Calle 13 is an urban music band from Puerto Rico, headed by René Pérez Joglar, (Residente), and his brother Eduardo Cabra Martínez (Visitante). René is the lyricist and lead singer, while Eduardo is the composer, musical director and multi-instrumentalist performer of the band (playing piano, melodica (key-flute), electric guitars, among other). Their sister, Ileana Cabra, (PG-13), is the female voice of the group. Their aliases Residente (Resident) and Visitante (Visitor) come from the identification they were required to give at the security guard post to the entrance of their home located on 13th Street (in Spanish, Calle 13) of a residential area in Trujillo Alto, a municipality within the San Juan metropolitan area. As to PG-13, this was a name suggested by one their first cousins, since she was underage at the time she began to sing with the group.
Calle 13 does not belong to any specific musical genre. From the beginning, some have tried to pigeonhole them as reggaeton, hip-hop, rock, urban-alternative, among others. Nevertheless, the band is characterized by being eclectic, frequently using a diversity of musical influences and imaginative fusions which in turn have defined their unique style. So much so that, they represent an icon when describing groups that experiment with different musical genres the way they do it, defining it as the “Calle 13 style”.
In their work one can perceive influences of rock, rap, ska, merengue, and bossa-nova, Balkan music, Latin American folklore, Colombian cumbia, cumbia villera from Argentina, candombe from Uruguay, salsa, afro-beat, and much more. The band is also known for its explosive lyrics in which they entwine satire, humor –sometimes black – and social messages. Through their arte they have been able to transmit a versatile and universal social approach that range from love, to sex, to religion, desires and consciousness.
The band has won in total 19 Latin Grammy Awards and 2 Grammy Awards, breaking the record for most wins in the history of the Latin Grammy Awards.
Residente is René Pérez Joglar
Born on February 23rd 1978 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is the son of Flor Joglar de Gracia, actress and announcer, and Reinaldo Pérez Ramírez, labor law esquire, musician and writer. At a very small age, he was surrounded by art and music. He taught himself how to play the guitar and took drum lessons. He also played in the school band along with his brother Eduardo and Ismael Cancel, who is the drummer of Calle 13.
Since he was a small boy he had a passion for baseball and played the sport for many years. Once he completed high school, he decided to cultivate his interest for the arts and enrolled in the Escuela de Artes Plásticas (School of Plastic Arts) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After finishing a B.A. in Fine Arts, he moved to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), in Georgia, where he completed his Master’s Degree also in Fine Arts.
Subsequently, he worked on some projects in 3D Animation and short films, one of them entitled S=emp2 (Sex = Energy Mass Pleasure squared), which was presented in Madrid, Spain, obtaining second place in a short film festival held there. The film was also presented in the Viota Gallery in Puerto Rico along with other works of art created by Rabindranat Díaz and Jesús Gómez.
On his return to Puerto Rico, he initiated some projects as a freelance artist for a well-known group of architects, creating animated scale models in 3D. He also worked as editor of music videos. However, during his job search on the Island, he visited different companies and ad agencies where he was often told that in Puerto Rico he would not be able to develop all of his potential.
Finding himself with almost empty pockets, he decided to take a more serious approach to the hobby he had started out when he was a youngster and began to record a few songs with his brother Eduardo, planning to make them available, for free, on the Internet. As the number of songs increased, he began to search for a label company, knocking on the door of, among others, Sony Puerto Rico; from which he received no answer even though they assured him that they had received a copy of their demo.
Talking about this with one of his brothers, he was suggested the name White Lion, an independent label which had already signed artists such as Tego Calderón and Julio Voltio. A few hours later he received a call… and the rest is history.
Visitante is Eduardo Cabra Martínez
Born on September 10th 1978 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His mother, Rosa Iris Martínez, is a medical technologist and his father, José Cabra González is an advertising professional and musician. Eduardo began to play the piano at the age of 6. He participated, with René in the school band where he played piano and saxophone.
Besides music, he also had a love for baseball and played in the League at Trujillo Alto. During his teens he joined the group Kampo Viejo, mainly a ska band, in which he played piano and sax. After a few years with them he departed to form his own group, Bayanga, where he began to explore other musical genres, creating fusions with music from Brazil, Reggae, Ska and Rumba.
By then he had completed two Bachelor’s Degrees from the University of Puerto Rico: one in Computer Informatics and one in Accounting. After a time with Bayanga, in which he obtained his first radio airplay hit with the song Solo los locos (Only the mad ones), he decided it was time to leave the band to create his own, with a new musical concept.
This coincided with the moment in which René ask him to write some music for a few rap lyrics he had been working on, in order to share them on the Internet. Soon both would meet with Elías de León, President of White Lion and begin to record their first album. Some of the musicians chosen for the new band were former members of Bayanga, and to this date still remain with Calle 13, such as Héctor (Coco) Barez, Andrés (Kino) Cruz, Mark Rivera, Arturo Vergés and Ismael Cancel.
PG-13 is Ileana Cabra Joglar
Born on April 28th 1989 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She is the daughter of Flor Joglar, René’s mother, and José Cabra, Eduardo’s father. Since she was a small girl she showed great interest in music. She began singing even before learning to speak, by phonetically imitating great singers of the time and learning sound tracks from her favorite movies.
In school, she was part of the Bell Choir and Singing Choir; she also took piano lessons at the Puerto Rico Music Conservatory. Ileana inherited her voice from her mother and her grandmother, Flor Amelia, and has taken voice lessons to further educate her talent. She was only 15 when she recorded her first song, La Aguacatona, for the demo that René and Eduardo were working on. Today Ileana is regarded as one of the most powerful voices on the contemporary Latin American music scene.
2005 was only the beginning
Calle 13 broke out in 2005 with two hit singles that were heard on the local radio stations in Puerto Rico: Se Vale To-To and Atrévete-te. Their firs record Calle 13, came out by the end of 2005; a recorded raved highly by Time Magazine and which eventually received 3 Latin Grammy Nominations, winning in each respective category.
On September, 2005, as a result of the gruesome murder of Machetero leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos on the hands of the FBI, the duo recorded the song “Querido FBI” (Dear FBI), written by Residente and aimed at the federal agency. The song went viral on the internet just 30 hours after Ojeda Río’s death, capturing the attention of the local press making instant front page news.
On the other hand, The New York Times invited Americans to visit Puerto Rico so that they would have the opportunity to meet who they called “the first intellectual, reggaetón star”. Their first two hits, along with the song Suave, introduced the group to Latin America, reaching the top hit lists in Colombia, and getting plenty of airplay in México, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Perú and Chile. Their fame has made them one of the most required by renowned artists such as Nelly Furtado, Alejandro Sanz and Shakira, all which have collaborated with Calle 13 in songs that have become instant international hits.
April 24 marked the launching of their second album Residente o Visitante, which they define as “the darkest, strongest and most obscene production recorded by the group”; even so, it won two of its four Latin Grammy Nominations. On the record were collaborations with Bajofondo Tango Club and the Argentinian composer, producer and musician Gustavo Santaolalla; two-time Oscar winner (Best Original Music Sound Track – Babel, 2007 and Best Original Music Sound Track – Brokeback Mountain, 2006).
The record also included duets with La Mala Rodríguez, Tego Calderón and musical interventions by Venezuelan musician Panasuyo, the Cuban group Orishas – who mix hip hop rhythms with the traditional “son” from this Caribbean Island – and Argentinian musician and composer Vicentico, co-founder and vocalist of the band “Los Fabulosos Cadillacs”.
During this year, the band produces its third recording, Los de atrás vienen conmigo, (The ones behind are coming with us) which definitely proves that each Calle 13 album is capable of outdoing their prior effort. The record has a true blend of musical styles such as salsa, Uruguayan candombe, Balkan, electronic and rock music
The album’s first song, Que lloren (Let them cry), criticizes reggaetoneros for singing senseless songs, which sparked off a commotion within the reggaeton scene and marked a complete departure of Calle 13 from that musical genre, becoming their first recording in which this style is not used; meanwhile, they begin to express their strong concern and opinion on diverse social issues. Here they collaborate with Café Tacvba (No hay nadie como tú) and Rubén Blades (La Perla).
For the month of July of that year, Residente and Visitante presented their first documentary production, Sin mapa, which was televised on MTV. Here the group, consisting of Residente, Visitante, Gabriel Cabra Joglar, (René and Eduardo’s brother), Ismael Cancel (Calle 13’s drummer) and Brian Rodríguez (in charge of Calle 13’s security) narrates its journey in search of the essence of the great continent of Latin America. La trip began in Nicaragua and stretched across Peru, Venezuela and Colombia.
The documentary shows various segments of the band’s many concerts, as a parenthesis to the adventure and discoveries of the voyage itself, using very limited resources available at the time. This would give way to new lyrics, with more social relevance. Sin mapa captured the moment when Calle 13 jumps from anonymity and becomes, in less than a year, in a renowned musical group in Latin America, this highlighted in the song La fokin' moda.
This is the year when Calle 13 launched the official video of their song Calma Pueblo, which created much controversy in the media for its explicit and aggressive lyrics plus the fact that the video showed scenes with completely nude performers; something quite familiar to photographer Spencer Tunik whose series of static images establish that a person can get to appreciate them as in paintings or photography, provided they do not take life or display movement.
The 23rd of November they present their fourth album entitled Entren los que quieran (Those who want to may come in). So far, it has been the most important recording in the band’s history including collaborations with Omar Rodríguez (Mars Volta), Totó la Momposina, Susana Baca, María Rita and Seun Kuti. With this latest musical project, Calle 13 experiments an evolution of style, using more elements of Latin American folklore, afro-beat, rock and merengue, among others, with greater social commitment in their lyrics.
This album received 10 Latin Grammy nominations from which they won 9. Their theme Latinoamérica became an anthem for Latin America and is considered the most important track on the album.
During 2011, Calle 13 embarked on its first tour of Europe, traveling across the continent and performing 20 concerts in countries such as Spain, France, Norway, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, London, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
On November of that same year, the band opens the 12th Edition of the Latin Grammy Awards ceremony with an impressive symphonic performance of Lationamérica arranged and directed by Maestro Gustavo Dudamel, interpreted by the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela.
• Ob February, 2011, the group held three presentations at Luna Park in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Those attending were required to bring powdered milk or school supplies at the entrance to each concert to help needy families.
• On May 10th, 2011, Calle 13 performed on the Jimmy Kimmel Show in the United States. René took advantage of an exposure of this magnitude to, as always, transmit a message on a current issue. This time, he wore a t-shirt that read: Pa’l carajo la cuota (To hell with the quota) in reference to the controversy surrounding University of Puerto Rico students who were announced an increase in their tuition via the addition of an $800 quota.
After taking off his t-shirt, he exposed two messages written on his body. On his abdominals, No al Gasoducto, in reference to the Vía Verde project that the pro-statehood Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño was trying to impose and that consisted of the construction of a natural gas pipeline across the mountainous northern region of the island, for which many properties and homes had already been expropriated and which represented an environmental and catastrophic threat. The second message was written on his back: Patagonia sin represas (Patagonia without dam), was aimed against the Hydroaysén mega-project in Chile.
• On November, 2011, Calle 13 joined UNICEF as spokespersons of their campaign against child slave trade and exploitation of children and youths. As part of this project, they recorded a documentary in collaboration with MTV Exit called Esclavos Invisibles (Invisible Slaves) and donated the song Prepárame la cena (Fix me dinner) from their record Entren los que quieran.
• On November, 2011, Calle 13 held a concert at El Salvador where tickets were purchased with bags of rice and beans destined to those affected by the recent flooding that for weeks caused immeasurable damage to the country.
• May 25th, 2012 Calle held another concert in exchange for food, this time in Hermosillo, México, where tickets were also sold for rice and beans, raising over 20 thousand kilos of food for the poorer communities of Hermosillo.
• One day after, on May 26th , they participated in the Wirikuta Fest, in Mexico, Distrito Federal, in support of the Defense Front of Wirikuta. Wirikuta is a sacred desert that extends across 140,000 hectares in the region of Mexicana de San Luis de Potosí and is being exploited by Canadian mine companies, placing at risk many endemic species of animals and the welfare of those who live in this area.
Committed to Education
· On April 2010, René presented, at the University of Puerto Rico, a video recorded by different artists and professional sports personalities, including some from abroad, expressing messages supporting the student protests on the Island. That same day he took a walk around the campus and handed out food to students who were protesting in front the closed college facility.
· On September, 2011 they met with Chilean student leaders to support them in their fight for free, quality education at their public university.
· On November 2011, during the Annual Latin Grammy Awards ceremony, René wore a t-shirt with the message: Free Public Education for Puerto Rico, Chile, Colombia and Dominican Republic.
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