In 2007, Calle 13, the Puerto Rican alternative hip-hop duo, released the chart-topping album, Residente o Visitante. The third single — "Pal Norte," a charged song about migration — began with the strikingly potent voice of the brothers’ little sister, Ileana Cabra. Last month, almost a decade later, the youngest member of the Calle 13 household released her debut album as iLe. Titled iLevitable, it's a nostalgic reminder of the musical trove of Latin America’s rhythms and genres from which she drew inspiration, while remaining current in its refusal to let go of a critical vulnerability.
Today, iLe releases the video to her album's '60s-inspired track "Te Quiero Con Bugalú." It's an exhilarating watch, with surreal visuals that explore the way we view sexuality and age, by showing Baby Boomers who grew up listening to bugalú in unapologetically intimate situations. When talking to iLe over the phone as she geared up for her debut solo U.S. tour, she told me about her own views on intimacy and the importance of being emotional in the light of global socio-political turmoil. Just last week, President Obama signed the bipartisan debt-relief bill that will introduce an oversight board in Puerto Rico, as an attempt to salvage the grave $70 billion debt crisis on the commonwealth island. To iLe, it's not the solution: "This isn’t about making it better, they just want more money."
iLe, like many Puerto Ricans, see the bill as an attempt to impose more dependency on the island: "We are a colony, they knew this was going to happen. We are a country that has been taught that we are not capable of doing anything." She draws a comparison between the women of her grandmother and mother's generation —who often made songs in which women were expected to endure psychological abuse for the sake of love — and Puerto Rico itself, a country that has endured and continues to exist through centuries of colonialism.
"Te Quiero Con Bugalú," along with the rest of the album, seeks to cut through complacency to get to emotion. "The purpose is give us that opportunity to feel vulnerability and feel fragile, and know that through feeling that way, maybe we can transcend some things and clean ourselves from the inside."