Karen Y Los Remedios' Ana Karen Barajas on Embracing the Beauty of Cumbia
Music is what you make of it. Inspiration can come from any place and find you in any number of ways. As a musician, there is a very intricate dance that happens when it comes time to turn your inspiration into reality.
For Ana Karen Barajas, lead singer of Karen Y Los Remedios, making music that blended the beauty, rhythms, and sounds of cumbia with existentialism came to her naturally.
She tells People Chica, "These types of things were not consciously planned, but somehow they were intrinsic to our personalities. It started with the necessity of making music with a more 'happy' rhythm. Jiony and I were making more introspective music before, and the type of songwriting resembled with was done before with other genres."
Barajas, who alongside bandmates Jiony and Guillermo Berbeyer is releasing her first long-play album Silencio on September 8, is fusing things like cumbia, lo-fi, dream pop, salsa, and electro-pop in new music like Mi gran dolor.
"I hope people can see the beauty in cumbia and connect with their roots and culture through our music and their inner feelings," she says.
In an exclusive interview with People Chica, Barajas explains how the pandemic influenced the music Karen Y Los Remedios will be releasing in 2023 and the advice she has for aspiring musicians about finding their sound.
Karen y Los Remedios blends the rhythms of cumbia with existentialism, something that creates hypnotic sounds that are uniquely captivating. How did you land on wanting to blend these two concepts?
These types of things were not consciously planned, but somehow they were intrinsic to our personalities. It started with the necessity of making music with a more "happy" rhythm. Jiony and I were making more introspective music before, and the type of songwriting resembled with was done before with other genres. It helped to have a friend that usually makes melancholic music to traduce this into cumbia.
Like many, the pandemic had a profound effect on you, something that sowed the seeds for Karen y Los Remedios' first long-play album Silencio. How do you hope the album resonates with fans and the Latino community?
Most Mexicans have danced to cumbia at parties since they were young. At the same time, we have developed our personalities from what the media gave us, mostly music from other countries or Latin musicians with similar rhythms. At least most of my friends grew up with the impression that cumbia was for older people or that it wasn't cool.
For me, it was something familiar, and I found something special in it. Nowadays, more musicians are embracing this rhythm, which makes me happy. I hope people can see the beauty in cumbia and connect with their roots and culture through our music and their inner feelings.
You've recently released the song Mi gran dolor, which dives into the feeling of rejection and self-love. Why was this song important for you to create?
Because I was vulnerable due to the pandemic and had a lot of uncertainties in my life, including love, sometimes we can be more patient regarding certain things with people, but there's a moment when you need to put your limits. Sometimes it is not enough to have feelings for someone, it is more important what they make you feel.
The song is about when you decide to put limits, even if that hurts or means breaking up with someone for your own good. It talks about maturity and loyalty to ourselves—protecting ourselves is a way of empowerment.
In addition to being a musician, you are also an arts and social sciences researcher. Does one career influence the other? Are there any transferrable skills between the two?
It is a great question. My background in graphic design and arts has helped translate the essence of the music into images. I started producing most of the things we have been doing mostly because I really like it and because it makes the costs lower. From that, I have found in music a place to experiment with art, and I really enjoy it because the process of making music becomes rich and gives other perspectives to create.
The nerd part of me (research) has helped me to structure everything we want to do, from answering emails to being responsible for everything we need to do. In the research, I am in constant observation of the creative process of other artists, and that gives endless inspiration and visual references.
It is like having a double life, but both the research part and making the music are really connected with the part of my personality that is more introverted. I need both to coexist, and I would not be happy only with one side.
What is some advice you'd offer a fellow musician who is still trying to figure out their sound and the story they wanna tell as an artist?
Trusting yourself and being honest with what you are doing is very important. Connecting with your deepest essence is what makes things unique. Don't hesitate to create songs—you don't need expensive equipment to create music. I recorded my first songs on my laptop, and I like them because they are sincere.
It is crucial to make everything more professional with time, but seeing something that talks from the soul, can be perceived with the worst or the best recording. It helps a lot to be independent and involve yourself in the process as much as possible but also be able to observe when you need support from others.