Think Latin music begins and ends with Shakira? Then prepare to have your mind blown. Latina searched high and low for the hottest under-the-radar acts of this year, from Chile to Canada and even right here in the United States. So make some room on your playlist for the Best Latin Music You Don't Know...
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Sound: Hip-Hop/ Funk
Their name honors the place from which Afro-Colombian members Tostao, Goyo and her brother Slow all hail: the city of Quibdó in the state of Chocó, one of Colombia's richest areas in resources like gold and sugar (and home to most of Colombia's black population, the second largest in Latin America after Brazil). Formed in 2000, the band has earned worldwide props; last year, they collaborated with France's renowned DJ Oxmo Puccino on the eclectic joint ablum Paris-Bogotá. ChocQuibTown's own opus Somos Pacífico, which dropped late last year, is filled with love and praise for their oft-ignored island.
Juan Fernando Velasco (Ecuador)
Sound: Grown-Up and Sexy Ballads
His smooth crooning on 2007's A Tu Lado topped the charts in Velasco's native Ecuador, as well as in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Peru—and the 36-year-old Quito-born singer and guitarist regularly sells out arenas. Not bad for an economics nerd who took it upon himself to make his patria's music relevant again. Forefather Julio Jaramillo would be proud.
Vanessa da Mata (Brazil)
Sound: Bossa Nova-Infused Indie Pop
Growing up in the rural town of Alto Garças, Brazil, Da Mata listened to Tom Jobim on a static-filled radio. Not long after her 15th birthday, the statuesque former basketball player and model moved to São Paolo to hustle her songwriting skills. Soon she was penning lyrics for the likes of Daniela Mercury. Now 32, with three albums under her belt, including last year's Sim, Da Mata is a multidimensional, globally recognized force.
Cuarto Poder (Venezuela)
Sound: Spanish Hip-Hop
Venezuela is big on telenovelas, so when the hit soap Y Los Declaro Marido y Mujer selected this Caracas-based hip-hop quintet's summer hit "Arenita Playita" as its theme music, it was the perfect match. Last year, each member was even incorporated into different storylines of Cosita Rica, one of the country's most popular novelas. Cuarto Poder's "full criolo" rap is a unique mix of traditional Venezuelan country verses and hard, urban lyrics.
Ximena Sarañana (Mexico)
Sound: The Mexican Fiona Apple
At 22, this singer/songwriter with a quirky vintage flair has put together a mature, soulful debut. By the time she released Mediocre in Mexico last February, Sariñana had already built a huge fan base on MySpace, adding 600 new friends a day, bringing her total to 30,000 and counting!
Sound: Lounge-Ready Experimental Music
Peruvian-born model and actress Silvana Kane, 34, leads this Vancouver-based trio—its other members are Canadian guitarist Adam Popowitz and Barbados-raised bassist Toby Peter. Their first album, Asunción, released in April, is chilled-out and worldly, conjuring a sexier version of Theivery Corporation.
Kany Garcia (Puerto Rico)
Sound: A Younger, Moodier Celine Dion
A 2004 car accident forced this soulful 26-year-old to withdraw from Univision's talent-search show Objetivo Fama. But during her stay in intensive care with several broken bones, she recieved a life-altering visit. "Gloria Estefan was in PR on promo when a radio station told her what happened," says Garcia, whose Sony BMG debut, Cualquier Dia, nabbed Latin Pop Album of the Year (New Artist) and Latin Pop Airplay Song of the Year (New Artist) at April's Billboard Latin Music Awards. "She came to see me, and it was one of those moments you never forget."
DJ Bitman (Chile)
Sound: Digital-Era Mixing
Josè Antonio "Toto" Bravo, aka DJ Bitman, is the 32-year-old mastermind behind 2007's Latin Bitman, a blend of electronica, hip-hop, jazz, reggae and bossa nova. A mainstay of Santiago's thriving club scene, Bitman weaves live instruments and vocals into his space-bound beats.
Porpartes (Costa Rica)
Sound: Bacilos-Esque Pop Rock
These 2007 Best Pop Album by a Group or Duo nominees (for their self-released album, Sólo Paz) are the first ticos ever to recieve a Latin Grammy nod. The act was formed in 1999 by from man Marco Salazar, who was joined by friends Felipe Contreras and Juan Arce in 2003. Since then they've shared stages with Juanes, Paulina Rubio and Black Eyed Peas.
El Canto Del Loco (Spain)
Sound: Green Day-Meets-Los Enanitos Verdes Rock En Español
Dani Martin, David Otero, Chema Ruiz and Jandro Velazquez have been quietly cranking out platinum-selling albums for close to eight years. And the band, which started off as a project among acting students and is virtually unknown outside their homeland, keeps dropping hits. "Eres Tonto," off their latest album, Personas, was the most downloaded song on the Spain iTunes Store for four weeks in a row.
Leny (Dominican Republic)
Sound: Urban Bachata
By age 14, Leny was already playing piano in his dad's merengue band. He stayed loyal to that sound by fronting the '90s-era merengue/hip-hop group Ilegales for five years. In 2008, 25-year-old Leny decided to switch gears and go solo with One, a party-ready offering overflowing with swagger. "Ilegales was my school," Leny says, "but now it's time to graduate."
Natalia Clavier (Argentina)
Sound: Tango and Electronica
Clavier, 27, wasn't always so clear on her direction. After leaving her native Buenos Aired for Barcelona in 1999, she sang cheesy Euro techno-pop because "it paid the rent." Then she met fellow argentino and musician Federico Aubele who helped her find her sound. Her debut, Nectar, was released in June.
Rue Melo (United States)
Sound: Nelly Furtado Circa Whoa, Nelly!
Daughter of an Uruguayan singer and a French ballerina, the LA-based 24-year-old dropped a self-titled debut last year with funk-laced guitars and eminently sexy vocals.
Chana (United States)
Sound: No Doubt Meets Belanova
This New York-born dominicana imploded her girl-group roots (Eden's Crush of TV's Popstars) in March with the electro-dub-rock EP Manos Arriba.
Ceci Bastida (United States)
Sound: An Even More Spaced-Out Julieta Venegas
What do you do after leading Tijuana No! to Mexican alt-ska greatness and touring as a keyboardist for gal pal Venegas? If you're Bastida, you move to LA, go solo and make an ethereal, gripping EP.
Girl in a Coma (United States)
Sound: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs's Karen O
Sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz and BFF Jenn Alva are San Antonio 20-somethings who channeled their love of punk into a deal with Joan Jett's label and one face-melting album.