As politicians around the world work tirelessly to build border walls, musicians knock them down. Over the past couple of years, Latin musicians have crossed over onto the mainstream U.S. charts in a wave not seen since the so-called Latin Invasion of the late '90s. Yet, as artists of the reggaeton and Latin-trap genres enter the top of the charts, alternative-Latin acts have also garnered attention.
Singer-songwriters such as Natalia Lafourcade and Mon Laferte have been influential forces for years, but as global interest in the music of the Caribbean and Central and South America grows, so do these artists' profiles. Colombia's Monsieur Periné has been making music for the better part of ten years, but a Latin Grammy win for Best New Artist in 2015 introduced the group to a wider global audience.
Despite the acclaim and notoriety that came with the golden gramophone, the band's stated mission on its latest album, Encanto Tropical, is the same as always, lead singer Catalina García says. Like its debut album, Hecho a Mano, and its sophomore breakthrough, Caja de Música, the music on the latest is much more sonically diverse than the pop charts might have one believe.
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"We have a construct about what it means to be 'Latino,' and that's what we wanted to explore on our album," she says. "The most important thing for us is to rescue that cultural diversity that is being lost, including in the music industry. The industry is too focused on the pop urbano sound. We're losing the richness of the cultural diversity of Latin America... There are so many contrasts, stories, and traditions that are being pushed aside. The charm of Latin people is precisely the profundity of diversity of our cultures, our customs — all of those things which make us different but unite us."
The band's music is a microcosm of that larger diversity. Its tropical sound is distinctive for its European flair, and the catalogue includes songs García sings in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. "All of our albums have had the intention to showcase the sonic diversity of Latin America," she says. "We've made eclectic records where we've basically weaved those threads with other cultural forces, with other landscapes, with other eras, with other cultures that make up what we know as 'Latin America.'"
Monsieur Periné is set to return to Miami this weekend as part of the Rhythm Foundation's 30th-anniversary programming. The bandmates will perform at the North Beach Bandshell, a venue they played last year with Miami's own genre-bending Nu Deco Ensemble. García says a diverse city such as Miami is primed to appreciate her band's kitchen-sink approach to making alternative-Latin music. Last year's show at the band shell, she says, was a highlight for the group. "There were so many people. The energy was incredible. It was one of the most beautiful sets we've played."