Earlier this month, singer-songwriter Ileana “iLe” Cabra emerged from reclusiveness with a brand new song and music video titled, “Odio.” The record itself marries old and new, fusing traditional Caribbean folklore and Puerto Rican bomba with electric bass. The song’s visual component is set in ‘70s-era Puerto Rico and follows two on-screen activists involved in the 1978 Cerro Maravilla murders, during which a pair of pro-independence revolutionaries are murdered in a police ambush.
iLe’s newest offering is a follow-up to her solo debut of iLevitable, which won a Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album in 2016. After years of playing backup for the incredibly experimental hip-hop group Calle 13 (alongside her brothers Residente and Visitante), iLe is steadily coming into her own as a dynamic solo vocalist and composer. TIDAL caught up with the Puerto Rican native to talk all things “Odio,” new music, the state of Puerto Rico, pro-independence thought and so much more.
What’s the inspiration behind your new song?
The song is honestly inspired by the reality that we’re living in now, not just with what’s going on in Puerto Rico, but in places around the world. It’s a combination of a lot of things — because I was on Twitter one day observing what people were saying surrounding the politics of what’s happening [in Puerto Rico] — that began to make me feel bothered and uncomfortable. In that moment, I began to vent and respond with my own politics, and I began to realize while I was tweeting my responses that we were all victims of the same thing, and that’s where “Odio” came from.
Why explore the concept of hate?
I started to think from a very internal point of view, where maybe one tends to express hate in a very emotional way; it’s a very profound analysis that I am still working on and putting into practice, especially since we’re in a time where we feel the permission to express what we have to express. The concept of hate — I don’t know — is something that has confronted me a lot. And I think that at the end of the day, it’s something—it’s a choice we make. None of us are born hating. It’s something that for many reasons, we are exposed to and learn to adopt. Hate is something that is taught.
You specifically highlighted the Cerro Maravilla Massacre of 1978 in the music video. Why?
What happened in 1978 continues to happen today, albeit in different contexts.
How do you feel about the current state of Puerto Rico?
The state of Puerto Rico has always been this political warfare between those that want and do not want statehood, and I have my own opinions from an independent perspective. With the Puerto Rican government wanting to pursue statehood too intensely, it has turned them so insensitive to the reality that many Puerto Ricans live—and all the more in the aftermath of the hurricanes. We have always been in a fragile state. We continue to be bamboozled and to live in a state of poverty that is a result of all the falsities that come with being property of the United States. People believe that we are okay, that we are comfortable and that everything is going to be fine when in actuality it’s not. And when things get as bad as when the hurricanes happened, that’s when things become a little more clear for everyone.
Do you think the Puerto Rican people are more and more realizing what is actually happening, or what has been happening for years, rather?
That’s what gets to me, it’s what frustrates me the most, that the very people of the island don’t see it. At the same time, there have been people who have come to the realization that something’s not right. Yet we still, as a collective, have not come to the truth that the United States has no interest of any kind in making us part of them. They have no interest in our liberty, either, where we’re allowed to make our own decisions.
Will your new album tackle more political subject matters?
I’ve been working on a lot of different topics, the second album is very much still in the works and is missing a few things. I am very connected to my emotions right now; I’m in a very different state of mind than my last album, and “Odio” reflects part of this new state of mind. The previous album I think I was expressive in a very different way, perhaps a lot more metaphorical. This new album — on the other hand — will express things much more directly, and I think that’s part of the power behind it.
I am very much enjoying this particular process. All the sounds I’m experimenting with have to align with the reality I am in tune with at the moment. I think the new album overall will be a very powerful one. I don’t have a date for the its debut yet, this is its lead single. We’ll see where it goes.
What sounds or rhythms are you experimenting with this time?
A lot of it still very raw. That rawness brings me to the origin of things, which include Caribbean folklore. The single “Odio” for example, has a touch of Puerto Rican bomba, even if not in the traditional sense. The manner in which I sing is even influenced by [bomba]. We also use Cuban sounds and electronic production… all with African influence. I’m really enjoying the process of discovering all these new sounds.
Is there anything you want to express to Puerto Rico—a particular message you want the people to receive?
Don’t be afraid. We have to be conscious of that fear, but we cannot let that fear cripple us. I think there’s a lot of fear in Puerto Rico because we are a country with almost an infantile state of mind. In fact, I think that our youth are more understanding of what is happening on the island, than those of us who are older. So just that: don’t allow fear to impede us, but instead find a way to transcend that fear in order to do what is in fact best for the country and the Puerto Rican people.
por: Marjua Estevez / publicado: 29 de agosto de 2018