Feb 2, 2023 - World

Latino musicians help drive "souldies" comeback

Singer Trish Toledo performs onstage during Once Upon a Time in LA Music Festival at Banc of California Stadium on December 18, 2021 in Los Angeles.

Trish Toledo, the daughter of an Ecuadorian father and a Guatemalan mother, performs old-school soul tunes at Banc of California Stadium on December 18, 2021, in Los Angeles. Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

A new generation of Latino artists is reinterpreting old R&B classics and producing new ones in a soul music revival that's hot on streaming services, YouTube and music venues.

Why it matters: The music, sometimes called modern "souldies" or "brown-eyed soul," shows the deep, historic influence of Black culture on Latinos.

Details: New artists like the Thee Sacred Souls, Joey Quiñones & Thee Sinseers, Los Yesterdays, and former Kumbia Kings member Frankie J have adopted the old sound for new fans.

Thee Sacred Souls performs on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"
Thee Sacred Souls performs on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on November 30, 2022. Photo: Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images

Background: "Brown-eyed soul" refers to pre-Beatles rock and R&B played by mainly Mexican American artists in the 1950s and 1960s, according to various scholars.

  • It was inspired by jazz, blues, rock, Latin jazz and even rancheras and norteño music.
  • The music became the preferred music genre for low riders in the American Southwest.

Yes, but: It had been years since new performers hit the scene and garnered large audiences.

  • Now, new artists are building fresh fan bases because the music feels more authentic and not fake, William Nericcio, a professor of English and comparative literature at San Diego State University, tells Axios.
  • "When that many people are moved by Black soulful oldies, especially Latinos, it's because they love love. This is an era of hate."
  • "Bad" Vic Benavides of Los Yesterdays tells Axios the pandemic may have helped older and younger generations reconnect with each other as they shared music.

The intrigue: Artists from these groups come from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

  • Thee Sacred Souls is fronted by Josh Lane, a Black singer trained in opera.
  • Toledo is the daughter of an Ecuadorian father and a Guatemalan mother.
  • Bobby Oroza, whose popular cover of Sunny & The Sunliners' "Should I Take You Home" has been used in a video by Pachuco Supply, was born to a Bolivian mother and Finnish father.
Malik Malo poses for a photo in a maroon shirt and a brown fedora.
Malik Malo. Photos: Courtesy of Malik

What they're saying: Joey Quiñones tells Axios he tries to keep the music authentic by creating lyrics that mention writing love letters instead of texting them.

  • He and other artists watch old footage of James Brown to replicate his sound.
  • "But at the end of the day, if you're singing from the heart, and you're telling us your story, it's going to come across as pure and a soul."
  • Malik Malo, 30, says he initially started singing modern R&B and shifted to souldies on the advice of a manager.
  • "The feedback was incredible."

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