Iconic Mexican percussionist Sheila E., spoke exclusively to Latina.com about the new book she's working on, her upcoming CD, and why she was judged for not speaking Spanish when she was coming up in the music business.
What projects are you currently working on?
There are many, which has been great! But as of last night, I was working on a car commercial for Lexus—me playing the drums. I’m also working on a book that will be coming out next year called From Pain to Passion. I’ll be working on my album in January. Since I haven’t done one in a long time, it will be a dance CD. And we’re also going to continue to push the E Family CD, which just came out. We’ve got a little bit of everything for everybody on that record!
Will there be any Spanish-language songs on your new album?
I intend on doing a couple of songs in Spanish. My Spanish is not great, but I sing in Spanish because of pops.
Did you speak Spanish at home growing up?
You get those families that are Hispanic and they don’t want you to speak Spanish because you’ll get ridiculed for speaking Spanish. My dad didn’t speak Spanish around us because he got ridiculed by his family. He speaks good Spanish and he understands very well, but he doesn’t speak it a lot. In the songs that we play though, he writes in Spanish, so we sing in Spanish a lot—especially the girls and stuff.
Are you currently studying Spanish?
Yes I am, actually! I have a couple of online apps that I’ve been using—I didn’t use Rosetta Stone. I’m also having someone teach me—just to get the dialect right. It’s even helping me sing in Spanish, which has been great. 10 years ago, the press was really upset with me for not speaking Spanish and I said, ‘but that’s not how I was brought up.’ That is something that’s in my book. I talk about how people—especially the press—really dogged me. They were like, ‘how can you be Latin if you don’t speak Spanish?' I walked the red carpet at the Latin Grammys the first year and a lot of people from Univision—the Spanish-speaking press—they would turn off the light and say ‘we don’t want to speak with you.’ It was embarrassing. It was humiliating.
That must’ve been difficult for you.
At one point I got very angry. It’s not that I’m sayng I’m not Latin. Because even some of the musicians would say ‘how can you play Salsa and you don’t know how to speak Spanish?’ But it’s in my heart, it’s in my blood what I do. God has given me this gift to be able to play not just Salsa, but all kinds of music. You can’t tell me the way I play that I’m not Latin. It’s crazy.