ARTIST PROFILES: Bulldog Bash artists celebrate Latin American roots through rhythm
Members of the festival’s lineup, whose performances blend a variety of musical styles, described their relationship with music.
Ryan Chiao, Senior Photographer
Bulldog Bash, an annual event to welcome students first launched in 2018, returned this year after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19 regulations.
On Aug. 27, the Old Campus welcome-back event featured music and food from the Latin American diaspora, with artists sponsored by the Schwarzman Center and cuisine provided by Yale Hospitality. Jennifer Newman MFA ’11, associate artistic director of the Schwarzman Center, who planned the event, described it as an opportunity to celebrate joy.
“You can feel the rhythm and you can dance to the music,” Newman said. “You can feel the power of the artists.”
This year’s Bulldog Bash lineup featured an all-Latinx lineup.
MEXICAN INSTITUTE OF SOUND
Growing up, Mexico City native Camilo Lara discovered a passion from his musical family, who had a particular affinity for the guitar. But when his brother tried to teach him to play, Lara’s left handedness clashed with the instrument’s design. Instead of giving up, Lara found an alternative way of appreciating music by sampling on the keyboard — which is how he makes music to this day.
“I think of my music as a collage,” Lara said. “So I use instruments, picking up samples and [creating] a bigger canvas.”
Lara grew up listening to hip hop and electronic music. His music today has influences from Latin America, punk rock and even Bollywood. He described the goal for his music as a “sort of unifier” representing all different forms of sound. As for the dance floor, he hopes to create a musical space where everyone is equal, following the beat in a place where he claims that “democracy happens.”
“It’s fantastic to showcase different music from different parts of the world,” Lara said. “I think it’s very important to do this. These kinds of shows are eclectic and fun, and I feel we’re really happy to be part of them.”
Maria Elena Garcia, also known as Rimarkable, is an Afro-Latina Puerto Rican producer and DJ who hails from Detroit, Michigan.
Garcia’s mother, a classically trained pianist, introduced her to the world of music at a young age. She spent her Sundays listening to Black gospel music at her local church. In her youth, she was an avid collector of music, recording music off the radio and playing from a box of tapes.
“I would say that is moreso the foundation of the work that I do than anything else,” Garcia said. “Bending genres and weaving them into each other is sort of the classical mentality, the cacophony of it all.”
Garcia also recalled her first DJ experience during her childhood. At 12 years old, she brought a box of cassette tapes to her friend’s house to DJ a party. She admired the idea that through playing her set, she had a say in how people at an event experienced their night. It solidified her love for music – and translated when she started working professionally.
Garcia performed at the previous two Bulldog Bash events in 2018 and 2019, and hoped that this experience would be a chance for Yale students to feel at home, safe and welcomed.
“I want to bring everybody together,” Garcia said. “It’s outside and everyone is finally back on campus physically, and it’s just like a resurgence – it’s just a rebirth.”
Villano Antillano, a Puerto Rican rapper with over nine million monthly Spotify listeners, weaves her music through words.
Antillano started “playing with music” in her bedroom as a teenager, and released her work on the internet. There, she was noticed by a social collective group that worked to help artists expand. The group helped her record and mix her music, as well as “buff it up.” She was then noticed by record label La Buena Fortuna, which she says has brought her to where she is now as a trans woman rapper in a largely male-dominated space.
“They gave me the opportunity to be myself,” Antillano said. “I feel like it’s very important for queer artists to not be … handled as puppets, because nobody can tell you how to sell their product.”
While Antillano specializes in urban music, her influences come from a variety of other genres, including Argentinian rock, salsa and heavy metal — which have taught her “how to fall on the beat.” She appreciates other rappers, such as Nicki Minaj, who know how to play with words and vowels. In her own work, Antillano also plays with sounds, using her native Spanish dialect to her musical advantage.
“We chew up the language that they colonize us with,” Antillano said. “In my case, it was Spanish.”
A queer and transgender activist, Antillano believes she makes a statement with her stage presence because people like her “are not supposed to get anywhere.”
She hopes to use her presence on stage as a platform to spread love, energy and empowerment.
ChocQuibTown, a Latin Grammy-winning Colombian hip hop group composed of members Carlos “Tostao” Valencia, Gloria “Goyo” Martínez and Miguel “Slow” Martínez, started sharing Afro-Colombian music with other Colombians. Today, they are doing the same with the rest of the world.
The group grew up listening to different kinds of music, from regions including Latin America, Jamaica and Africa in their hometown of Chocó, Colombia.
“I started singing at home with my family,” Goyo said. “And then I started with hip hop … mixing different sounds.”
In the early 2000s, they gathered as a group and started creating music from different rhythms in one style — from hip hop to danza genres to traditional music from Chocó. As Afro-Colombian artists, they hoped to share their identity and unique styles of music from the Black community with other Colombians. After performing in Colombia, they gained international fame and went on tour in Europe, eventually winning a Latin Grammy.
“They didn’t believe at the beginning when we just started to do our thing,” Tostao said. “Sometimes you got a lot of people around you who don’t believe in what you are doing … [but] you have to keep it up because someday they’re gonna understand.”
This year’s Bulldog Bash was hosted in-person on Old Campus.