We’ve had Despacito in our heads all summer thanks to worldwide radio, J Balvin has been swept up by the Radio 1 train and even Little Mix have released their own Simon Cowell-endorsed Reggaetón lento. Joe Samrai takes a look at producers such as Kamixlo, Uli K and Florentino, who are fusing Latin formulae into urban alternative club music.
Baile-funk, reggaetón, dancehall, you name it. Whether it be from Spain, Portugal or Latin America, it’s hard to deny that these musical genres have recently experienced a resurgence in club music around the world. Combining the hard grooves of these styles with the industrial gritty bass and percussion associated with lots of club music, this partnership is cropping up in more and more Boiler Room videos as you trawl the internet.
Here in the UK we have collectives and labels focusing entirely around this fusion. Bala Club, a music collective based in London, have been pioneering this fusion and have even taken it further afield to the US and elsewhere. Founded by enigmatic producers Kamixlo, Uli K and Endgame, the collective seek to ‘create an alternative’. An alternative to what exactly? Perhaps the convention of putting music in boxes defined by genre (house, techno, grime etc.) One thing was clear upon first hearing their music; this was something that had little been done before.
Sometimes dark and industrial but also euphoric and uplifting – the music of Endgame and Kamixlo in particular has a clear focus on the Latino percussion. The beats are relentless, sounding like a reggaetón track heard at Pam Pam’s on a Spanishsoc social after it has been churned through a meat grinder. Uli K on the other hand, provides a melancholic counterpart to this abrasion. Uli K is a vocalist whose lyrics, primarily in Spanish, float above melodic trap and dancehall beats. The artist’s aesthetic has also caught attention of Sweden’s infamous Sad Boys and Drain Gang collectives, resulting in fantastic collaborations with the likes of Yung Lean, Ecco2K and Bladee. This international bond clearly underlines the forward momentum that Bala Club seem to be riding. Kamixlo for example has been known to play international DJ sets. Whether it be at Berlin’s Berghain Panorama Bar or club nights in Miami, the producer of Chilean origin and his exciting new club sound is in high demand.
Moving further up north, we find another artist seeking to weld Latino sounds with the UK club vibe. Producer/DJ Florentino (real name Yeshe Beesely) is from Manchester and Colombia. Frequenting Bogotá and Manchester growing up, it is clear that these two very different cities have had an impact on his music. Running with the tagline: ‘El más romántico de los románticos’, at the beginning of almost every one of his tracks, Florentino’s production is much more on the uplifting side rather than the eyes down industrial sound of London’s Bala Club, but still retains the reggaetón percussion and twinkling melodies. Having recently signed to Brooklyn’s MIXPAK label, that include names such as Jubilee, Popcaan and Vybz Kartel, the producer is clearly on the cusp of something big. He even closed the MIXPAK takeover at Bristol’s Simple Things Festival earlier this year.
Florentino has also been making a name for himself aiding the production of Barcelona’s sassiest new artist Bad Gyal. Having had the pleasure of seeing her at Sónar Festival 2017, she, like Florentino, is turning the formula of cheesy reggaetón pop hits into real club bangers. You only have to listen to her Slow Wine Mixtape to realise that.
Shifting from the UK to Sweden, Miami and throughout Europe. This new fusion of traditional Latino musical formulas and forward-thinking club music is becoming more apparent. Names like Florentino and the Bala Club collective appear on more festival and club night line ups each year. Expect to hear much more from these genre-defying artists.
Header image- Rio Baile Funk by Vincent Rosenblatt.