Catching lightning in a bottle is magical and unpredictable. At last year’s Latin Grammys, we witnessed just that when Dominican pop powerhouse Letón Pé and gravelly voiced whiz kid Calacote linked up with producers Eduardo Cabra and Tonga Conga to create an explosive merenhouse snippet in 15 minutes. The minute-long clip became an Instagram sensation, with fans heatedly demanding a full cut of the song, now titled “Tengo Miedo,” which is premiering today exclusively on Remezcla.
The initiative was part of Remezcla Studios in partnership with Cabra’s label La Casa del Sombrero, with the former Calle 13 mastermind setting up shop and selling beats for $1 in hopes of creating on-the-spot magic. And wow did it work.
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A euphoric blend of Dominican tambora and shimmering synths woven together by Cabra and Tonga Conga echoes the merenhouse idyll of a pre- “Despechá” world when Proyecto Uno, Sandy y Papo, and Omega reigned over electrified merengue. This effervescent sonic canvas becomes a playground for Letón Pé and Calacote, unspooling the tale of a relationship where a sensual, passionate woman is also overbearingly dominant over her partner. The song is played for culo-shaking cheekiness, with a call-and-response dynamic harkening to classic duets by Pimpinela or The XX. The chemistry between singers and producers is palpable on “Tengo Miedo,” all of whom knew they had a gem on their hands from the jump.
“At times, I would hang up the phone after speaking with Cabra about the song, and I would go into shock for about 30 seconds,” shares Letón Pé via email. “I would ask myself, ‘Can it be true I just made this palo with the guy who produced the soundtrack to my adolescence?’ It was crazy, but not. I had also been listening to Tonga Conga for a while, and his vision was crucial for taking the song into that groovy electro-Caribbean vibe he’s so known for.”
“Tengo Miedo” is a delicious oxymoron in that both performers have continuously proven their artistic fearlessness. Letón Pé’s 2022 debut EP La Caleta showcased her musical voraciousness by oscillating between pop, reggaeton, and house on a string of uptempo bangers such as Irepelusa collab “Al Azar” and “Dale,” which would later be remixed by Clubz.
Meanwhile, Calacote cultivated dembow hype over the course of the pandemic with explosive guest spots from the likes of Kiko el Crazy and Akapellah, and is now evolving his sound informed by the Caribbean’s vast library of diasporic rhythms.
“It’s been a while since I last recorded a dembow, but over the past year, I’ve actually been working on a much more musically diverse project full of merengues, mambos, and bachatas,” adds Miami-based Calacote. “I grew up listening to música típica, and I would love to contribute to the canon of merengue and mambo, starting with this song. [‘Tengo Miedo’] makes me feel the same way as when I hear a mambo being played by a band in a gallera. The heart beats in those voices.”
The Juanca Paulino-directed clip for “Tengo Miedo” follows Calacote and Letón Pé on a playful romp through Bocachica, an emblematic Dominican beach on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. Shots of the pair traipsing through souvenir shops, gorging on fried fish, and dancing aboard a boat capture the song’s whimsical spirit, designed to unleash some lightning-fast footwork from fans.
“Tengo Miedo” follows “Bailo Pa’ Mí” as the second single off Letón Pé’s forthcoming EP, and it’s her second crossover with Cabra, following their song “Lloripari” released in mid-May. All signs point towards sumptuous, electrified Caribbean pop taking over as the soundtrack to Summer 2023, and we’re ready to get swept up in the beat.
Check out the premiere of “Tengo Miedo” below.