With the results of his DNA test in hand, René Pérez Joglar, AKA Residente from the groundbreaking Puerto Rican duo Calle 13, took off on the journey of a lifetime, traveling the globe on an epic trek guided by his genome. He returned with the inspiration to create an album that would build a soundscape redolent of his deeply personal musical journey: Tuvan throat singing, Tuareg guitar riffs from the Sahara, Ghanaian drums, even Chinese opera are part of his DNA-inspired musical map.
The results are mesmerizing. This debut, self-titled solo album is part of a five-year deal with Fusion Media under Univision Communications. His tour in support of the album closes its U.S. leg before heading to Argentina tomorrow at the Fillmore Miami Beach. He will perform with a seven-piece band featuring many guests, including At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta guitarist, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez.
Residente’s journey took him through war torn areas and extreme poverty. But those familiar with his ouevre know that he has never shied away from highlighting injustices around the world in his music or in his shows. The son of a workers’ rights attorney and the grandson of an independence activist, “I grew up going to protests,” says Residente. But his journey has left him optimistic for younger generations. “You can see the young people, they understand what is happening, they are more conscious about things these days,” he explains.
Living between New York City and Argentina, where his wife is from, Residente is still very connected with his native Puerto Rico. Its financial crisis has thrown its people into an abyss of debt, while the longstanding debate of independence versus statehood divides the island. “I don’t think the majority of people are scared of being independent. I think little by little, we are going to be free,” he said, a belief he has long been vocal about. “For now, they still have a dream, they think being a state is going to be better. I don’t know how. The United States doesn’t even care about New Orleans, they are not going to care about Puerto Rico. It is better to be free and independent. Like me, I own my masters, you should own your shit.”
His album comes at a time when he feels like the music industry is willfully ignoring blaring societal issues, which has left him a lone voice. “Even if I do two songs about social injustice, I’m going to look like I’m the guy of ‘social injustice.’ The thing is, no one is doing it because everybody is concentrating on just making money and hits. It’s sad,” Residente says.
“Of course I can make a hit, it is not complicated to do it and to write it. But I cannot do it because, at that time, I didn’t feel like making a hit. How can I feel that urge when I am visiting Armenia, Burkina Faso and Ghana? I am writing about the things that affect me on the road,” he adds. “I feel like I am a baseball player who is playing without steroids and everyone now is using steroids. Now I made the All Star Game and I am going to the World Series, without steroids.”