For years, Ecuador’s underground music scene has been providing Ecuadorians with artists they can be proud of. Across the country, bands have been passing the torch between generations, with a punk movement erupting in the late 90s, commanded by bands like G.O.E and 69 Segundos. Shortly after, in the early 2000s, reggae and ska purveyors Sudakaya became one of the first cult bands in the country. Almost two decades later, the scope of genres has grown, along with the audiences – with the internet as a powerful tool helping artists reach a number of listeners that once seemed only hopeful.
This growth had an impact on local scenes in many ways. New artists now have higher standards, and deliver a better final product. Acts like Da Pawn, La Maquina Camaleon, Nicola Cruz, and Mateo Kingman have all played high-profile festivals like Lollapalooza and Estéreo Picnic in the last few years.
Local music is influenced by both the geographical conditions that enrich Ecuador, and the culture that makes it so diverse. It’s one of the most contrasting and colorful scenes in the continent, despite its relatively small size and the lack of proper spotlight on the arts. The bands that are currently feeding the indie environment are very different from one another, but are all in touch with global trends in music, while having a firm tether in their own regional sounds.
2019 marks an interesting year for Ecuadorean music. Here’s a look at the most promising acts to look out for in the coming months.
El General Villamil
Guayaquil’s most prominent band mixes surf rock with psychedelia to tell stories about love and beach trips. They recently released Daga, their most accomplished work to date. The album showcases a polished, hook-filled sound, demonstrating the possibilities that await the band.
Mixing chill beats with the sounds of the mountains, Aua Lila aims to regain her roots and identity within a scene that is heavily influenced by American bands. Relying on typical genres such as albazo and yaraví, her rhythms and voice mix in a tender way, fitting for both relaxing indoors, or a dance night.
Tripulacion de Osos
Tripulación de Ososare is a rock act from Quito that constantly challenges guitar music detractors. Frontman Mauro Samaniego is a talented songwriter with a constant need to externalize his feelings in different genres. In Tripulación de Osos, he unleashes rage and discomfort over distorted guitars and aggressive drums, while keeping it playful with the melody – also delivering mosh pit-worthy tunes.
There’s very little known about Biotrash except that she’s from Quito and her limited discography (consisting of only 3 songs to date) is strong enough to generate hype – with many fans hoping for a full album. She mixes Spanish and English often, over experimental trap beats that create a singular sound.
From Cuenca, this indie rock band keeps it simple and nostalgic with smart lyrics and a relaxed atmosphere. Their new record, El Amor Existe, is filled with youthful anthems about love and belonging. Cuenca has been the center of the underground scene recently – hosting some of the most promising music festival in the country. Letelefono are a great representation of what one can expect in the city.
Guayaquil born but Quito established, Paola Navarrete sings about relationships, change, and abandonment. Her voice is the main event, but the music cradles her vocal stylings perfectly. Her two albums, Ficcion (2014) and Verde Fugaz (2018) are worlds apart from one another. Her first release was more of an acoustic guitar and percussion based affair, while her second album played with rich textures and synthesizers – showing a clear evolution both in her maturity as a songwriter and the sounds she’s exploring.
Lolabúm’s last record, Tristes Tropicos (2018) is the perfect result of the “indie-gone-experimental” stage. Pedro Bonfim has a very raw way of writing and singing his lyrics, and manages to create an atypical persona – introducing him as a character on the record. Lolabúm sound sarcastic, disinterested and tired, but manage to maintain a certain charm around them.
One of the most unique artists in Ecuador, Eugenio is bringing back genres like Pasillo and Bolero, creating music that resonates with both young and older audiences. This revival has brought him a lot of attention, and he’s been referred to as a modern Julio Jaramillo. His aesthetics, persona, and music combined revitalize the idea of the romantic singer.