In Latin American countries, political, economic and social systems have always consolidated themselves in central hubs – and the same is true for the region’s musical nuclei. Capitals and big cities are where the spotlight typically shines: musicians move from all over the Mexican territory to make it in Mexico City; mammoth festivals like Lollapalooza only land in large South American cities like Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, and Sao Paulo; and it’s not uncommon to see music fans organizing travel to catch their favorite artists live when they don’t stop in their towns.
But even though the big cities get all the love, there are smaller cities throughout the Americas with musical scenes that are growing and thriving, sometimes without the broad support or coverage they deserve.
Here at Remezcla, we’re taking on the task of highlighting some of these up-and-coming music hubs in an ongoing series launching today. Every two weeks we’ll be running profiles of under-the-radar places shaping up to become new rising stars in the region’s musical constellation, and we also want to hear from you – our comment box is always open to anyone who’d like to chip in with recommendations about their local scene.
Read on to check out some of the bourgeoning musical cities you should keep an eye on.
Between the Pacific Ocean and colorful hillsides lies the booming university town of Valparaíso, in Chile, where art and culture are palpable in its steep streets. Although it has suffered atrocious natural calamities in recent history, the Porteño artists and promoters have done their best to pull through and build a strong local scene. From indie rock to electronic music to experimental acts, there’s a whole lot of music to discover from Valpo’s music landscape.
Right in the center or the Argentine territory, Córdoba shares a history of love for rock music with its better-known sister city of Buenos Aires. Córdoba has developed into a tight scene comprising bands and artists exploring the possibilities of indie rock and what has come to be known as “pop cordobés.” It also has a growing hip-hop movement, and has become a mandatory stop for touring musicians in the country, with a sizable audience hungry for fresh music and the right venues and cultural spaces to cater to them.
Most of Ecuador’s music scene is based out of Quito, but lately more and more concerts and festivals have been appearing in Cuenca, a Southern city in the Andes. Its growth is thanks to local promoters who’ve worked tirelessly for the scene’s development. Also, musical projects are breaking out of their practice rooms, especially rock bands and electronic music producers.
Salvador da Bahia (Brazil)
When it comes to music, the coastal city of São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos – and the state of Bahia in general – have long been reduced to axé music, pagode baiano, and a laid-back attitude. But they actually contain a whole ecosystem of creators and supporters ready for us to dive into. With an increasing number of musical projects –from singer-songwriters, to rock, to their own quebradeira– that are often splashed with the region’s Afro-Brazilian inheritance, Bahianos are giving cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paolo a run for their money.
The Latinx community in Georgia is one of the fastest growing in the country, and it also faces one of the nation’s most hostile environments toward immigrants – a hostility that is especially directed toward the undocumented community. This has contributed to drawing Atlanta’s Latinx creative community closer in recent years, as creative collectives focus on creating safe spaces to celebrate our cultures and push them forward. Parties, festivals, and art events are popping up more than ever, and the scene has especially orbited around music. Homegrown Latinx artists are gaining more attention, and it won’t be long before Kap G isn’t the only top of mind reference when we talk about ATL.
Santiago de los Caballeros (Dominican Republic)
Following Santo Domingo as the second largest city in the Dominican Republic, the north-central city of Santiago de los Caballeros –birthplace of Fania All-Stars co-founder Johnny Pacheco and international urbano sensation Messiah El Artista– harbors a healthy amount of young artists who are experimenting. Working on their own or grouped in collectives, these artists are making electronic sounds and hip-hop, among other genres, and even tapping into their own rich musical heritage to create quality work. La Ciudad del Corazón definitely deserves all of our attention.
Cartago (Costa Rica)
To the international eye, Costa Rica has stood out for the success of San Jose bands like Las Robertas, Ave Negra, or 424, but the rest of the country is also blossoming in the music department. Cartago is one great example. The country’s third biggest city has seen the rise of trap and hip-hop in an unforeseen way, with artists who are already leaving their mark in and out of Tico borders, as well as a number of garage bands who are catching up to their fellow Josefinos.