5 Latine artists to watch in 2022
From Mas Aya to Ana Luisa, discover the Latine artists that are making a mark on Canadian music
Written by Maria Isabel Martinez
Latin American artists have been sharing their talent and vision with the Canadian music scene for decades, and new names are emerging every year. While there is an existing crew of top talent already like Grammy winners and nominees Alex Cuba, Lido Pimienta, and Jessie Reyez, there's also a new cohort of Latine artists on the rise.
"Latine" is a non-binary descriptor for individuals of Latin American descent, and it covers a range of experiences and histories. In addition to being of different nationalities, Latine people are of different races, with varying experiences of historical and contemporary processes such as colonialism and migration. Though the diversity is rich, Latine people still find a sense of common identity through culture, food, and language.
This variation is reflected in the different genres of music made by the artists we're highlighting below. With styles ranging from bass-heavy electronic music to traditional Andean instruments, these musicians demonstrate that there is no one way to be Latine or to create Latine music. Each of these producers and singer-songwriters carve out their own sound and identity. As they showcase their distinct and unique visions, we see how they use music to connect to their cultural roots while living in Canada. Some infuse their sounds with political messages while others craft lyrics that explore Latine identity while living up north.
From a Juno-nominated multi-instrumentalist wanting to bridge cultures and traditions to a nightlife notable putting their own spin on electronic music, here are five talented artists you should be paying attention to in 2022.
Mas Aya is the solo project of Brandon Valdivia, a percussionist, instrumentalist, and collaborator of artists like Lido Pimienta and Tanya Tagaq. Born in Chatham, Ont., Valdivia's father is from Nicaragua. "I definitely am Canadian, but I do come from somewhere else too," he explained to Pan M 360 in June 2022, adding that he feels a "sense of responsibility to represent Nicaragua."
Masaya is the name of his grandmother's hometown in Nicaragua, and in Spanish "más allá" means "beyond," a term that gestures to Valdivia's innovative and spiritual approach to music making. "I'm trying to meld a political take in addition to a very spiritual take," he told the New York Times last year, following the release of his album Máscaras. Trained as a classical musician and active in Toronto's experimental music scene, Mas Aya's music reflects his background as he combines synths, bansuri and quena flutes, with recordings of activists speaking. The result is an aural world that defies neat categories and where resistance and contemplation coexist.
Isabella Lovestory is the alter-ego of Montreal-based artist Isabella Rodriguez. Born in Honduras, Lovestory purrs and moans Spanish lyrics over reggaeton and hyperpop beats to create tracks that tease and thrill. "I need to have a connection with Honduras in some way," Lovestory told Office Magazine in 2020. "That's why I love writing songs in Spanish." The first ever song she wrote was for her cat and soon after she started uploading her music to Soundcloud in 2017. Lovestory released her Mariposa EP in 2020 and has developed a steadily growing fanbase all over the world.
Crooning about romance, sexuality, and the body over bass-heavy beats, Isabella Lovestory builds on the female reggaeton artist canon. But Lovestory's background in visual art sets her apart. Her costumes, music videos, and the lyrics themselves help Lovestory create a bold fantasy world for listeners to step into.
Daniela Andrade went from teenaged YouTube star, known for covers of Coldplay and Gnarls Barkley, to award-winning recording artist. She was the 2020 recipient of the Prism Prize's Hi-Fidelity award for her innovative music videos. Born in Montreal to Honduran parents and raised in Edmonton, Andrade's original work blends neo-soul and R&B genres with English and Spanish songwriting. Her lyrics tell a relatable yet distinct story of a young woman navigating her life. Andrade pairs her songwriting with smooth vocals over slow, luxurious beats to form her velvety texture.
Brought up in a Seventh-day Adventist household, the image of Latina womanhood depicted in popular culture (think Jennifer Lopez and Shakira) seemed at odds with what Andrade was taught to follow. "I had to redefine what being a woman meant to me," she told CBC about working on her second album, 2019's Tamale. Andrade's most recent EP, Nothing Much has Changed, I Don't Feel the Same, was released in 2020 and addresses some of the isolation the singer-songwriter felt in the earlier days of the pandemic.
Beny Esguerra & New Tradition Music
Arts educator, community worker, and two-time Juno nominee, Beny Esguerra uses art in service of social transformation. His background as a refugee from Colombia, and son to artist/activist parents, influences his work. Esguerra raps about social issues and solidarity over eclectic Latin American sounds blended with hip-hop beats and record scratches. New Tradition Music is the name of his project: a band, performance group, and educational program.
"I chose the styles to create something new, but still rooted in tradition," says Esguerra about the "new tradition" sound in the press kit on his website. Esguerra and his band pair folk instruments such as the kuisi, along with trombones, and contemporary tools like turntables. The 2021 album Northside Kuisi, A New Tradition Vol. 3 earned Esguerra and New Tradition Music a Juno nomination for global music album of the year. "It's important to know your self [sic], your history and ancestral past," Esguerra says, "but it's also important to recreate and reinvent yourself with regard to identity."
Multidisciplinary artist, DJ and producer Ana Luisa has crafted a unique space for herself in Canadian nightlife. She tells CBC Music that exploring and highlighting "peripheral Latin American electronic music" — sounds that are not (yet) mainstream — is a key element of her work. Born in Venezuela, Ana Luisa is now based in Toronto where she started DJing in 2019.
Early in the pandemic, Ana Luisa developed the Zoom party "Cuarenteca," which focuses on Latine genres and spotlights queer femme DJs, with Colectivo Satelital (a collective of artists from Venezuela). She has since developed a radio show called Dimensión Ideal with In Search Of Radio (commonly known as "ISO," a community radio station based in Toronto). This year, Ana Luisa launched a party series titled Veneno with DJ Sofia Fly.
Ana Luisa's first EP of original work will be out this summer. She created this four-track record with her long-time collaborator, Sebas. Ana Luisa tells CBC Music that we can expect "percussion-heavy Latin club tracks exploring different rhythms like Colombian guaracha, Brazilian funk, Venezuelan gaita, as well as different mutations of dembow and reggaeton."