The Puerto Rican band Calle 13 made up of two stepbrothers Rene Perez Joglar (Residente) and Eduardo Jose Cabra Martinez (Visitante) recently arrived in Chicago for a concert at the Congress Theatre. Bringing their kid sister along Lleana (PG-13) for the ride shows the love in this talented family. Residente danced like a prizefighter throughout the evening while rapping about politics and controversy. The sharp-tongued front man spoke to us just before the show began.
Gozamos: Hey, Rene. Are you excited about performing in Chicago again?
Residente: Yes, it has been a while since we have performed here. It was about three years ago.
Well, it’s about time! You have been on tour for a while now, correct?
R: Yeah, we just finished the Latin America tour, this is a small one in the United States, like five or six shows, after that one we will have 20 concerts in Europe. In Spain we have five, then Italy, Germany, a lot of countries.
How would you describe your shows?
R: The energy and power people receive from us is amazing. There are eleven people onstage performing. There is no time to be sitting down. Everyone is jumping and there is a lot to think about because of the lyrics. The energy is great.
Live music is where it’s at with dealing with the music industry.
R: Yes, the music industry today has a lot of problems. There are not a lot of bands with eleven people performing at one time. You don’t have horns anymore, a trumpet, a trombone and so many percussionists on the same stage.
You whole family are on this tour.
R: My stepbrother is my other half. I write the lyrics and he makes music. Everyone is a musician like my sister who sings with us. She is a great singer and plays the piano. I used to play drums and now I am rapping. My brother plays a lot of instruments. We travel all together.
Your mother, Puerto Rican actress Flor Joglar de Gracia performed on your single “Tango del Pecado.” Is she on the tour as well?
R: No, we invited her to record some stuff on that second album. It was the ending of “Tango del Pecado.”
Your group have won tons of Grammy Awards.
R: Yes, Ten Latin Grammys and two regular Grammys.
Did you ever expect to be recognized so much?
R: We didn’t expect anything. When we started doing our first album we were having fun and that was it. It was so fast, everything. In other countries such as Latin America were playing it. Then “ Atrevete-te-te” went to Spain and people were noticing us. It has been like that since we started. We have been working since the beginning until now. It has been five years in a row without stopping.
It has all paid off. Can you talk about where the names Residente and Visitante came from?
R: Residente is a resident and Visitante is a visitor. In a way we were joking and making fun of some of the names of the rappers since they use funny nicknames. We thought that if we were going to use nicknames then we would use the names we used to go inside our street. In Puerto Rico you have certain barrios or neighborhoods with a guard and you have to say your name and address before you go inside. Calle 13 was the name of the street and I had to say that I was a resident. My stepbrother was a visitor. It was a joke but later on it took more power because of the immigrant thing. It took on a whole new meaning.
On the newest album Entren los Que Quieren there are several different styles, who are you influenced by?
R: I have many from The Beatles to rap music then rock, also, the Nueva Trova and even folk music. I like good lyrics so that is important.
Can you talk about the movie Sin Mapa that you filmed?
R: It was a documentary film about our journeys in South America. We wanted to connect the Latin American people at least in the United States. I feel like the people in Puerto Rico are disconnected from the immigrants all over the world. I want them to know more about themselves and us. We learned a lot. We visit so many places that people don’t get to see like goldmines or very high places like 20,000 feet. It can be difficult to breathe there! We captured a lot of the problems that indigenous people that are having there in South America. It is a great film. Everyone can get something out of it.
You have a website where it can be found?
R: Yes, lacalle13.com. Also, the film is in Europe at a festival in Holland. Check my Twitter that I use all the time Calle13official. We always put info there.
What are you all working on for the future?
R: Right now we are working on our sister’s album. I think she is going to be great and she has a beautiful voice. I am also writing in English believe it or not. With my bad English I write better than what I speak. I use a dictionary. It is very difficult for me to translate my ideas from Spanish to English. I have been showing it my friends that speak only English and they seem to like the lyrics so I guess I am going okay.
Sin Mapa and Entren los Que Quieren can be purchased on iTunes and for more information about Calle 13 visit www.lacalle13.com.