Pradaboi lays down an island backbeat from Calgary
'I want to give Colombia a different name'
Andres Parada — AKA Pradaboi — has been around Netflix enough to understand what Calgarians in his adopted hometown think when they hear Colombia.
"Colombia is known for … Narcos," he says.
"You say 'Hi, I'm from Colombia,' and Narcos comes to mind."
Pradaboi — a moniker inspired by his Calgary pals — hopes to change all that, through song.
That's partly because there's more to Colombia than Narcos, which Pradaboi has been exposed to on visits home, where he records original music songs such as Conmigo.
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He's building a growing reputation as a reggaeton singer in places such as Chile, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia, countries where that musical genre is exploding in popularity.
It's also doing alright in North America, thanks to songs like Despacito, which may or not be considered reggaeton —songwriter Luis Fonsi says it's not but has a 'reggaeton energy' — but it's also one of the most-streamed songs of all time.
"I want to give Colombia a different name," Pradaboi said, in an interview on The Homestretch. "I want to take that into my hands, and say hey, Colombia's music industry is growing critically. They have great engineers, great producers, [and] incredible people at writing music."
Long journey from Medellín to Calgary
Pradaboi's journey to Calgary started in 2002, when the family fled home — for Florida.
"We were looking for a better home. We tried the States, just because it was closer to Colombia, but they were having a tough time after 9/11.
"Canada was the best option for us," he says. "It's a little cold — but [it's] still a beautiful country — and I love it up here."
Pradaboi and his family's long, winding road from Medellín to Calgary — via Miami, Hamilton, and Toronto — had one unexpected bonus: it exposed him to an incredible array of music.
"I was trying to find my thing — my music — when I first left Colombia," he said. "I was a little unsure what I liked, because Colombia has a lot of musical genres you can pick from.
"I think the States and Canada introduced me to the urban world, which is hip hop etc. Reggateton came just along in that time — and when I first heard it, it's what I loved.
"I've always been involved in dancing and what-not in school, but singing — there's a thing about singing that goes with me."
Giving Calgary audiences a taste of reggaeton
As far as reggaeton goes, the appeal is as old and familiar as music itself.
"It describes what a lot of — specifically — girls think of Latino guys. They think they're sweet talkers, they're the guys who are going to come and sweet talk in your ear and make you dance.
"And that's exactly what reggaeton is: it's always about girls, the songs are always usually romantic, about a girl, trying to catch her attention basically."
As far as what inspires his own original songs, Pradaboi pulls no punches there, either.
"Girls," he says. "You know, I'm not the best-looking guy out there. Not seven feet tall.
"So that's the way I want to talk to a girl — with my songs."
Pradaboi will be giving Calgarians a taste of reggaeton this summer at Expo Latino in August. He's still hopeful that he will be confirmed to perform at Fiestival in July and is also trying to book gigs in a few Latin clubs in the city over the summer.
Then he'll head out on the road, playing his way back down to Colombia.
"I get to go back to my home country and just be part of it — because I'm still Colombian," he said. "My blood is Colombian. I still definitely love touching the floor there."
With files from The Homestretch