16 key electronic music artists from Latin America

The team at Latitudes, a new Latin American collective, help us to highlight a standout selection of sounds from the region.

“It’s not having Latin voices and sounds heard in a way that’s at least comparable to or proportional to the amount of sounds and contributions that we make.” Francisco Cornejo de Souza, or “Chico” to those who know him, was telling me about the formation of Latitudes, a new platform created to connect electronic music communities in Latin America. 

Chico is well placed to make this case. He’s been involved with electronic music in the region since the ’90s, working, among many others roles, with the famed São Paulo club D-Edge and helping international brands like Red Bull and Dekmantel with projects in Brazil. In this time, Chico and others in the region had sadly grown accustomed to playing a secondary role in the narrative of global electronic music. But the events of the last couple years made it clear to him that something finally needed to change.  

“When Resident Advisor came with their Save Our Scene thing, we saw that their attention to what they considered the Americas actually is just North America, if you count Mexico,” he said, referring to the site’s rallying campaign near the start of the pandemic. “It’s always insufficient. All of the efforts from people ‘up there,’ as we call the North, trying to at least include us in discussion and even in historiographies of electronic music—it’s always been very haphazard, piecemeal. So when Resident Advisor came up with that, it was something that was always felt but was very clear: we are out of the discussion, out of the conversation. We are only in the discussion as much as we are a target audience or a customer.”  

Latitudes started by word of mouth. Chico, Juan del Valle from Yu Yu and Larissa Correia from Liminal set up a Telegram discussion group that included the Chilean-German artist Matias Aguayo, the Colombian DJ and activist Julianna and her colleagues Bitter Babe and Luisa Uribe from the ECO collective, and the Brazilian-Paraguayan artist Amanda Mussi. Informal conversations eventually developed into formal goals. They felt that connection and communication between the sprawling, disparate scenes of Latin America could, theoretically, be in everyone’s interests.

Latitudes could also act as a gateway between Latin American electronic music and the rest of the world. After discussions about how to execute their goals, a public event was planned, and talks became the most efficient format for presenting initial steps. Three core themes were outlined to introduce the challenges they faced: the precariousness of their scenes, the decolonisation of their scenes, and media coverage of their scenes.

“We’re still defining the way that we’re going to act, but the goals are there, the people are here,” Chico said. “We have people from Ecuador, people from Peru, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil—that covers a large chunk of the electronic music scene of South America. So we intend to go north. Central America is a place where we have no idea what’s going on there. You have some people from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras—now we’re trying to recruit as many people as possible. That’s the basic challenge now.” 

The scope of these nationalities is reflected in the range of music Latitudes will represent. House, techno, experimental club, dancehall, hip-hop, drum & bass and baile funk are some of the many sounds Chico mentioned during our conversation. There is, of course, no musical lingua franca here, although considerations of class seems to be a running theme through most music scenes in Latin America. 

“You have these distinctions here in South America that you always have to be very attentive to,” Chico said. “Because there is always a class aspect to how sounds are incorporated. Gui Boratto is very different from DJ Marky. Different trajectories, different sounds, different audiences. It’s not a matter of just coming here and going just to a fluxo, which are like the funk parties in the ghetto… You have to also go to a very posh club. I think that’s the only way you can understand how the music is being made here.”  

The Latitudes group estimates that local electronic music scenes in South America won’t be able to return to their pre-pandemic state. Chico talked about an historical over-reliance on international artists to attract an audience in the region, something that’s had a cost on the development of local talent. Exchange rates, travel restrictions and concerns about the environment will now make it very difficult to book foreign artists—possibly creating an opportunity. “It’s sad how we’ve ignored and downplayed talent that is just next door,” he said. “That’s a habit that we want to eradicate, or at least discourage its practice.”

“The craziest idea we could come up with would be an itinerant festival,” Chico said. “I don’t know why no one did it. Doing a Latitudes festival that comes with some touring artists from different places from Latin America and presents them could be something that might happen down the line.” 

If this playlist Latitudes has put together is anything to go by, it would be some festival. I asked Chico if they could pick out ten or more artists for us and he initially sent over a spreadsheet with over 100 artists, collectives, events and labels, from nine different countries. My guess is that he wanted to demonstrate how difficult it is to be so selective—any list like this will at root be limited and reductive. But what’s here should hopefully offer a starting point. There are artists working within established templates, and those who take these templates and infuse them with traditional or indigenous sounds, creating distinctive local fusions. The playlist is, to use Chico’s words, “A polyphony of impressions, of sounds, of places.”   

DJ Quien (Bolivia)

“A cornerstone of the Bolivian scene, a prolific selector and relentless promoter of native sounds that rely on low frequencies to carry their grooves,” is how Chico described DJ Quien. There are two things to check to quickly get acquainted with DJ Quien. The first is Bolivian Bass History, an epic 59-track mix he released in June that’s a goldmine of stylistically rich sounds. The second is his Oi Mas Bass label and collective, which has the mission of championing “world bass music.”  

cesrv (Brazil)

Cesar Pierri, AKA cesrv, is one of São Paulo’s most eclectic and prolific producers. Hip-hop and electronic music often isn’t a divide that’s crossed, but cesrv seems to have found a home in both. On his recently founded Tijolo label you’ll find explorations in jungle, footwork and house music; while his work with MCs Febem and Fleezus spawned the sound of “brime,” a thrilling collision between baile funk, grime, drill and garage. When the key UK label Butterz re-released the Brime EP earlier this month it was described as the first Brazilian grime release available on vinyl. It seems fitting that cesrv was involved in this milestone.

Fernanda Arrau (Chile)

Fans of European labels like Studio Barnhus, Permanent Vacation and Running Back should find plenty to enjoy in the catalogue of Chile’s Fernanda Arrau. Her house music is loaded with vibrant synths and drums, a sound that’s seemingly influenced by disco and pop, along with a love for Latin rhythms. Fernanda is based in Madrid these days, but with her United Colors of Rhythm label she’s still looking to “increase the little visibility that Latin-based electronic music has in Europe,” which so far has meant signing artists from Chile, Mexico and Argentina. She’s been active since 2006, and it appears that raising awareness of Chilean artists in particular has been essential to her since the beginning. 

Aeondelit (Colombia)

Aeondelit is a Colombian artist whose music evokes a powerful sense of its surroundings. He crafts bewitching electronic music in the braindance tradition that draws inspiration from Manizales, the Andean city whose neighbouring volcano, Nevado del Ruiz, looms over its skyline. It’s perhaps no coincidence that his tracks and melodies shift gently but powerfully, as if they were tectonic plates. Some of the track titles from last year’s Editing Destiny EP—”Eternal Cycle,” “Ciudad Sacra” (“Sacred City”) and “Liquid Time”—only added to this feeling. 

Guerilla Tunes (Argentina)

OK so we’re cheating here by including a label, but it was difficult to select a single artist from the expansive catalogue of this impressive Argentinian imprint. Its appeal can be summarised by something the label heads Pedro D’Alessandro and Maxi Fried said in an interview with Latitudes: “We are interested in risky sounds and the honest search for a particular sound; beyond structures, genres and fashions.” So you might sense techno, electro, ambient and bass music in GT releases, but these genres are usually just a point of departure. In this pioneering spirit, the track we’ve picked above is an enigmatic 100-BPM curveball from D’Alessandro’s Mauricio Island project, which got the label started back in 2018.

Orieta Chrem (Peru)

Orieta Chrem is a Peruvian artist with a dizzying CV. She’s a DJ. A producer. A sound engineer. She opened a studio in Lima called QMULUS SOUND for work on mixing and sound design. She collaborated on the building of a sound system. She’s played at Boiler Room and Red Light Radio events in the city. Back in 2004, she took part in the Red Bull Music Academy in Rome. With a band called MENORES, she produces a blend of pop, bass and hip-hop. You might therefore be unsurprised that her tracks are restless and highly energetic—just check out the wild, rhythmic, sort-of-techno cut “Cuchillo Y Sal” above.   

Victoria Mussi (Paraguay)

Chico’s verdict on Victoria Mussi? “A gifted music producer, devoted events promoter and sensible label owner, she has been a steady purveyor of quality in all aspects that helped place her hometown among some of the liveliest in the continent.” That hometown being Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, from which Mussi has crafted a highly impressive discography. Unlike some of her peers on this list, Mussi seems more at home when tweaking classic formulas. Her slamming techno works an evolution, rather than a revolution, of the form. It’s an approach that’s endeared her to international promoters, with shows at venues like ://about blank in Berlin and New York’s Bossa Nova Civic Club.

VHOOR (Brazil)

VHOOR’s latest album continues his work as an intrepid explorer of rhythms. Ritmo reimagines the Brazilian rhythm Samba de Coco, which has roots in Afro-Brazilian quilombo communities. “Quilombola communities are settlements founded by escaped slaves and remain powerful symbols of Afro-Brazilian identity, culture and resistance,” said the record’s accompanying text. Like plenty of VHOOR’s music, Ritmo hits a delicious sweet spot between enveloping warmth and rhythmic intensity. Whether he’s been doing boogie, baile funk, trap or R&B, this might be the sonic signature that’s marked his recent rise in recognition and popularity.

Lila Tirando a Violeta (Uruguay)

Lila Tirando a Violeta is part of a global network of artists that you might call “post-everything.” This generation is united not by a sound but an idea: that absolutely any aspect of one’s taste can be thrown in the sonic mixer. This makes LTAV impossible to define but thrillingly unpredictable—something you might be able to tell just by browsing the covers of her records. She’s therefore a great fit for the fiercely experimental and highly respected Mexican label N.A.A.F.I, who released her mad, beautiful album Limerencia last year. There was also the milestone of a FACT mix in 2020, which showcased the explosively experimental streak that’s gained her global attention.

Static Discos (Mexico)

We’re cheating again here by including another label but again, we think it’s justified. The track above was produced by Murcof and Fax to mark Static Discos’ 100th release. “100 is an invitation to close our eyes and listen deeply for 100 seconds, far from all the digital detritus that absorbs us everyday,” they said when it was released in 2019. You can’t blame them for wanting a moment of pause and reflection. Since 2002, Static Discos has been a pillar of Mexican electronic music, releasing all manner of refined sonics—ambient, techno, dub, electro, IDM—from a long list of Mexican talent. “Unfairly unrecognised outside of its homeland,” was how Chico described the label. 

Kaifo (Ecuador)

Kaifo is a young, up-and-coming artist who found his sonic identity through a connection to his homeland. On tracks like “Repentina Ausencia,” he weaves Ecuadorian musical traditions into a contemporary electronic music language. There’s a wonderful tension in the handful of tracks Kaifo has put into the world so far, his music feeling at once languid and dynamic. 

Suricata (Mexico)

Like Kaifo, the Mexican artist Suricata translates indigenous sounds to a modern context, although in this case the results may sound more familiar to dance music fans. A case in point is “A Ver Ven Pa’ca,” from the recent EP My Laugh Is My Truth. Suricata begins the track with a wild percussive sample that’s eventually brought in line by the steady thump of a 4/4 kick. Its pièce de résistance, however, is the playful piano line that surfaces when the track breaks down. These sorts of flourishes make Suricata and his Drecords.mx label worth seeking out.

RHR (Brazil)

Electro blended with baile funk? Absolutely, São Paulo’s RHR seems to say. He hasn’t released tons of music. But the few examples of this crossover out there are among the grittiest you’re likely to come across in club music. Cuts like “Difícil de Agradar” and “Current Mood” bring to mind the best of Gesloten Cirkel, while his remix of Mc Primo’s “Diretoria” is ridiculously banging. Danny Daze was obviously impressed with RHR’s style: the pair became studio collaborators, most recently releasing the fantastically sleazy “Planet.”

Efe Ce Ele (Colombia)

Efe Ce Ele is the moniker of Feli Cabrera López, a Colombian artist now residing in the UK who uses noise and experimentation as the basis of their music. Techno, electro and IDM is the order of the day here, sounds to which Efe Ce Ele brings plenty of spirit and jagged edges. They’ve released on LatAm labels like Ediciones Éter (Medellín) and Pildoras Tapes (Bogotá), as well as European imprints like Specimen Records, Dissident Movement and Ghara. In each case, there is usually something raw to keep the dance floor moving.

Marta Supernova (Brazil)

Marta Supernova is part of Chama, a Brazilian collective “dedicated to the poetics of the Diaspora and their sound, celebratory, sensorial and written expressions,” as defined by the group’s Ana Lira. Until recently, Marta had been known predominantly as a DJ, visual artist and theorist, although in May she added “music producer” to her repertoire. “tá foda essa bocada,” her debut release, is a reflective, piano-led house track stirred by feelings towards her sexuality and identity.

Ana Helder (Argentina)

We finish up with a long-serving member of the Latin American electronic music community. Ana Helder released her first record with Matias Aguayo’s much-respected Cómeme label ten years ago, and has been part of the crew ever since. Much like the label, Ana has been a global operator over the years, playing extensive international gigs, as well as periodic parties back home in Argentina. Broadly speaking her style is house, but, as you’ll be able to tell from her productions and her DJ sets (like this mix for Dekmantel) she leans into all sorts of compatible sounds—disco, boogie, funk—from across the decades. 

Words: Ryan Keeling

Design: Olesia Li

Current Latitudes members:

Bitter Babe (ECO/Colombia)
Merino (Discos Esmeralda/Colombia)
FE (La Sagraria/Ecuador)
Luisa Uribe (ECO/Colombia)
Nico Castro (Southplug/Chile)
Pia Sotomayor (IME/Chile)
Insbi (FUGA-La Rara/Peru)
Julianna (Move/Colombia)
Leeon (Ediciones Danza Negra/Colombia)
Chico Cornejo (deepbeep/Brasil)
Damian (REA-Buenos Aliens/Argentina)