Breaking the barriers of monolingualism in music 

Juanita Olaya

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Latinx identity is an essential part of American culture in many ways. Bilingual artists born in the United States have a unique role in their culture and the general culture that they influence with their art. Artists like Omar Apollo, Kali Uchis, La Goony Chonga, and Paloma Mami, among many others, are at the forefront of a movement that celebrates Latino identity in the United States, using their bilingual talents as a tool and a powerful statement of identity.

Omar Apollo was born to Mexican parents in Indiana. His music is a soulful mix of R&B, funk, and pop. His music reflects his experience of being part of two cultures and having to navigate different complexities regarding his identity. In his childhood, Apollo danced folkloric ballet and was part of the Catholic church choir. However, he also had a strong American musical influence, listening to artists such as Nirvana, Lauryn Hill, and Prince during his childhood. Apollo’s bilingual lyrics resonate with a generation of Latinos who see themselves reflected in his experience, offering them an authentic and relatable voice. Through his art, Apollo illustrates the beauty of bilingualism, showing that language can connect more deeply with one’s heritage while also engaging with a broader audience. 

An artist who moves fluidly between English and Spanish in her music is Kali Uchis, who truly embodies the spirit of being raised in a multicultural home. Her sound, a dreamy blend of soul, reggae, and pop, defies easy categorization, as does her identity. Colombian-American Kali Uchis uses her platform to explore themes of independence, resilience, and femininity, drawing on her own life as a testament to the strength of Latina women. Using lyrics in English and Spanish is more than a feature of her music; it’s a statement of herself, a way to claim space in the broader Latin and American musical spaces.

Cuban-American rapper La Goony Chonga brings the vibrant streets of Miami to your ears through trap and reggaeton rhythms. Her music, often characterized by her provocative lyrics, serves as a statement of her Cuban heritage and her identity as a Latina in the United States. The bilingual lyricism of La Goony Chonga is not only a challenge to stereotypes but a call to empowerment, encouraging her listeners to own her culture with pride. In an interview with Deren Owji for Office magazine, she says that being Chonga “is a lifestyle and a reminder of who I am and where I come from… it’s something that has stuck with me my entire life.” Chonga is a term used primarily in South Florida to describe a sexually liberated, bold, and emotionally expressive young woman.

The Chilean-American artist Paloma Mami, born in New York, has made her presence known with hits that cross-linguistic and cultural borders, captivating audiences in the United States and Latin America. Paloma Mami’s music, which includes smooth R&B tones and urban rhythms, is a testament to her ability to navigate and bridge diverse musical worlds.

In an interview with , he expressed his excitement about the growing presence of Spanish-language music on American radio over the past five years, which represents a significant change in the market. He shared his ambition that his music would unite audiences of both languages ​​without limiting itself to a specific cultural label. His bilingual lyrics reflect his own experience of a bicultural upbringing, resonating with young listeners who share similar backgrounds.

The influence of these artists is not only linked to the field of music; They are also shaping the narrative around Latino identity in the United States. By choosing to express themselves in both English and Spanish, these artists challenge the monolingual norm and celebrate the richness of bilingualism. They represent a generation absolutely proud of their heritage, which uses their platforms to highlight the diversity of the Latino community and fight against the homogenization of culture.

In a country where Latinos have been constantly marginalized, bilingual artists like Omar Apollo, Kali Uchis, La Goony Chonga, and Paloma Mami play a transformative role. They are redefining what it means to be American, not only through their music but also through their lives. His music is not just entertainment; It is a bridge for understanding and a platform for empowerment. They demonstrate that Latino identity is multifaceted, dynamic, and integral to American history. In doing so, they inspire others to own their identities, speak with their voices, and contribute their unique experience to the ever-evolving American identity. We can see this in the number of new young artists emerging and the use of their native languages ​​in their art.

Publisher’s Notes: Breaking the barriers of monolingualism in music was first published on ENYE, and was republished with permission.

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