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In today’s online music landscape, independent artists have found the perfect platform to establish themselves and make an impact. Regional barriers are a thing of the past, and there are numerous algorithms and playlists to discover undiscovered talent. This trend is particularly pronounced in the Spanish-language music market, which has experienced consistent revenue growth over the years.
Contrast this with the early 2010s when Latin-focused indie labels like Nacional Records and Cosmica Artists emerged. These labels were born out of necessity to support artists whose unique styles and languages didn’t quite fit into the major label mold.
Even before the surge in popularity of música Mexicana this year, several artists had been launched by independent labels. For example, Latin chart-toppers Eslabon Armado and Fuerza Regida are signed to Del Records and Rancho Humilde, respectively. Some of the artists featured on this list are entirely self-managed and funded, yet they still amass millions of streams, contributing to global music trends through cross-genre collaborations and innovative sounds.
During Hispanic Heritage Month in 2023, Variety spotlights eight independent Latin artists who are making significant strides in the industry.
Texas-based band Luna Luna has been on an experimental journey since their 2018 debut LP, “For Lovers Only.” Their upcoming EP, “L.L.,” set to be released on September 29, showcases their evolving sound, venturing into drum and bass, electronica, and unexpected interpolations. The lead single from this EP, “Lonely Lullaby,” offers a glimpse of this new musical direction.
The band, now consisting of founder Kavvi, Danny Bonilla, Kaylin Martinez, and Ryan Gordon, released their last record in 2021. They are known for indie pop hits like “Commitment” and have spent a significant portion of 2022 touring. Luna Luna has also graced the stages of festivals such as Austin City Limits and has had the opportunity to open for artists like Omar Apollo.
Born in Venezuela and now based in Paris, Yadam explores themes of love and heartbreak from the perspective of a queer Latino on his debut album, “Belamor.” Yadam’s affinity for ethereal and atmospheric pop music traces back to his childhood when he played the violin. His musical journey continued into his teenage years when he achieved second place on France’s version of “American Idol” in 2017. One of the standout tracks from the album is “Otras Mujeres,” a song he collaborated on with Grammy-award-winning songwriter Samuel Dixon (known for his work with artists like Adele, Sia, and Christina Aguilera).
In “Otras Mujeres,” sung in Spanish, Yadam poignantly expresses, “You’re looking for me in other women. Let’s see if you find it, let’s see if they want you.”
Rusowsky, the alter ego of Spanish artist and producer Ruslán Mediavilla, is a figure often associated with the underground and avant-garde music scene. He has garnered a dedicated following, particularly in his hometown of Madrid and Mexico City. Rusowsky made a notable appearance on the track “Bien:(” by Grammy-nominated and Latin Grammy-winning artist C. Tangana. His single “Mwah :3” gained prominence as part of the soundtrack for the 2023 film “The (Almost) Legends.”
Although Rusowsky has not yet released a full-length album, he has achieved significant success with his singles, spanning genres from electronica to reggaeton and R&B. Notable tracks in his repertoire include “Brujita,” and his latest release, “LOTO,” which marks his first foray into incorporating elements of música Mexicana. According to a recent interview with Neo2 Magazine, he is expected to release an album in 2024.
At just 20 years old, Estevie is making waves in the music scene with the release of her debut EP, “Cumbialicious,” under Ricky Reed’s Nice Life label, all while managing her career independently. The EP lives up to its name, offering listeners seven enchanting tracks that blend dreamy Mexican cumbia elements, featuring lyrics in both English and Spanish.
The EP boasts experimental production, primarily handled by Alan Vega (with Ricky Reed contributing to some tracks), who skillfully infuses Tejano music with a refreshing alternative twist. In the track “Mona Lisa” from “Cumbialicious,” the percussion takes on a slowed-down tempo, creating a captivating contrast with Estevie’s sweet pop vocals. The result is a musical experience that defies conventional expectations within the genre. Estevie, whose real name is Sarah Silva, initially garnered industry attention with her feature on Eslabon Armado’s Latin chart-topping hit, “Nostalgia,” in 2022. However, she has boldly charted her own path in the music landscape this year.
Pachy Garcia, known by his stage name Pachyman, is a multi-talented musician whose music is tailor-made for a perfect sun-soaked afternoon. His previous full-length album, “The Return of Pachyman,” featured 12 dub tracks, a genre known for emphasizing bass and drums while incorporating additional instrumentals. Rooted in synth and Jamaican reggae, this sound resonates with Pachyman’s Puerto Rican heritage and early musical influences. His upcoming album, “Switched-On,” is scheduled for release via ATO Records on Sept. 29. This album introduces listeners to Pachyman’s diverse musical talents and includes three singles, one of which, “Trago Coqueto,” showcases his own vocal contributions.
Rawayana, a well-established Venezuelan band, has been a musical presence since 2013. Their journey includes five independent album releases, with their latest offering being the extensive 22-track album titled “¿Quién Trae Las Cornetas?”
The band recently marked their Tiny Desk debut as part of NPR’s Latinx Heritage Month celebration, known as “El Tiny.” During this performance, they delivered an uplifting rendition of “Dame Un Break,” the sole single released ahead of their latest album. Notable tracks from their discography include “Binikini,” which has experienced a surge in streaming since the album’s release, and “Funky Fiesta” from their 2016 record “Trippy Caribbean.” Currently, the band is performing in Venezuela before embarking on a North American tour scheduled through November.
Girl Ultra, the musical persona of producer and singer-songwriter Mariana de Miguel, has been evolving her sound since her debut in 2017. Her latest EP, “El Sur,” features seven tracks in Spanish, departing from her initial R&B style and embracing poppy ’80s house beats.
One of the EP’s singles, “Punk,” which features the Mexican indie band Little Jesus, offered a glimpse into this musical transformation when it was released in 2022. The song combines elements of alt-rock with synthy basslines and even interpolates Gwen Stefani’s “Bubble Pop Electric” chorus. Girl Ultra continued her musical journey by releasing a collaborative track titled “Locochona” with the Spanish pop-rock band Cariño in March. Additionally, she has been actively touring and participating in festivals throughout the summer, showcasing her dynamic musical range.
Letón Pé, a Dominican singer-songwriter, has been making waves in the music scene since 2019 with her unique blend of pop and Afro-Caribbean beats. She recently released her high-energy EP titled “Rojo Rubí,” featuring five tracks, including “Tengo Miedo,” which infuses a trap twist into a fast-paced merengue rhythm.
In 2022, Letón Pé introduced her debut EP, “La Caleta,” characterized by its diverse sound palette that incorporated elements of reggaeton and house beats. The EP included fan-favorite tracks such as her collaboration with Venezuelan artist Irepelusa on “Al Azar” and the catchy “Dale.”
Notably, Letón Pé’s talent caught the attention of Latin Grammy-winning producer Eduardo Cabra, who featured her on his 2023 EP, “Martínez.” This collaboration led to the EP receiving a nomination for Best Alternative Music Album at this year’s Latin Grammy Awards, further solidifying Letón Pé’s rising star in the music industry.