A member of on-the-rise Belgian crew PRR! PRR!, Spanish-born now Brussels-based DJ Clara! recently delivered the second number in her excellent mixtape series ‘Reggaetoneras‘ via Editions Gravats, the ermine-emblazoned label run by Jean Carval and Low Jack.
Exclusively built around tracks from female MC-fronted acts including La Nana, Irenis, K-Mil and more, the mix gives full vent to the jagged rhythms and sexually-explicit lyrics that made the genre so popular in Latin America and Spain subsequently. We sat down with Clara! to discuss her background in music, the place of women in reggaeton and how she came to DJing.
Interviewed by Baptiste Girou
"The syncopated rhythm has always got me dancing. There's something very sexy, dynamic and strong to these rhythms. It somehow makes me feel like Beyoncé and her assertive gait in 'Crazy In Love'."
To those who don’t know you yet, can you tell us about yourself?
Of Spanish origin, I currently live in Brussels. I make mixes that fuse different styles, sources and cultural backgrounds. I play music that makes me dance, laugh or that simply triggers my curiosity.
You mentioned discovering reggaeton at a club in your hometown, in Galicia. When was the first time you heard it?
It was at Pirámide – a small club in A Coruña, that I heard ‘Dale Don Dale‘ for the first time: really stuck with me. In my teenage years clubs did play reggaeton a lot and Latin American music is very popular in Spain in general. I used to play this type of music in my bedroom, just to dance or to unwind. Actually I never stopped dancing in secret. I tried the mixtape out till it passed the ‘danceability’ test and then I sent it to Jean and Phil at Gravats.
What lured you into this sonic universe?
Originally I guess the hormones of puberty played their part. The syncopated rhythm has always got me dancing. There’s something very sexy, dynamic and strong to these rhythms. It somehow makes me feel like Beyoncé and her assertive gait in ‘Crazy In Love‘.
I find the very sexually explicit lyrics very funny. I also like the tracks that use raw samples from US hits or sound effects like, for instance, an argument illustrated by the noise of a broken glass. This music has a crazy energy to it, not just in the composition but in the way it rolls out the vocals.
Why make these reggaeton mixes with tracks from female-fronted acts exclusively? Is it kind of a statement in a way?
I’m not an expert, I used to listen to this genre from time to time and I realised I did know only very few female singers. I asked some other persons who liked reggaeton and they didn’t know many either. Then I searched the Internet, YouTube, forums, MySpace… to create the first ‘Reggaetoneras’ and maybe give them a little visibility, encourage other people to question the issue.
I believe several reggaetoneras started in the same groups as men but enjoyed a very unequal success after that. For example, the men from Plan B who are very, very popular today, were also part of Fatal Fantasy alongside Irenis who for her part carried on singing but in the shadows. Same thing for La Nana and Prime Underground with Nicky Jam. The only one who managed to stay at the summit is Ivy Queen.
"I think people associate it with machoism because it's very sexual, but does that mean sex is limited to men? Women can also want to sing and dance to lyrics that claim a sexuality."
On another note, it did really wear me out that people so often criticised reggaeton for being macho. There’s obviously macho reggaeton but like in any other genre. I think people associate it with machoism because it’s very sexual, but does that mean sex is limited to men? Women can also want to sing and dance to lyrics that claim a sexuality. Even though we can discuss these texts…
I love it when women ask guys to dance for them, like in ‘Bailamé bailamé, que la noche es de los dos, si te pegas a mi cuerpo me haces sudar en calor‘ by La Mulata or the ‘Pa’ que sudes, papi, pa’ que sudes, esto es pa’ que bailes hasta que la disco se tumbe‘ by K’mil. Another song that really touches me is ‘Mi Pantera Rosa‘ by Mafia Del Reggaeton, because it’s a girl singing to another girl.
As the ‘Reggaetoneras 1’ had been warmly welcomed and that I had found some incredible sounds in the meanwhile, I decided to work on the second part – this time more mixed, with the help of DJ Coquelin. In addition to my own finds, I asked for propositions on Classical Trax and Sister. I also discovered Féminas del Género Urbano.
You’re part of the promising PRR! PRR!, that has for motto to crush any decorum and other hierarchy in taste. Can you tell us more about your place in the crew?
David Coquelin is my boyfriend and Fregant Cloarec is a very close friend. Our relationship is very natural. We share ideas, ask each other for advice… the desire to collaborate was born from these discussions.
How did you start DJing? What’s been the trigger?
My friend Juliette (here’s her last mix) asked me to DJ at a small party at Student in Schaerbeek, in a very informal way. It was an amazing experience. I’m shy and I’d never have dared going in if it weren’t for a relaxed setting like that.
Do you produce as well? Maybe a release in the works?
I still need practice. For now I just had fun with DJ Coquelin making a collage of reggaeton signature sounds for the cassette release ‘JE M’EN TAPE‘.
What’s the last record store you visited and what did you bag there?
The last release I got is a gift from my friends Capelo, the superb ‘Danse des Nénuphars / Utrecht‘ on Lexi Disques.
What’s scheduled for you next?
A show on Rinse France with Gravats on Wednesday 12th October.
Pick up a cassette copy from Boomkat.
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