Manuel Lara Is the Venezuelan Producer Behind Kali Uchis and Bad Bunny’s Most Iconic Hits
From Kali Uchis’s “Telepatía” to Bad Bunny’s “EL ULTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO” album, Venezuelan producer, songwriter and singer Manuel Lara is behind some of the most iconic Latin hits.
mitú sat down with the hit-maker to talk about his experience working with different Latin artists, his opinion on TikTok, among other industry insights.
Manuel Lara was born in Valencia, Venezuela, and always had an affinity for music. Born into a musical family where his dad was a jazz saxophonist and his mother was a professional ballerina, inspired him to delve into the Afro-Latinx beats that were popular in his region in Venezuela.
The first musical instrument Lara picked up was the drums, and then his brother Felix joined him to do music together. Lara then received a scholarship and went to Berklee College of Music, and after graduating, headed to Puerto Rico to kick off his career. There, he met Angelo Torres, who is Alvaro Diaz’s manager, and the rest is history.
“Alvaro [Diaz] was the first artist that I was able to produce for and still produce for until this day. He was the first person to put their trust in me in making music,” Lara shared.
The mastermind behind the global hit, “Telepatía.”
Colombian singer Kali Uchis reached her first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart in May 2021 with “Telepatía,” making her the first female singer without an accompanying act to top the chart since 2012, and Lara was one mastermind behind the massive success of the song and album.
“Creating that song, a song that nobody believed in, makes it all the more special. Obviously, it’s my first major hit, but it was also something I had proposed, which makes it even more personal. We were at Tainy’s writing camp where we were doing the Urban songs, and when I brought this idea for ‘Telepatía,’ which wasn’t reggaeton, everyone really enjoyed it, but we had no idea it was going to become this huge hit,” he said.
For many of us that spend hours on end on TikTok, we knew that “Telepatía” by Kali Uchis going viral was all organic. While Kali’s record label had picked reggaeton-heavy “La Luz” as a single, it was “Telepatía” that truly took over, surprising many. “When “Telepatía” was released, everyone was at home listening to music and not dancing at a club. I feel like that was one of the reasons why it became so successful and also opened the door for many artists to do more alternative records,” Lara shared.
While he recognizes the power of an app like TikTok to propel songs and take them to the next level, he also acknowledges the integrity artists should have in their art. As a producer, Lara can tell from miles away that certain songs have verses created intending to go viral on TikTok, saying, “it all seems very forced.”
“I feel like people disrespect music sometimes, and so many artists just make songs to cash a check and it should not be that way. I feel like music is something so punctual and sacred, something that allows us to connect and give us emotions, and some people just use it as if it was just anything,” he added.
Inside the Lara Project.
The Lara brothers are the artist-producer duo behind Lara Project, which they describe as “rebeldía innovadora” or “innovative rebellion.” They live outside the norms of what should be Latin music, and incorporate different elements from synth-pop, disco, rock and more, creating a different experience for listeners. “My brother and I refer to ourselves as ‘rebeldía innovadora’ because we’re against anything that is the trend right now. We like to be at the forefront of bringing new sounds to audiences,” explains Lara.
On working with Bad Bunny for “EL ULTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO” album.
The pair had struck a relationship back in the day in Puerto Rico when Bad Bunny was just starting his career, and the Lara brothers were getting their own footing in music production. “I knew Benito when he was just Benito… He has been a fan of Lara Project, so we always had a good connection and I’m super thankful we were able to work together, which actually happened in the middle of the pandemic… I’m hoping we work together again on his future projects,” Lara said.
Working with Rauw Alejandro and Sebastián Yatra.
Being versatile is in Lara’s nature, and his work is evidence of how far he can go in changing the sound for artists, without having artists lose their essence. Lara worked on Rauw Alejandro’s latest album “Vice Versa,” which is known for its eclectic fusions, in particular “Desenfocao,” which was produced by Lara and is experimental synth-pop at its core.
While he had a friendship with Rauw, this past year was the first time he worked with Sebastián Yatra for the Colombian singer’s third studio album “Dharma.”
“It was so funny because we didn’t know each other, and we bonded really quick,” Lara shared. “The first three days of studio sessions, we were able to work on some major hits, and Yatra was willing to welcome this new sound. I would tell him ‘I feel like you have this strength and belief in your project that we can fuse more anglo sounds with latin’ and from people’s response, it seems that it’s been working,” Lara said.
And Lara is just getting started working with renowned names in the industry. His next project? Being the executive producer for Cuco’s upcoming album. Stay tuned to see what magic he’ll dream up next.