Fifteen years ago, when I wanted to discover new music, I used to leave a blank videotape in the VCR recording MTV from late at night until dawn—a T120 Extended Play that recorded about six hours of video—and go to sleep, keeping my fingers crossed that I catch a good video. Today we live every night knowing that, if Glenn Monroig kisses Fofé (two Puerto Rican artists) again on stage after a spectacular duet, the recording will appear on YouTube within a few hours.
With more than one billion users and 300 hours of video added every minute, YouTube has become an important part of the Internet. The variety of the great visuals that it offers—whether it's videos of cats, old advertisements, or people drenching themselves in buckets of ice—never ends, but among all this content the use of Youtube as a music platform stands out.
Coexisting and in constant competition for millions of views are the videos of Don Omar, Katy Perry, and a million others. We can also easily find any lost recordings of our favorite experimental band from the 1960s, and of course increasingly more local, independent music. “If it is not on Youtube, it does not exist,” one of the members of Los Niños Estelares (767,000 views) told me years ago, who, along with reggaetonero artists like Jamsha (56 million views) from Ponce, Puerto Rico, bet early and fully on the platform as a mechanism to promote their music.
On the other hand, the exposure that emerging bands like Buscabulla, Alegría Rampante, and Los Wálters y Fantasmes enjoy in specialized media inside and outside the country is due largely to the quality of their audiovisuals. The massive scope of YouTube is not just an attractive promotional vehicle for emerging musicians, but in turn it is used as a creative engine to encourage an entire community of artists towards collaboration and experimentation. Directors, writers, actors, performance artists, designers, animators, and musicians work together to highlight their creations in a world of increasingy audiovisual content.
That competition for the attention of a global audience has resulted in a marked increase in the quality of locally produced music videos—both in technique and in content—and from all of this it's very likely that a new generation of Puerto Rican filmmakers will be born, following in the footsteps of other greats from around the world like Spike Jonze, David Fincher, and Michel Gondry.
Below is a selection of some of the most outstanding music videos of the past few months.
Buscabulla – “Métele”
Directed by Dan Sickles and Dr. Antonio Santini, Buscabulla‘s third video is an extension of the excellent documentary Mala Mala that portrays the diversity of Puerto Rico's transgender community. The group performed on Sunday, March 1, as part of the NRMAL Festival in Mexico and will release a vinyl edition of their EP in April.
Alegría Rampante – “El Recipiente”
The fourth collaboration between Alegría Rampante and the audiovisual production team 9A5 Cine Crew has resulted in the most striking and emotive music video of the group to date. Directed by William Rosario Cruz, the video describes the evolution of a “made-in-the-sea” being and its arrival in the ruins of civilization. The artist Angel Flores from Santurce brings to life to this character—el recipiente—through elastic contortions and blank stares, slowly learning to be. The long-awaited debut of Alegría Rampante will reach your ears in the coming months.
Fantasmes – “They Will”
Dense, seductive, and scary, at the same time, “They Will” manages to catch the best elements of Fantasmes undiluted—otherwise, it could be their most potent potion. For their visual effects, Fantasmes reached out to photographer and filmmaker Chris Gregory and together they conceptualized and produced the clip. It was recorded on tape using a VHS Magnavox MovieMaker camera manufactured in 1985, thus creating a complementary analog process to the way the group produces its music.
Balún – “Años Atrás”
The musical geniuses behind Balún described the sound of “Años Atrás” as dreambow, a mix between dembow playing in Puerto Rico during its formative stage (years ago) and the dream-pop that characterizes the group. The visual effects for this fabulous song, directed by Joel Pérez Irizarry, take the concept as a starting point to present a night out on the island like a dream adventure.
Los Pepiniyoz – “Siniestro Juguete”
Alta Tensión is one of the most anticipated albums of the year and, for their second promotional video, Los Pepiniyoz got together with Dede Ene, one of the music video directors most active in Puerto Rico and to whom Fofe Abreu of Circo, Fofe y Los Fetiches recently called “the genius of the garage” in a column for La Banda Elástica. His visual effects for the song turn a performance of Los Pepiniyoz at Club 77 in Rio Piedras into an ancient artifact, as if it were an MTV classic recorded in VHS and then suffered the consequences of excessive playback.
Los Vigilantes – “Volverá”
The video for “Volverá”—one of the standout tracks of the second album of Los Vigilantes—is intense, addictive, vulgar, and dangerous. The group locked themselves up in Jota Vigilante’s El Dorado studios with a smoke machine, some friends—among them Pequeña Vera from Dada Berlin—and a dog, to translate the energy of the song into a simple video but more than efficient.
Calle 13 – “Así De Grandes Son Las Ideas”
The result of a collaboration between René “Residente” Pérez and the young animator Quique Rivera Rivera, who was known a couple of years ago for his spectacular stop-motion animated story El Diario del Pez León. The production lasted about nine months and it took about 7,200 pictures—but at the end it is evident that all the work was worth it.
Tavú – “A System Without Honor”
Produced by David F. McCloskey (Tavú’s drummer) and directed by Luis Freddie Vazquez (Contraseña, 2008), the video for “A System Without Honor” is like the album that contains it—precise and highly technical. Along with cinematographer Carlos Garcia and graphic designer Jorge Castillo, the team managed to move Tavú for a performance into the desolate world mentioned in its lyrics.
Los Niños Estelares – “Satya Yuga está por comenzar”
The controversial duo announced its dissolution at the end of 2014, making “Satya Yuga” their last video. The song presents the solution to the problems that Los Niños Estelares presented six years ago on their first video for “La dictadura científica acaba de empezar”, which still is the most popular of the group with over 260,000 views. Although the clip keeps the “DIY” aesthetic of the group, it, like the music, reflects greater ambition.
Los Nadie – “Al Final”
Filmed and edited by Jose Enrique Padilla, the video “Al Final” takes us on a journey through the main streets of Santurce with young Nina Isabel as the protagonist, who after an argument with her boyfriend ends in one of the famous “Karaoke Nights” at El Local. The clip is a preview of what will be the group's first LP, recorded and produced by the group itself in Phoamhouse Studios in Trujillo Alto.