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Alternative Latin women making inroads

Artists like Julieta Venegas, Ely Guerra and Andrea Echeverri gaining popularity.
/ Source: Billboard

Women in Latin alternative music are in the spotlight, thanks to the recent Latin Grammy Award nominations for Julieta Venegas and the upcoming Latin Alternative Music Conference, which will feature a “Women Who Rock” evening.

But a significant women’s movement, many say, is far from being a reality.

In fact, the best female rock solo album category in the Latin Grammys was merged with the male category four years ago for lack of entries.

“That really struck me,” says Tomas Cookman, president of Cookman International and co-founder of the LAMC, which takes place Aug. 11-14 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. He felt it was important to stage an all-women show as part of the LAMC.

“Women Who Rock” will take place Aug. 12 and will feature Mexican Ely Guerra and Colombian Andrea Echeverri. The latter will perform material from her solo project, a sidebar to her work with Aterciopelados, the acclaimed group Echeverri and Hector Buitrago anchor.

Alternative showcase“We’re definitely throwing our two cents in, and we’re using one of our biggest events, which is the free show at the Santa Monica Pier,” Cookman adds. “But are we doing it in response to a big women’s movement? No. We’re doing it because there are great women who need to be showcased.”

LAMC is geared specifically toward marketing, showcasing and promoting Spanish-language alternative music and brings together executives and tastemakers as well as artists and producers.

There are actually many women in alternative music. But while some have garnered critical acclaim and recognition, widespread commercial success has been elusive.

“There are a lot of us doing very personal things, and there’s no specific way of describing it,” says Venegas, whose album “Si” (BMG Mexico) is nominated for a Latin Grammy for best rock solo album. Her song “Andar Contigo” is nominated for song and record of the year.

When it comes to sales, Venegas adds, it has been a different story: “What’s personal, and what’s commercial? It’s one thing to talk about conceptual women’s music, that doesn’t sell as much, and another to find people who sell and who open more doors.”

Venegas has found commercial success only with this latest release, which followed a string of highly praised but low-selling recordings.

Venegas and the more mainstream Alejandra Guzman are probably the best-selling Latin rock/alternative artists today. “Si “ is No. 66 on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart.

Other women have made commercial inroads. Mexico also boasts Natalia LaFourcade — although she’s often considered a pop artist — and Spain now has rapper La Mala Rodriguez.

But other purveyors of the genre, including Mimi Maura and Guerra — whose upcoming album, “Sweet & Sour, Hot y Spicy” will be released Sept. 28 on Higher Octave Music — have never sold particularly well.

On the road
“The presence of women in alternative is stuck,” says Gustavo Fernandez, president of DLN Distribution and Delanuca Records. “You do see the Julietas of the world crossing over and becoming more mainstream, but that’s because the artist went mainstream, not because the mainstream went alternative.”

Of course, by definition, alternative acts aren’t focused on commercial success.

Echeverri says artists do not usually “do things with sales on our minds.” She will release her first solo album in mid-September on Nacional Records. “Andrea Echeverri” focuses on her experience with motherhood.

“You reflect what’s happening,” she says. “But after you listen to the album, the feminine and maternal elements are almost an excuse. Finally, it’s music. And it’s pretty for whoever wants to hear it.”

Echeverri, in particular, says she sees many more women in alternative music now than when she began.

Will this translate into a movement?

Fernandez says, “When the MTVs and VH1s of the world come out and say, ‘women of rock,’ it’s because they’ve had that road of success and they can do the cherry-picking. Whereas we’re still on that road.”