In Honor of Hispanic Heritage Month: Past, Present Hispanic/Latine Musicians to Add to Your Playlist
The American music scene has seen a surge in popularity of Hispanic and Latine artists over the past couple of decades. This exposure to Spanish-language music and Latin genres has undoubtedly increased the visibility of Hispanic culture. While celebrating Hispanic artists should not be limited to one month out of the year, it does remind American listeners of songs of songs and artists that are too often overlooked. Here is a shortlist of groundbreaking Hispanic musicians of the past, present and future as well as their songs to diversify your playlist.
VOICES THAT PAVED THE WAY FOR TODAY’S HISPANIC MUSICIANS.
Gloria Estefan was born in Havana, Cuba in 1975. After immigrating to Miami in 1977, she rose to fame as a part of the Latin pop music group Miami Sound Machine before embarking on her solo career. She is a seven-time Grammy Winner and is one of the best-selling artists of all time. Her career and relationship with her husband Emilio Estefan was eventually adapted into a Broadway musical, On Your Feet! — a jukebox musical featuring Estefan’s discography.
Songs to listen to: “Si voy a perderte,” “Conga,” “Mi Tierra!”
The top selling tropical salsa artist of all time, Marc Anthony is a singer-songwriter and actor. Born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, Anthony worked as back-up vocalist before signing to RMM Records as a solo artist. He is a three-time Grammy winner and a six-time Latin Grammy winner.
Songs to listen to: “Vivir Mi Vida,” “Tu Amor Me Hace Bien,” “Ahora quien”
Dubbed the “Queen of Tejano music,” Selena Quintanilla Pérez was born in 1971 in Lake Jackson, TX. When Selena was nine-years-old, her father and former musician Abraham, formed a musical group with Selena and her two siblings, called Selena y Los Dinos. Taking on the challenge of enfusing both her American and Mexican identities into her music, Selena amassed a monumental following. She was tragically murdered by her manager in 1995 when she was only 23-years-old. She is still considered one of the most prolific Hispanic singers of all time.
Songs to listen to: “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” “Como La Flor,” “Amor Prohibido”
THE STARS OF TODAY.
From his headline-making performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards to his continued advocacy for his native Puerto Rico, Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, Bad Bunny, has become one of the most famous Hispanic rappers of the past decade. He has contributed greatly to the sales and success of Spanish-language music within the global market.
Songs to listen to: “Me Porto Bonito,” “Tití Me Preguntó,” “Después de La Playa”
A Colombian band formed in 2005, Bomba Estéreo is known for their upbeat tracks, most often classified as “electro tropical” and “psychedelic cumbia.” They have been nominated for eight Latin Grammys as well as three Grammys throughout their career. Also, if you are looking for a guaranteed mood-boost, be sure to check out their “Soy Yo” music video.
Songs to listen to: “To My Love,” “Soy Yo,” “Ojitos Lindos”
Calle 13 is a Puerto Rican alternative hip-hop group initially formed by stepbrothers Residente and Visitante, along with their sister iLe. Known for their protest songs and profound lyrics, the group has won 22 Latin Grammy awards. Their song “Latinoamérica,” specifically, identifies the imperialism that has destabilized areas of Latin America.
Songs to listen to: “Latinoamérica,” “Atrévete-Te-Te,” “La Vuelta Al Mundo”
A four-piece band based in Los Angeles, Chicano Batman is composed of Eduardo Arenas, Carlos Arévalo, Bardo Martinez and Gabriel Villa. According to blog Pipiripau, their band name was inspired by the logo used for Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers Movement as well as the “The Dark Knight.”
Songs to listen to: “Magma,” “Freedom is Free,” “Black Lipstick”
Born in Medellín, Colombia, José Álvaro Osorio Balvin has been referred to as the “Prince of Reggaeton.” He was the first Latino to headline Coachella and Lollapalooza and has received six Latin Grammys as well as four Grammy nominations.
Songs to listen to: “LA CANCIÓN,” “QUÉ PRETENDES,” “Mi Gente”
A singer-songwriter and actor from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Martin’s music career has spanned multiple genres including reggaeton, salsea and Latin pop. Beyond the musical world, Martin has become a recognizable sex symbol, gay advocate and international superstar.
Songs to listen to: “Livin' La Vida Loca,” “Canción Bonita,” “La Copa de La Vida”
Born in Catalonia, Spain, Rosalía discovered Spanish folk music when she was little, eventually attending the Catalonia College of Music. Her 2018 album “El Mal Querer” won the Latin Grammy Award for Album of the Year, the Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock Album and is listed in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. She has since collaborated with artists like Bad Bunny and Lana Del Rey.
Songs to listen to: “Malamente,” “LA NOCHE DE ANOCHE,” “Yo x Ti, Tu x Mí”
Mr. Worldwide hails from Miami and began recording reggaeton and hip hop music in the early 2000s. While initially creating solely Spanish-language tracks, Pitbull rebranded himself as a pop artist and rapper starting in the 2010s. Since, he has won a Grammy, multiple Billboard Music Awards and the American Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award. He truly has “been there, done that.”
Songs to listen to: “Gasolina,” “Maldito Alcohol,” “Timber”
Dubbed the “Queen of Latin Music,” Shakira was born in Barranquilla, Colombia in 1977. From the age of 13, she was in the music studio singing. An internationally-recognized star, Shakira has won three Grammys, 11 Latin Grammys, as well as over 100 other accolades.
Songs to listen to: “Waka Waka,” “La Bicicleta,” “Hips Don't Lie”
HISPANIC MUSICIANS ESTABLISHING THEIR UNIQUE SOUND.
Everyone knows Becky G from her 2014 bop “Shower,” however, she has since written songs in Spanish, collaborating with prominent artists like Bad Bunny and touring with J Balvin. At only 25-years-old, she has already received two American Music Awards, two People’s Choice Awards and multiple nominations for her roles in television programs.
Songs to listen to: “Mayores,” “MAMIII,” “Shower”
A singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Garzon-Montano released his first album “Bishouné: Alma del Huila” in 2014. He broke into the industry after opening for Lenny Kravitz’s European tour in 2014 and being sampled in the Drake song “Jungle” in 2015.
Songs to listen to: “6 8,” “Fruitflies,” “Someone”
Juan Luis Londoño Arias was born in Colombia in 1994. He is currently signed with Sony Music and has won one Latin Grammy as well as four Billboard Latin Music Awards. Maluma recently starred in and scored the soundtrack for the movie “Marry Me” in collaboration with Jennifer Lopez.
Songs to listen to: “Sobrio,” “Nos Comemos Vivos,” “Amigos con Derechos”
The Marías are an indie pop band from Los Angeles composed of María Zardoya, Edward James, Jesse Perlman, Joshua David Conway. The band is named after lead singer Zardoya, who was born in Puerto Rico. Formed in 2016, The Marias are still refining their sound and are known for singing songs both in English and Spanish.
Songs to listen to: “I Like It,” “Heavy,” “Cariño”
A native of Hartford, CT, Rubinos studied jazz composition at the Berklee College of Music before launching her career. After college, she spent a significant amount of time caring for her father who had a degenerative disease. Her track “Black Stars” is inspired by the grief and loss she experienced during that time. Combining musical styles of salsa, merengue and rumba, she released her third album in 2021, “Una Rosa.”
Songs to listen to: “Hair Receding,” “Lonely Lover,” “Black Stars”
Graphic by Anya Perel-Arkin
Originally published in WECB's music publication Milk Crate.