With unprecedented Coachella showing, Latin music continues US dominance

·4-min read
Argentinian rapper Nicki Nicole performs at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California.

An unprecedented number of Latin acts performed at this year's Coachella, commanding the festival's main stage as the popularity of Spanish-language music soars.

In total this year's line-up saw 20 artists from Latin America and its diaspora performing at the premier music festival in the California desert -- up from 17 in 2019, when Bad Bunny and J Balvin ruled.

On Sunday, thousands assembled to wait for Colombia's Karol G, long before she was scheduled to take Coachella's main stage at the California desert, which was hosting the famed festival for the first time in three years after a long pandemic-induced hiatus.

The reggaeton star shook the stage with a killer set that gave female empowerment a top billing and also paid homage to the Latin American acts who paved the way.

"She is pure fun, I love her!" shouted Carolina Sanchez, a 23-year-old Mexican woman who staked out a front-row spot as she waited for the artist, who appeared with her signature mermaid-blue locks.

The singer delivered intricate choreography rife with kisses, twerking, and generous use of her hips -- before bringing on superstar DJ Tiesto for two songs.

Up next on the invite list was Becky G, the California-born artist who performed "Mamiii" with Karol.

The Colombian artist took advantage of her primetime spot to extol her Latin heritage and her region's impact on music.

"I'm from Colombia, and I'm very proud to represent my country and Latinas," she told her adoring fans.

As the sun set on the weekend's hottest day, Karol G began an emotional tribute to the Latin acts who came before her, starting with "Como La Flor" by Selena, the smash that catapulted the late star to the top of the charts in the 1990s.

One after the other, she ran through a who's who of Latin music history: "Maria" by Ricky Martin, "La Macarena" by Los del Rio, "La vida es un Carnaval" by Celia Cruz, "Gasolina" by Daddy Yankee, "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira, "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, and "Mi Gente" performed by J Balvin.

She closed the mammoth set with her own international hit, "Tusa."

- 'Infinite possibilites' -

The Latin celebration of Coachella comes as Spanish-language music continues to find mainstream success.

According to MRC Data, which provides music business analytics, in 2021 the consumption of Latin music spiked 21.1 percent, higher than any other major genre.

By the end of 2021 it is the fifth most-consumed genre in the United States.

Nathy Peluso, a vocalist from Argentina who just kicked off a global tour in Mexico, saw Latin American music's strength reflected in this year's Coachella lineup, which also included Brazilians Anitta and Pabllo Vittar.

"I have never felt limited as an artist because I am Latina -- on the contrary," Peluso told AFP.

"I have always felt powerful, and with infinite possibilities, like any other person in the world."

The singer, donning a faded leather jacket over a black top, said that for her, music is no less than a sensory experience.

"My role is to communicate," she said. "Emotion does not have a language."

Fellow Argentine and trap star Nicki Nicole -- who spoke with AFP minutes after her set that included tracks like "Colocao," "Baby" and "Wapo Traketero" -- said she was nervous when she first arrived to debut at the festival, one of music's biggest parties.

But once she got there, hundreds of people were chanting her name.

Dressed in a black jumpsuit and combat boots, the 21-year-old burst onto the stage to the delight of her fans.

"I was scared and nervous, coming from Argentina to here," she said. "I said to myself, 'Maybe no one's there,' but when I entered the room and it was full, I relaxed."

The star-on-the-rise exudes humility and a hunger to keep growing, citing artists like Amy Winehouse as influences.

"I'm always looking for things to learn," said the artist, whose song "Ella no es tuya (remix)" was included on Barack Obama's summer playlist.

Nicole says it is fellow women in music who inspire her most.

"They make me want to keep going, knowing that as women, we support each other," she said.

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