“QUIERO SENTIRME BIEN,” IDENTITY, EXPRESSION AND SPIRITUALITY WITH KALI UCHIS
Grammy and Latin Grammy-nominated artist Kali Uchis debuts a new song today, “te pongo mal (prendelo)” featuring legendary reggaeton duo Jowell & Randy and produced by Tainy—listen here. The song is from her forthcoming second album and first Spanish-language project Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios).
Raised between Virginia and Colombia, Kali Uchis rose to prominence with her project Por Vida in 2015. Uchis’ 2018 debut album, Isolation, received widespread critical acclaim and was featured on Best Of lists in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NPR, Vulture and many more. Uchis has collaborated and shared stages with Gorillaz, Jorja Smith, Juanes, Diplo, Major Lazer, Tyler, The Creator, Daniel Caesar, Bootsy Collins, Snoop Dogg, Kaytranada, Leon Bridges and more and has toured the world over, with much-lauded sets headlining Tropicalia and at Coachella, GovernorsBall, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza and many others.
Through a dreamlike lyricism, Kali’s music allows one to exist within two linguistic worlds at once. I interviewed Kali over zoom on topics such as music as a form of expression, the nuances of identity and her first Spanish-language project Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios).
Galore: In what ways do you aim to represent the diversity of Latinx, specifically Colombia’s, culture?
Kali: As someone who grew up up loving many genres and being inspired by so many things, I’ve always been tryna find the balance between what is multicultural.
There was so much surrounding me in the DMV, and Colombia when I was little. And all the shit in between. I feel this album is a great representation of all of the things that inspire me and I was also tryna represent how multidimensional the Latinx music is because the American world has a limited understanding of what the Latin sound is. Like, in this album I also do what I did in “Solita,” but my expression shouldn’t be less valid because I’ve decided to show how dynamic I am. I even mixed r&b because it’s what I grew up with in VA.
Some people don’t even know what versatile sound is, and they were judging the album before listening to it just because it’s all in Spanish. I really put my soul in this album. And I wanted to show my diversity. I don’t want to be pinned to one category. I don’t consider myself a singer I consider myself an artist
This album is all the things I love at once. I loved making it all cohesive and representing different parts of me. I was playing with my voice more. I noticed I can move into lower registers as my voices matures. I am even hitting whistle tones, and I am doing this in an album that is all in Spanish. Knowing I can do these things with my voice is definitely a full circle moment.
Galore: In what ways is music a means for practicing your spirituality?
Kali: For me… being creative in general, or the art of taking something out of my mind and soul to the physical realm, is what makes me feel close to God and close and to myself. It is my purpose, it is my reason for living. When I was little I always wanted to do something everyday. Make things. Write a song. I just always knew I was an artist. That’s what connects me to my soul because that is God given gift.
Galore: How was your connection to your spirituality fortified during the quarantine? How did the quarantine period impact you as an artist?
Kali: Since I grew up making music, and started on my own in the first place, being locked up in my house was comforting creatively. It was nostalgic in the sense that I was back in my bed recording everything on my own. The intro and the outro of the album I recorded on my own. It was a full circle moment, I felt like I was 18 again.
Galore: Did you record “quiero sentirme bien” yourself as well?
I actually recorded “quiero sentirme bien” in Miami. I definitely wrote during it the quarantine though. The instrumental was by this guy Curtis, that he had played it for me before quarantine in the studio. He actually had a melody on it by the lead singer of Little Dragon. I added some verse melodies and put words to it.
Galore: Are you willing to collaborate with up and coming artists that do not have the tools, or wisdom for entering the music industry?
Kali: The question is would I work with younger artists? I would say definitely; I would say don’t chase fame, I like the silent ascent to iconic and everyone should be icon in their own rights.
Interview conducted by Shirley Reynozo