“It’s important to be aware of our fears in a way that doesn’t stop us from fighting to create a world that fosters understanding above all,” the Puerto Rican singer told NBC News. “Courage is our strongest armor.”
iLe is one of thousands of artists, music enthusiasts, industry experts, record labels and more convening at the iconic Latin Alternative Music Conference, or LAMC, in New York City to check out what’s hot on the Latin alternative music scene.
As the conference celebrates its 20th anniversary, founder Tomas Cookman tells NBC News that it has helped “harness Latin music’s clout” over the past two decades.
“The mission from 20 years ago, we accomplished it,” Cookman said. “It truly took a village to get here.”
The Morning Rundown
Get a head start on the morning's top stories.
LAMC was born out of a need to create “alternate spaces” to foster artists whose talents were being overlooked by the mainstream music scene and give them the tools necessary to succeed in the business. For Cookman, this mission takes a different meaning now as new generations of artists are increasingly younger at a time when making a record can be relatively cheap.
“When we started off, for a rock band to play five cities in the U.S. was a big deal,” Cookman recalled. “Now these artists are playing 25 to 30 shows easily.”
iLe's album — “Almadura” — is a play on the Spanish words “alma” (soul) and “dura” (hard or strong), which put together literally translates to “strong soul.” The creative name also hints at the way many Puerto Ricans pronounce the letter “r” as an “l” when they say words like “armadura” — which is Spanish for armor.
The 12-track album is both a statement about the armor Puerto Ricans need to protect their island and the one women often wear in order to survive increasingly precarious times.
“The album has roots in Puerto Rico, but each song has a universal theme,” said iLe, who fused traditional Caribbean rhythms such as Cuban Son, rumba and Puerto Rican folkloric sounds from “bomba y plena,” with modern and electronic soundscapes that are emblematic of how Latin music is evolving.
“No rhythm is totally pure. They’re all connected. And for this album, I had the chance to bring back Caribbean music in a way that’s still relevant,” she added.