Interview: La Yegros – Queen of Cumbias (March 2019)

Not that we are fans of monarchy or royal titles and ranks particularly; still when it comes to music, everything is accepted, and we are more than happy to pay our homage to the court of queens enriching it.

So, when they told us that the “Queen of nu-cumbia” was ready to publish a new album and visit London for a show (at Rich Mix on 26th April, part of La Linea Festival), we picked up the phone and had a chat with her.

That’s how we had an update on the career of Argentinian singer/songwriter Mariana Yegros (better known as La Yegros), starting with her third release Suelta (‘loose’ or ‘free’ in English), which, as the title suggests, is a declaration of intent and a perfect epitome of La Yegros and her music.

Suelta has an important meaning for me. I feel like it’s a word that reflects what I am and this particular period of my life. Then, it’s a word that mirrors my music and the way I play it.

Suelta is indeed an album that I recorded with total freedom. It’s the first one that I personally edited. So yes, it marks a really important moment in my career, when I firstly confronted a new world and when I embarked on a new adventure.”

Also, when considering its concept, Suelta appears different from the previous works of La Yegros.

The new album is more folkloric than the first and second ones, which have a clearer electronic character. When I was writing Suelta, I was also inspired by nature and its sounds, so you can feel the Andean wind in it, for example.

I guess the fact that I’m living far from my country has unconsciously influenced my songwriting. So, it’s almost like connecting with my roots through my music. In some way, in this album, I also explore the theme of homesickness, some sort of nostalgia due to living far from Argentina and how my country still inspires me.”

When it comes to its sound and arrangements, Suelta is more complex than ever. The reason has to be looked for in the pool of music wizards who worked on it.

“To release the album, we have worked with King Coya, who has been our producer since we debuted. Then, on this occasion, we also worked with two new producers, who I have always admired and enjoyed their sound. They are Eduardo Cabra [also known as Visitante and part of Calle 13] and Jori Collignon [member of the tropical bass band Skip & Die]. We called them because we wanted to bring in different colours. It was very nice working with them, even if we had to do that remotely, because Eduardo is based in Puerto Rico, while Jori is in Portugal. However, with the internet, everything worked out really smoothly.”

Talking about collaborations, ‘Tenemos Voz’, the latest single extracted from the album, enjoys the voice and character of Soom T, a musician who (despite the different style played) shares La Yegros’ attitude and approach to music.

Soom T is a singer I’ve always been crazy about. I like her music, her style and the way she plays music. She has a very distinct voice, and I was really looking forward to collaborating with her in my new album. We have also just finished a videoclip together for ‘Tenemos Voz’, which is going to be out pretty soon.”

Videoclips are an essential means of expression for La Yegros’ artistry. An example is the ‘Viene de Mi’ clip, which contributed to the success of the tunes. Arguably, the same will happen with the aforementioned ‘Tenemos Voz’ or the first single extracted from Suelta, ‘Linda la Cumbia’.

The latest video we released, the one for ‘Linda la Cumbia’, is really significant, because I wanted to transmit and give the sense of an instrument I play in the album, which is really important for our tradition in Argentina. So, in some way, I wanted to render an idea in between the folkloric and the modern. To do so, we worked with a French video maker, who we were already in touch with and who we have a good relationship with, and he was able to join the two visions. I feel that the result is really nice, also because the video has a metaphorical connotation, which I really like.”

As it should be, when chatting with La Yegros, her native country is always a constant presence. That happens when you delve into her music listening too.

In this period, I’m listening a lot to an Argentinian singer/songwriter called Louta. He’s a very talented musician, and I love his lyrics because they are really inspiring. Then, I also listen to Nathy Peluso, another Argentinian, who’s doing really well in Europe too.”

Next to some good-and-proper ‘saudade’ (sorry for the Portuguesism), there are many other meaningful subjects touched on in the album. A crucial one, as often happens in La Yegros’ songs, is related to the women and their social condition.

In Suelta, I touch on different themes; one of them, in the song with Soom T, is about women’s empowerment. I can see that, little by little, women are finally positioning themselves in the places and roles they always deserved. However, it’s also evident that women are still suffering from abuse. That’s why I wanted to focus on this topic and speak openly about it.

While other tunes are more related to the everyday life of each one of us, its joys and struggles. I feel that my songs are inspired by that, by the daily life of every human being with all its ups and downs and vicissitudes related to living in our society.”

On 5th May, La Yegros will travel back to London (where she last played in 2018) for one of the highlights of the 2019 edition of La Linea Festival.

We played in London last year, and we loved how the audience received us. It was quite a surprise to be honest. So, I hope that they will do the same in May when we will play at Rich Mix.

You always look for a bond, a connection with the audience when you play live and, in my experience, that comes from playing joyful and colorful Latin music. That’s what I look forward to transmitting to them.

Our London show will be a special one, because we will present the new album to the UK audience. At the same time, we are also working on new arrangements for our old tunes, like ‘Viene de Mi’ and ‘Chica Roja’. We are working a lot to prepare a really good show; we will reunite with the full band in Argentina, with musicians coming from all over the world. We will meet there for one week to rehearse the show, and we are excited and nervous at the same time about it.”

La Yegros made no secret that the live dimension is the one filling her head and thoughts at the moment.

“For the immediate future, we only think about playing live. That’s our plan for the future. We will start the new album’s tour soon, which will keep us busy for the upcoming months, with shows in the UK, Portugal, Spain, Argentina, Mexico… We will visit many, many places!”

And in every place visited, there will be someone who has never listened to La Yegros’ music before and will need some sort of presentation…

I used to introduce my music saying that it is a mix between folklore and electronica. When I say folklore, I mean the Latin American one. Then there are pinches of electronica, which make it more contemporary and more appealing to a younger audience. It’s music that always preserves a party spirit, which lies at the roots of Latin American tradition.”