Calle 13 in Santa Ana, Ca. Photo by Mark Nemecio.

An Artist with a Purpose

Lend your ears to the multi-cultural music of René Pérez Joglar.

Who is René Pérez Joglar?

Joglar is a Puerto Rican rapper, producer and writer commonly known as Residente. People recognize him for his accomplishments with his multiple award winning band, Calle 13. Their controversial song, “Querido FBI,” gained them the popularity they needed to begin their career; the song also assisted in developing Calle 13’s reputation as an outspoken band. Most of their songs address serious subjects using satire and descriptive lyrics provided by Joglar. Early in their career, their music was based on a foundation of Hip-Hop and Reggaeton beats. When Calle 13 released their first self-titled album, the song, “Atrevete-Te-Te,” became a hit. Even though the song was one out of the four Reggaeton tracks on the album, media and listeners still went ahead and labeled the band as mainstream “Reggaeton artists.” Because the labeling did not sit well with the band, they responded by producing four more distinct albums:

· Residente o Visitante *Resident or Visitor

· Los de Atrás Vienen Conmigo *Those in Back Come with Me

· Entren Los Que Quieran *Enter Those Who Want to

· Multi_Viral

As the band progressed, they tried to refrain from using Reggaeton music and instead explored sounds from sub-genres in Latin music such as Tango, Salsa, Cumbia, and Merengue. Unlike top chart artist who mostly collaborate among themselves, the band chose to work with artists that are closely connected to their own cultures like Kamilya Jubran from Israel or Silvio Rodriguez from Cuba. The band’s efforts in trying to change the perception of Urban music are heard in the manipulation of traditional instrumental sounds to fit modern music, which is something Joglar continues to do in his new self-titled project, Residente.

My reaction to the first song I heard, “La Tripleta,” off Calle 13’s self titled album, looked like this guy’s:

As you explore more unfamiliar music, this will most likely be your reaction too.

Tip: To expand your music preference in general, take small steps. I would not recommend starting with artists that are completely foreign to you. For example, I started with unfamiliar Latin artists due to having a common culture then worked my way to Eastern music. This blog is a good platform to ease your way into different genres.

A Puerto Rican Abroad

Here, I will write about Residente’s approach to music, the new project, how I listen to music, and introduce songs in an order of complexity (from least to most complex). Enjoy!
“[Music] has become like McDonalds, junk food. It sells quick. Its made quick[,] and the art is lost.”- Residente

Joglar’s ideology of music is one to admire due to his prioritization of putting “Art-”concepts, creativity, and/or interpretation- before the music or business. In a recent Billboard interview, he discusses his work flow and reveals that his concepts need to be clear before making any music. He also discuses how reaching a certain level of artistry can impair the growth of artistic skill.

As a musician, this is relatable because we are always try to find different ways of creating music. If we get comfortable playing only one style and not seek out others, then we will not grow — at least from my experience.

In his new self-titled project, Residente, the process was peculiar yet an innovative one. He took a DNA test and learned that he is part African, European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Native American. The test sparked the idea of traveling to these regions to make music, which he did (for about two years). As he discovered more about himself, he learned about the culture, historical and current events, and collaborated with artists of these regions to give them exposure — something they have little of. Joglar was able to document in an album not only multi-cultural content but raw instrumentation from around the world that is almost unseen in popular music.

Recommended songs

Before you listen to the songs, remove all stereotypes, labels, and genres from your mind. Listen to how the instrumentation reflects the title of the song and spot any sounds that are interesting to you to develop your music preference. For links to music, click on the song title!
  1. Una Leyenda China

This song begins with a tapping sound that gradually gets faster and stops after it has your attention (to make you wonder what is next). Then, we hear a Chinese inspired melody played on an erhu, a two string instrument often used in China, that delivers these vibrant sounds alongside slow paced pounding drums. In the background, there are sounds of crickets and a stream of water that not only give a visual but a sense of tranquility. By making sense of the title and the sounds you hear, we get a piece of what can be found in China and its culture.

Try to develop a visual as you go along and listen for words that are similar to English words — that can help comprehend the context of the song. If you are tempted to change the song, remember that you might pass up on something that you like.

Before the chorus, Residente decides to change the atmosphere by combining the Chinese melody with a mellow hip-hop trap beat that will make your head bob (Told you that beat is popular!). Furthermore, the chorus surprises us with Chinese vocals that are not that easy to get accustomed to, but it is possible — especially if you listen to it multiple times. Overall, the song has a refreshing take on traditional Chinese sounds and carries a storytelling tone throughout.

2. Guerra

In the first 30 seconds of the song, we hear a spiritual choral piece that is probably a familiar sound if you have been to church or any other place of worship. Then, a Georgian string instrument, known as panduri, is introduced playing a melancholy melody that sounds inspired by folk music. To give the listener a visual, there is a sound in the background of a bothered goat. (Keep in mind the surroundings of places that are typically at war.) When the beat and vocals come in synchronized to complete the song, the music portrays a sense of motion and compliments the rising tone that Residente delivers. Going into the chorus, there is a mixture of sounds such as voices from Chechnya, a republic of Russia, and drum samples from Ossetia, a divided state by Russia and Georgia. These regions are constantly at war and bringing them together in the song allowed for Residente to reveal their similarities — one being living in war. This also supports his intentions to break down barriers in music and other places. When we make it to the chorus, realize that it is mostly made up of foreign sounds and a small portion of it is Residente’s voice. This shows that giving these foreign artists/musicians exposure is important to him. Toward the end of the song, the use of the word “Guerra” increases, Residente’s tone intensifies, and an elevating synth sound emerges indicating that the song is at its peak. Afterward, we hear a sound effect that imitates a bomb falling and ends with multiple instruments creating a chaotic noise similar to what is heard during battle. The sounds and construction of the song effectively deliver the concept of war.

3. Somos Anormales

Beware, the video for “Somos Anormales” has explicit graphic content and should be for individuals 18+.

Tip: When trying out new music, listen to it multiple times before judging it and be patient — patience is key to learning anything.

This song instantly presents Siberian singing that is nasally and different in tone from other vocals we have heard. Then, we hear a large drum playing some sort of tribal rhythm to build intensity. Once again, there is a string instrument, yet this one sounds like it has loose strings as if it was handcrafted. The galloping melody being played sounds strange, but it is a indigenous sound of Siberian people that can be appreciated for its authenticity. Throughout the song, there are a lot of different sounds that are difficult to describe but are refreshing due to their unfamiliarity.

This is one of the harder songs to listen to, but try to put yourself in the shoes of the Siberian artists. They are as passionate about music as anyone else, which is the overall message Residente tries to portray; we may look different, but we are all the same.

I hope you found some information valuable and tried something new. If you have any questions or feedback, comment down below. I’ll leave you with a Spotify link for the album :

*English translation

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