On Indie Artists ‘In The Time of Corona,’ Plus New Music by Tittsworth feat. La Favi, Grupo Rebolu, & Making Movies

By 11 April, 2020

Social distancing. Flattening the curve. N-95 masks. Indefinite closures and cancellations: All of these things are part of our new reality as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world.

And because performance venues, bars, and nightclubs around the world are ordered closed in many major cities in the United States to help “flatten the curve” of new infections, artists and musicians of all kinds, had to stop performing. We decided to check in with independent artists, DJs and producers, who live and work in the epicenters of New York and Los Angeles in the States to see how they’re handling it.

Before we dive in, we wanted to share an episode of NPR’s Alt.Latino, where host Felix Contreras checked in with independent artists, including Kansas City’s Enrique Chi of Making Movies, one of hundreds of bands set to tour Austin’s SXSW and more, right as warnings of how bad COVID-19 could get caused event and tour cancellations left and right. Contreras beautifully explained why, in many ways, these are the artists and musicians most hurt—financially and career-wise—by this pandemic.

“Indie musicians have a particular place in the music landscape because if you think about it, we see more of them than we see our favorite big name performers,” he said. “We see them in bars and nightclubs, neighborhood cultural festivals, even the mariachi at your favorite neighborhood hangout, they all depend on reliable gigs to help them pay the rent and feed their families.”

Listen to the show here, and then listen to the new release by Making Movies. They cover Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” at a time when the state of the world seems unsure and at the mercy of those with power. And keep an eye out for the music video in the coming weeks, which you can be part of by submitting video footage to the band here.

The producer and DJ

Dave Nada, the creator of moombathon and one half of the Hermanito record label is a prolific music producer. He’s also a very active DJ who plays several times per month in many U.S. cities. Based in Los Angeles, the D.C. native told us he’s holding up and self quarantining as best as he can with his wife, Marion Deschamps (the couple is pictured above).

“I honestly can’t complain, I have a roof over my head and easy access to basic needs,” he said. “I can’t help but think of what the massive homeless population here in LA will have to endure, or even more precarious places like my family’s country Ecuador. As an artist, I’m trying to keep positive, do my part and use my platform to help as we’re all in this together.”

Nada said he and his Hermanito partner, Jesse Tittsworth, have been working hard to adapt to this new norm, figuring out how best to stay engaged with their artists and listeners/supporters, both old and new. They’re also planning a virtual Moombahton Massive to celebrate 10 years of the party. (Keep up with the party on their socials.)

But that’s not all, as resident DJs at Dublab, Nada and Marimarre (aka Marion Deschamps) are taking their lead on their new “Apart Together” mix series. “This project tries to connect people during self-isolation, inviting listeners from around the world to submit one personally meaningful song to be featured on a collective mix that will be aired every weekend. A thoughtful and safe way to keep in touch with our communities during this moment of social/physical distancing,” he said.

As for music, Hermanito recently dropped the Big Blue EP. Check out “Me Voy Me Voy” by Tittsworth featuring Bay Area singer La Favi here.

The band manager (and singer)

In pre-pandemic New York, one could find Grupo Rebolu playing their joyous style of AfroColombian salsa and more at live venues throughout the city on most weekends. And just as they were to release a new single, “Que Paso, along with its music video, lawmakers in the Big Apple made the decision to order performance venues and bars to be ordered shut. Vocalist and band manager Joanna Castaneda said the band switched gears quickly.

“We released the song and video on March 18 with a Facebook and Instagram LIVE stream,” she said. “My husband [composer and vocalist] Ronald Polo and I … also talked about the situation and how we need music to help us cope with all this craziness.”

The couple performed, a screenshot of which we included above, and took requests from fans. “It was amazing connecting with people and seeing the support. It made us feel happy creating some type of stress relief by sharing our talents with them. We finished our virtual concert with my 7-year-old singing a beautiful song. Kids always bring happiness,” Castañeda said.

While Grupo Rebolu plans on holding another live stream in the upcoming weeks, Castaneda was frank about the reality of not being able to perform.

“Like many other artists, we lost tons of work: school shows, venue performances and festivals—they all got canceled. This is a major downfall for all of us musicians. We can only hope this can past quick and be able to save the remaining dates for the fall. In the meantime, we are staying home and following all the instructions, and hoping everyone does, too.”

Watch Grupo Rebolu’s new video for “Que Paso” here.

The guitarist the DJ, the violinist, and the singer-songwriter and mother

Adversity is said to influence to the creation of good music. But another thing that allows for music writing and production is having time. And with this #stayhome order in place, some musicians are doing just that.

Leo Mintek is a guitarist who works with several outfits: salsa band Descarrilao, reggae and ska band Nufolk Rebel Alliance, whom he toured Europe with in 2019, gypsy punk band Escarioka, and international thrash metal band Superdeaf. He also runs the Maximum Collabo independent music label and collective, so being bored during this pandemic is not an option, as he told us he has “lots of music homework.”

“I’m recording Nufolk songs, overdubbing Superdeaf solos, making Descarrilao demos while sending acoustic tracks to [band mates], plus my hip-hop friends want me to send them guitar loops,” Mintek said. “It’s a good time to practice, write songs, and record at home.”

As for livestreaming, at first, Mintek said he was cynical about playing to a phone or laptop screen, but now understands how crucial it is to connect using technology.

“This gives fans events to look forward to and watch simultaneously at the same time with other people.” Keep up with Mintek, pictured atop at right, on Instagram.

Mickey Perez is a DJ who one could find behind the decks nearly each and every Sunday at Brooklyn’s Bembe “Rhythm Section Sundays.” When we checked in with him a few weeks ago, he was about to DJ live on Instagram for a virtual edition of the party: “Rhythm Section Sundays: Quarantine Sessions.” It went so well, he’s going to continue to go live three times a week, he said on his Facebook page:

“Aside from huggin and hangin with my fam, there’s nothin I miss more than playing the music I love in front of people in person. It was something I never ever took for granted. To those who were able and kind enough to send donations my way, you have no idea how much every little bit helps. I couldn’t be more grateful,” Perez said.

Follow Mickey Perez to attend the virtual “Rhythm Sections Sundays” and his other livestreaming here.

DJ Mickey Perez is broadcasting live three times a week via his Instagram

Another artist from NYC, such as Strings-N-Skins violinist and vocalist, Luisa Bastidas, said she and her band mates are looking into the best way to livestream performances in a way that captures the whole vibe of the band, while writing a ton. “By the end of this whole thing, we may just have ourselves an album,” Bastides said.

For many artists, music has to come second at a time like this. Puerto Rico/NYC’s Ani Cordero, a singer-songwriter, told us she has to put a loved one first during this time of shelter-in-place/quarantine period.

“The shows are canceled and it’s a bummer but I feel lucky to not be in a desperate situation,” Cordero said. “I mostly have been focused on my family and getting us into a healthy schedule. My son is 13, so I have given myself permission to not be super productive.”

That doesn’t mean she’s not using the time to admire the work of others. “There are TONS of musicians doing livestream. I’m watching one from [Puerto Rico’s] MajoTropical right now. And I’ve been promoting other people’s streams via PRIMA [a musician-led fund to help independent artists in Puerto Rico].”

The publicist

Yuzzy Acosta is a New York City based publicist and artist manager who was our friends at Remezcla referred to as “the Woman Who Paved the Way For ‘Latin Alternative’ Sounds in NYC.” Having worked with artists as big as Gustavo Cerati and Aterciopelados, Acosta now specializes in independent clients she wants to grow, such as NYC’s Delsonido and L.A.’s El Mañana. She was blunt about what this pandemic means for independent contractors such as herself.

Acosta was handling press on tour with Argentine dance group Che Malambo just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic caused live music across the country to be cancelled.

“It’s been catastrophic, my whole industry is collapsed,” she said. “Before this, most of us free agents have managed to stay afloat before this but without any sort of cushion to fall back on. I was to have a very busy spring with my band El Mañana and Delsonido, but everything got canceled. In another time when hard times hit, you just go & hustle and look for other things with colleagues. Or if [something happened to cause a slow-down in work in] your own country, I would work other projects in other countries and was able to sustain. But what is happening is at an epic global scale. Theres no one to go to cause we are all on the same boat. Add to that, many of us here in New York are currently fearing for our lives on top of that. My head is at a place where my focus is on how am i going to survive Through this. How i will make it to another day without getting sick? And when I’m not freaking out with that, I’m reflecting on who am i going to be when this is over. Who am I in this new world? I think it’s foolish to believe that things will go back to being the same, especially for live shows and touring and how we as humans interact with each other.”

Acosta said she’s been reflecting about what this new world is going to look like for the independent music scene, or the music industry on a whole. “As with everything, I think there’s an opportunity to evolve & a new way of connecting with audiences through a new medium. For some its been a very creative time & I’ve seen some wonderful stripped down work where only the music speaks and in that sense it is beautiful—the humanity of it all. But the rest of the time, I think, ‘I just want to make it through the day.'”

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