Fierce

Cuban Songstress Kat Dahlia Speaks On Why Adding Spanish To Her Music Isn’t For A Trend — She’s Been Doing It Intentionally For An Important Reason

Two decades ago, an eight-year-old Kat Dahlia sat in her Miami home writing rhymes she’d sing and rap aloud. Now, at 28, the raspy songstress says she’s a lot like the scribbling child artist she used to be. Sure, she’s had chart-toppers, like her 2013 hit “Gangsta,” a former major record label deal and a studio album, but, when it comes to making music, her creativity and hunger remains as fresh as it was twenty years ago.

“In a lot of ways, it still feels like the beginning, like I’m still eight years old. I’m writing my best music yet, and the next biggest song is yet to come,” the Cuban-American artist, who this month returned from a two-hear hiatus, tells FIERCE.

Kat’s next big banger could be her latest single “I’m Doin’ Good,” a light reggaeton bop about protecting your well-being. For her, the bilingual track, produced by her longtime collaborator Royal Z, is another “female anthem,” a song women who are on a path of self-growth can listen to for strength when the past is trying to pull them back.

“Knowing my girls would tell me ‘don’t’ / Buscando mi conección / No quiero perder mi dirección,” she sings, her voice gritty and sincere.

Kat, who has long made music inspired by her Cuban culture (if you haven’t listened to “Tumbao” do it — now!) with the intention of empowering women and girls, believes we are in a time where, sonically, audiences will be more understanding of her Latin-infused R&B and pop and, cognitively, more open to her message.

Returning as an indie artist, the now Los Angeles-based performer is taking on a new chapter in her career and life, and she’s hyped. We chatted with Kat about new music — which she has been holding onto and is finally ready to release to eager fans — upcoming shows, artistic and personal growth as well as self-preservation, among so much more.

FIERCE: You are coming back from a two-year hiatus. How does this feel, energizing, intimidating, natural?

Kat Dahlia: It feels like everything. It’s exciting and it’s scary. It’s also kind of like a weight lifted off my shoulders, to be honest, because when you’re creating all you want to do is just release stuff, and I feel like the moment has finally come.

FIERCE: I see you wiped your Instagram clean, too. Does it feel like a fresh new start for you? 

Kat Dahlia: In a way. I think it’s just like a new chapter. I don’t know if it’s like a fresh start, but it’s definitely a new chapter, and I wanted that to be reflected on my Instagram. Also, I think it helps make it look, aesthetically, like a new chapter.

FIERCE: How does returning as an indie artist impact the direction of your music and the focus you are able to give to your creativity?

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I’m Doin Good Out Meow!!!! ???? ????: @mochavez

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Kat Dahlia: I mean, I feel like I’m in complete control now in a lot of ways, which can be nerve-wracking. I definitely wake up every morning thinking about it and going to sleep thinking about it. It’s my entire responsibility and my entire career. I’m like the boss of myself. So it’s very empowering but also can be scary at times.

FIERCE: How so?

Kat Dahlia: Well, a lot of the weight is on you. I am the label. I am the everything now, so I really have the pressure on myself. But it’s a good pressure, honestly. I would rather it this way. 

FIERCE: Your evolvement as an artist is evident in the sound of your new music. Do you think you’ve grown as an artist during this hiatus or that you are just now able to do the music you want to do? 

Kat Dahlia: I think it’s both. I think I’ve grown as an artist and as a woman. I think that music has changed since “Gangsta.” I think that my musical taste has changed as well. There’s just so much growth happening, from within me and the world, and the music reflects that.

FIERCE: How do you think those exterior changes you mentioned influenced you?

Kat Dahlia: Even the way people release music now, even the way people consume music, how quickly it’s consumed. That affects the way that I as an artist will put out the music, how often I’m going to be putting out music. Social media, everything, so much has changed the way that the world consumes information, music — everything is just faster. So for me it was really important to have worked for two-plus years on a lot of music and have a really strong catalog and focus on making my best shit, so that, when the time comes, it’s like boom, I have a whole arsenal of stuff that I can just keep dropping. And while doing that, I can also continue to keep making. But it needed to be right, it needed to be stuff that I loved and something that I truly do believe in. It is important as an indie artist. I was with a label for a really long time, and I didn’t really have 100 percent of the say, and now I do, which is awesome and freeing. But it takes time, and as that time goes on, two years, a lot of shit fucking happened. People were dropping music every month, every day, and I needed to make sure I wasn’t just making songs and putting them out. I wanted to make really, really, really good shit.

FIERCE: One of the most obvious stylistic differences we hear with your music right now is its fusion of urbano with R&B and pop. You’ve never shied away from embracing your Cuban culture in your music, but it feels a little more intentional now. Why is that?


Kat Dahlia: I was always doing it. In my first album, I had Spanish songs, I redid Celia Cruz’s “Tumbao,” I did the Spanish version of “Gangsta.” It just seems like now, with this Latin surge, it feels more important, which is great, because when I was doing it, it wasn’t as big as it is now. Now, there’s the space to do it and now I can do so much more with it. I can do it in the way that I want to do it, in a way I think is cool. And now that there’s this platform, this explosion of Latin musical culture, it’s great because there’s so many more eyes on it, people care more, it’s more important. 

FIERCE: Your latest single “I’m Doin’ Good” is a bop. You called it “another female anthem.” Why?

Kat Dahlia: I want it to be a female anthem. I feel like every time I make songs, I’m always thinking about our perspective. There are so many songs that girls are singing these days that are written by men, so they are not authentically our perspective. So I’m constantly thinking of songs that feel more genuine to me and hopefully connect with other females, kind of like “Gangsta” or “I Think I’m In Love.” Those songs are important to young females. They want to feel empowered, in love. They want to connect to stuff, just how I want to connect to stuff, that feels real.

FIERCE: In “I’m Doin’ Good,” you sing, “‘Cause I’m doing good right now. I don’t wanna lose myself. I’m doing good right now, and you calling doesn’t help.” The song, to me, is about protecting your mental health and not letting anyone take you back from the emotional or spiritual gains you’ve made. Why is this preservation of self necessary to you?

Kat Dahlia: Because I think people, like myself, can get wrapped up in things that are not good for us. I feel like this last year, I’ve been super focused on my mental and physical health and getting to know myself better to live a more authentic life and not waste my time with bullshit.

FIERCE: How do you, Kat, the woman, safeguard your mental health and growth in your personal life, especially as an artist in the public eye?

Kat Dahlia: I think my biggest thing is just keeping boundaries with certain people and habits. It’s about staying focused on what really does feel important to me and knowing the difference between what really is important to me and what is a distraction. It’s knowing what’s not good for me, being aware of that, and saying no to it.

FIERCE: I want to get back to the music, because I know you have a lot of new-new on the way. What can you tell us about it?

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Waiting on my song to drop tonight like…

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Kat Dahlia: I’m just going to keep dropping songs, like three or four more by the end of the year. Then, in the first quarter of next year, I hope to drop a project. I also want to drop videos for every song. I just made shit and focused on making shit that I like, which is always going to end up leaning urban, R&B, Afro-beat, Latin, everything, just a representation of me and the shit that I like.

FIERCE: In a recent interview, you stated that a US tour is in the works. Can you share any details on that?

Kat Dahlia: We’re working on it right now. As far as shows, I have the Los Dells Festival in September and Austin City Limits in October.  

FIERCE: You started singing and rapping when you were a child, eight years old. What is it like for you, today, two decades later, at age 28, looking back and knowing you’ve realized those childhood dreams through a rollercoaster journey in the industry and are now doing it on your own terms?

Kat Dahlia: In a lot of ways it still feels like the beginning, like I’m still eight years old. I’m writing my best music yet, and the next biggest song is yet to come.

FIERCE: Talking about what’s to come, what are you most excited about what’s next for you and why should people be paying attention?

Kat Dahlia: It’s on them, whatever they want to do, but me, personally, I’m most excited about sharing music already. It’s been too long. I’m also excited about finally putting out a message that I 100 percent believe in and own. 

FIERCE: And what message is that? 

Kat Dahlia: Just do good, be myself, stay authentic and try to just be good to myself. 

Read: Meet Kim Viera, The Nuyorican Powerhouse Singer Soaring Over Tropical Beats

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Alaina Castillo’s New TikTok Trend Is Empowering People To Embrace Their Latinidad

Culture

Alaina Castillo’s New TikTok Trend Is Empowering People To Embrace Their Latinidad

Not everyone has the privilege of growing up surrounded by their cultura, with parents there to pass on knowledge of traditions and customs from home. That, combined with heavily opinionated internet trolls, has led to many people struggling to feel confident in their identity. In a digital world that tries to force us all to fit into boxes, what does “Latino enough” mean and how do you know if you’re there?

Recently, we asked our Instagram community “what does being Latino mean to you?” and although some responses had details in common, for the most part they were as unique as every member of the community itself. There is no one definition of Latinidad, and therefore there is no way to measure what exactly makes someone “Latino enough.”

We got the chance to talk to Alaina Castillo, musical artist and TikTok Queen, about how she identifies with Latinidad and what this TikTok trend is all about. Did we mention quarantine has not stopped her from dropping new music? Check out her latest single, “tonight”!

IMAGE COURTESY OF ALAINA CASTILLO

What does being Latina mean to you? – mitú

“It means that I have something to identify with and be proud of because of my family members, my culture, and the things that I participate in as a Latina.” – A.C.

Side note, this was a personal reminder that we represent the community wherever we occupy space, whether we realize it or not. We are all participating in things as members of the community.

What’s something that, as a Latina, you are proud of? – mitú

“The strength and endurance that we have. I’ve seen it in my dad, his family, and so many others and it makes me feel proud as well as encouraged to achieve my goals with the same mindset as them.” – A.C.

While they may not be perfect (and let’s face it, who is?), our parents are the definition of hard working. Remembering that their blood runs through my veins always keeps me going when the going gets tough. Si se puede!

What Latino figures inspire you? – mitú

“Selena, even though she was an artist that I didn’t really grow up listening to. When I found out who she was, she was someone who I related to because she was a Mexican-American learning to speak and sing in Spanish, while breaking a lot of barriers that people had set up around her.” – A.C.

La Reina del Tex-Mex was a trailblazer indeed! Who else could forget Selena’s iconic “diecicuatro” blurb when she appeared in an interview with Cristina Saralegui? The important thing to focus on is that she was TRYING! As long as we’re all working on improving and being the best versions of ourselves, that’s the best we can do, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way.

IMAGE COURTESY OF ALAINA CASTILLO

Name one meal that, no matter where you have it, always reminds you of home. – mitú

“Homemade tamales!!!! 100%” – A.C.

You know we love some good tamales, so naturally our next question was…

Where is your family from? – mitú

“My dad is from Mexico and my mom is from Ohio.” – A.C.

Mmmm…Mexican tamales 😋

Have you ever been to those places? – mitú

“Yes, both places. I went to Mexico when I was really young, maybe about two times, and then I’ve traveled to Ohio on various occasions to see family. I was young each time I went to those places so they’re little memories I think of when I miss my family.” – A.C.

What would you say is the most “Latino” item in your home? – mitú

“We have these blankets from my grandma that I grew up using. I thought they were normal blankets but then I saw on social media that almost every Latino household has some and I was like hmmm, what do you know?” – A.C.

IMAGE COURTESY OF ALAINA CASTILLO

What would you say to people who think that not speaking Spanish makes you less Latino? – mitú

“I think it’d definitely be nice to know the language fluently but some people aren’t taught Spanish growing up and that’s not their fault. Not speaking the language doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same customs or should be rejected from the culture that their family is from. I decided to learn on my own because I’ve always been interested in Spanish, and also so I could speak with my family and I see that’s what a lot of other people are doing too.” – A.C.

One more time for the people in the back: not speaking Spanish doesn’t make you any less Latino.

How do you celebrate your Latinidad? – mitú

“With pride. I wouldn’t be who I am today without influences from my family so it’ll always be something I carry with me and proudly show throughout my life and career.” – A.C.

What do you hope people take away from this trend? – mitú

“That Latinidad is something you’re born with and it can’t ever be taken away from you,” – A.C.

So forget about the opinions of other people! All they’re doing is projecting their beliefs onto you and that is not an actual reflection of who you are. We hope you are inspired to embrace your Latinidad on your own terms, and that you walk more confidently in your identity. So duet us on TikTok and don’t forget to use the hashtag #AreYouLatinoEnough to join in on the fun!

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Billboard Listed The Top 50 Latin Music Songs Of All Time And Some People Have Questions

Entertainment

Billboard Listed The Top 50 Latin Music Songs Of All Time And Some People Have Questions

shakira / jbalvin / Instagram

Latin music is something we all grew up with. Our parents raised us on the voices of Celia Cruz and Vicente Fernandez. We cleaned the house and entertained ourselves on road trips to these artists and they are ingrained in our DNA. Billboard recently released a list of the 50 best Latin music songs of all time and some are undoubtedly iconic and others just aren’t Latin music.

Billboard dropped their list for the 50 best Latin music songs of all time and some of them are truly classics.

Amor Prohibido” by Selena, “Guantanamera” by Celia Cruz, “El Rey” by Vicente Fernandez, and “El dia que me quieras” by Luis Miguel are just a few of the songs on the list that deserve all the praise. They are songs that transport us to our childhoods and cherished family memories.

The list also includes some newer songs that have rocked out adult worlds. “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, “Mi Gente” by J Balvin, “El Farsante” by Ozuna, and “Tusa” by Karol G and Nicki Minaj all made the list. Not only do these songs speak to the Latino audience, they have been able to go mainstream sharing our musical culture with the world. That’s something to admire and respect because it gives our community representation like never before.

The list has proven to be just want some people have been asking for.

Tbh, this would make a pretty amazing road trip playlist if you need to pass the time. Nothing like a mix of Latin music songs playing along to give you a big, inclusive sabor of Latin America through music. A little be of Mexico and a little bit of Puerto Rico mixed in with a little bit of Colombia is pure joy and magic.

However, a lot of people are questioning the list’s inclusion of Spanish artists.

The list has various artists who are not Latino, but Spanish. There seems to be an unspoken rule in the music industry that music in Spanish is automatically Latin music. Fans have long been arguing against the industry’s blanket label of Spanish-language music automatically being considered Latin music.

Rosalía, who has arguably become the face of the debate, is listed as having one of the best Latin music songs of all time.

While Rosalía does make some good music, there is a real push to make sure the artists of Latin American roots are uplifted in Latin music. There is nothing wrong with including Rosalía in your Spanish-language playlists but Latin music fans want the distinction made that some artists aren’t Latino.

You can check out the rest of the Billboard list here.

READ: Vogue México Put A Spanish Music Artist On Their Cover And Called Her Latina And Latinos Almost Set Twitter On Fire

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