Today’s online music landscape can be the perfect platform for budding independent artists looking to make an impact. Gone are the days of regional barriers, and when it comes to finding undiscovered talent, there are countless algorithms or playlists to source from. This is especially true in the Spanish-language market, where revenue growth has seen consistent expansion for consecutive years.
It’s a long way from the early 2010s, during the belated rise of long and lone-standing Latin-focused indie labels such as Nacional Records and Cosmica Records, both of which were established out of necessity to cater to artists whose niche combinations in style and language didn’t quite yet fit into major label spaces.
Before música Mexicana saw a major bump in popularity this year, several artists were launched by indies. Such is the case for Latin chart-toppers Eslabon Armado and Fuerza Regida, who are signed to Del Records and Rancho Humilde, respectively. Some of the featured artists on this list are also entirely self-managed and funded yet still claim millions of streams, helping move the needle globally with cross-genre collaborations and inspiring new sounds.
Below, Variety highlights eight independent Latin artists making moves during Hispanic Heritage Month in 2023.
Since releasing their 2018 debut LP, “For Lovers Only,” Texas-bred band Luna Luna has experimented with a wide palette of sounds that only get more unpredictable on their upcoming EP “L.L.” (out Sept. 29). The set sees Luna Luna exchanging their usual bedroom pop for a mosaic of drum and bass, electronica and surprising interpolations. The first taste of this next chapter arrived with the single “Lonely Lullaby.”
The band — now comprised of Colombian-born founder Kavvi Gonzalez and Danny Bonilla, Kaylin Martinez, and Ryan Gordon — last released a record in 2021, but is widely recognized for indie pop hits like “Commitment.” They spent a large chunk of 2022 on the road and have previously played festivals like Austin City Limits and opened for acts like Omar Apollo.
Born in Venezuela and now based out of Paris, Yadam confronts his experience with love and heartbreak as a queer Latino on his debut album “Belamor.” Yadam’s penchant for airy, atmospheric pop music began when he played violin as a child and followed him through his teenage years when he came in second place on France’s version of “American Idol” in 2017. One of the many standouts from the LP is “Otras Mujeres,” which he worked on with Grammy-award-winning songwriter Samuel Dixon (Adele, Sia, Christina Aguilera).
“You’re looking for me in other women,” Yadam sings in Spanish on “Otras Mujeres,” “Let’s see if you find it, let’s see if they want you.”
Rusowsky is the alter ego behind Spanish artist and producer Ruslán Mediavilla, who is largely considered an underground, avant-garde artist but has a devoted following in his home base in Madrid, along with Mexico City. He was featured in the track “Bien:(” by Grammy-nominated and Latin Gramm-winning artist C. Tangana, and his single “Mwah :3” was featured prominently in the 2023 film “The (Almost) Legends.” He has played festivals like Lollapalooza in South America
Rusowsky has yet to release a full-length album but has seen a lot of success with his singles, which range from electronica to reggaeton, R&B and more. Standout tracks include “Brujita,” and his latest release “LOTO,” which sees him incorporating elements of música Mexicana into his repertoire for the first time. He is expected to release an album in 2024, according to a recent interview with Neo2 Magazine.
Estevie is a 20-year-old singer and songwriter who just released her debut EP “Cumbialicious” via Ricky Reed’s Nice Life (she is currently self-managed). The record sounds as its title suggests, seven dreamy Mexican cumbia tracks, with lyrics in both English and Spanish.
It features experimental production from Alan Vega (and Reed on some tracks) who manages to re-modernize Tejano music with an alternative tinge. On the “Cumbialicious” track “Mona Lisa,” the percussion is slowed down to contrast Estevie’s sweet pop vocals, and the product is unlike anything from the genre’s predecessors. Estevie, real name Sarah Silva, first gained industry attention with her feature on Eslabon Armado’s Latin chart-topping “Nostalgia” in 2022 but she’s managed to carve her own lane this year.
Pachy Garcia, who performs as Pachyman, is a multi-instrumentalist with a catalog consisting of music very literally crafted for a perfect sunny afternoon. His last full-length release was “The Return of Pachyman,” a 12-song dub record (a mixing technique that emphasizes bass and drum with added instrumentals) anchored in synth and Jamaican reggae, a sound the Puerto Rican-born artist grew up appreciating. His new album “Switched-On” will be released via ATO Records on Sept. 29 and was introduced with three singles, including “Trago Coqueto,” which saw him contributing his own vocals.
Venezuela’s Rawayana is not a new act by any means — the four-piece outfit has been releasing music since 2013, and in 2016 they scored a best new artist nomination at the Latin Grammy Awards — but they’ve released five records independently, their latest being the 22-song “¿Quién Trae Las Cornetas?”
They recently made their Tiny Desk debut as part of NPR’s Latinx Heritage Month “El Tiny” takeover and performed the feel-good “Dame Un Break,” the only single that preceded their new record. Other standout tracks include “Binikini,” which has taken off on streaming since the album was released last week, and “Funky Fiesta” off their 2016 record “Trippy Caribbean.” They are playing a few more dates in Venezuela before launching on a North American leg through November.
Girl Ultra is producer and singer-songwriter Mariana de Miguel. Her latest EP “El Sur” consists of seven all-Spanish-language tracks inspired by poppy, ’80s house beats that venture far from the R&B she launched her career with back in 2017.
“Punk,” which features the indie band Little Jesus from Mexico City, was released as a single ahead of the album’s release in 2022 and served as the most telling sign of what fans could expect to hear. The track leans into alt-rock but is driven by its synthy bass lines and also interpolates the chorus of Gwen Stefani’s “Bubble Pop Electric.” She last shared a single in March, a collab called “Locochona” with Spanish pop-rock band Cariño, and has been touring and playing festivals for the majority of this summer.
Dominican singer-songwriter Letón Pé has been producing a blend of pop and Afro-Caribbean beats since 2019. She just shared her uptempo EP “Rojo Rubí,” a collection of five songs including “Tengo Miedo,” which puts a trap spin on a fast-paced merengue. Her 2022 debut EP “La Caleta” was more scattered in sound with reggaeton and house beats making up the foundation for fan favorites like her collab with Venezuelan artist Irepelusa on “Al Azar” and “Dale.” Pé was also featured on Latin Grammy-winning producer Eduardo Cabra’s 2023 EP “Martínez,” which recently scored a nomination for best alternative music album at this year’s awards.