping this Friday.
Earlier this year, we took a dive into El Salvador’s burgeoning indie scene, but it’s always important to remember things are popping off nationwide, not just in the capital. Santa Ana native Mario Bora became a highly sought young talent following the release of his bop-filled debut album Tiempo y Espacio and subsequent EP Kesperaban, as well as a seemingly endless string of bouncy trap and reggaeton singles. Lyricist, vocalist, and prolific producer, Bora is a frequent collaborator, if not guiding force, for many of El Salvador’s rising trap talents including 17Jae, Drovekidd, Gabriela Triste and Gars; always eager to experiment, never easily classified.
Named after a volcano off the shores of Lago de Managua, Momotombo is a beloved Nicaraguan ensemble founded by Guillermo Norory, colliding traditional rhythms like son de toros, son de chicheros, and Pacific marimba with elements of rock, reggae, and synthpop. Momotombo broke out with their eclectic debut album La Calaca, experimenting and refining their marimba-driven melodies and lush electronic production on explosive follow ups La Marimba Cósmica and Mayofunk. The band has one of the most lauded live shows in all of Central America, so if they’re ever in your city, you won’t want to miss out!