Meet Jalmar, the Chilean-Australian bringing reggaeton to Australia with Mijo Rico
Latin trap, pop and reggaeton have become some of music's biggest genres. Now, it seems like Australia is finally catching up to speed.
Internationally, reggaeton is one of music's most popular genres. The sound is an evolution of textures and sub-genres, cross-pollinating the dominance of modern US hip-hop with dancehall, Central Americal hip-hop and pop, electronica and beyond; artists including Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Ozuna, Maluma and Rosalia blossoming into some of music's most commercially successful acts of the new decade, with plenty of evolution and growth still bound for their futures.
Across the last few years in particular, reggaeton has become a burgeoning genre in North, Central and South America, as well as pockets of Europe with a heavy Spanish and Portuguese history. The genre has birthed newfound stars from the smallest islands; nurtured runaway success stories including some of the last years' highest-selling records; and - perhaps most importantly - inspired a whole new generation of musicians and creatives to soar in the wake of the genre's commercial success, many of these musicians coming from far-reaching corners of the planet drenched in poverty and war.
In Australia, however, the genre's been pushed to the sidelines - but things are becoming to sneak through. As years go on, more and more chart-dominating names are tapping into reggaeton rhythms and sounds for music of their own - Cardi B, Justin Bieber, Drake and so on - and with it, they're often bolstering up the poster musicians for the genre itself, with acts like Bad Bunny, J Balvin and Rosalia beginning to develop key Australian audiences within the last two years.
For Chilean-Australian musician Jalmar, it's a long time coming - and something he wants to see more of. "One of my main goals is I want to help Latin-influenced music cross over in Australia," he says, introducing himself alongside the release of his debut single Mijo Rico today. It's a special song, not just because it's a spectacular introduction to a multi-sided and fascinating new artist, but because it's also an example of how Latin-inspired sounds are becoming to carve their own place in Australia, to the point where new artists are able to introduce themselves in the genre.
Jalmar is one of those artists. His parents fled Santiago to seek refuge in Australia, bringing with them the Chilean heritage and culture that informs Jalmar's music decades later. Mijo Rico is a brilliant example of that, with touches of hip-hop and pop dancing amongst a backdrop of percussive, trap-like and soaring trumpets; the clashing of cultures, genres and sounds that create Jalmar's own musical taste now entering the forefront in music of his own - and it's something worth paying attention to. It's not a full-on explosion of reggaeton - there's more of that to come - but you can still hear the influence of it within his work, and how he fuses it with a trapp-ier, hip-hop sound as a teasing entrance.
"Younique and I never really have a perfect formula to come up with a song, the majority of the time our music is unplanned," he says on the single, which comes alongside his signing to The Orchard. "When it comes to Mijo Rico, Younique hit me up and said ‘Bro sus this beat I made’ I honestly didn't think much of it at the time and I didn't know how to approach it."
"Anyway, couple of weeks go by and we are enjoying the herbal essence in the air and Younique says ‘I want you to freestyle to beat I made?’ I hesitantly said ‘okay’ and freestyled the melody for the whole song. Younique was hype! So when I went back to his studio, added words to it and laid the whole track the next day. We refined it a couple of times after that and didn't honestly think it was a single until everyone we showed gave us wavy reactions!"
It's one hell of an entrance and one that, if all goes well, could see Jalmar inspire a powerhouse international sound to have its own, Australian movement. That may be a while away, but Mijo Rico is a great start, and you can take a dive into it below, as you introduce yourself to Jalmar and what he has to come.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m a Latin trap and Reggaeton artist from Melbourne. I grew up in the South East of Dandenong and both my parents were born in Chile. I started making music when I was around 15 or 16 but I truly took it seriously when I was 19. At 21, I was experimenting with all different sounds but nothing clicked perfectly until Younique and I started adding Latin instrumentation in our music. I told myself if I'm going to dig into my roots as a Latin artist I have to go to South America, so that year I worked a whack night shift and construction job to save up and see where mi familia came from. When I arrived back I knew exactly what to do and how to do it... so enjoy the ride!
What’s your music like? What does it sound like? What kind of themes does it usually cover?
My music is made up of Latin instrumentation such as Salsa and Samba, infused with the Trap and Reggaeton drums of today. The music is full of bright and colourful sounds accompanied by the hard-hitting 808’s, which gives it a really commanding and empowering feel. It’s made to make people move, it’s very high energy. All the topics I cover and talk about are from my real life, they’re all representations of my life experiences.
What are your production and writing processes usually like?
No song is ever made the same way. It all depends on what beat my producer, Younique, has made or he will ask me how I’m feeling and we’ll work from there and embody that in the production. Usually, I just mumble out all the rhythms of the track with no words and then if it all sounds good we will add words to it. Another way we make music is sometimes we will get litty and freestyle to random beats, then listen to the recordings of that night a month or 2 later and if they have the same impact we will make it into a track.
Can you tell us about your debut single, Mijo Rico?
Mijo Rico was a one-take freestyle I came up with in Younique’s car. He had played me the beat a couple of weeks prior and I didn't think much of it. Then he played it unexpectedly and every flow came out as on the track. The next day we added words to it and it was the final product.
What do you have planned for 2021?
We’ve got a lot on cards, but for the moment you’ll just have to wait and see. Though one of my main goals is I want to help Latin-influenced music cross over in Australia.
What do you want people to take away from your work?
To feel empowered and always embrace who you are and where you’ve come from.
Where can we find more of your music?
Make sure you’re following me on all the things.