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The identity journey of the Dominican artist Yendry makes his music

Image source: Jamie Parkhurst

Yendry is on fire these days. The rising artist, born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to Dominican parents and raised in Italy since the age of 4, hasn’t stopped since her career took off in 2019. Her music – which incorporates everything from afrobeats, reggaeton and R&B while embracing her Caribbean and European influences – this is precisely what sets her apart from the masses. While singles like ‘Barrio’ and ‘Nena’ are what put her on the map, in the past year alone Yendry has released a string of songs – like ‘You’, ‘Instinto’ and ‘Mascarade ” in collaboration with artists like J Balvin, reggae legend Damian Marley and Belgian Congolese singer Lous and the Yakuza – who really speak for his range and his musical genius. The best part is that it’s just getting started. On Friday, May 6, the singer-songwriter released his latest single, “Ki-Ki,“a Dominican dembow-inspired track unlike anything else she’s released.

The song, which was released with a music video, is intentionally “a blend of styles, cultures and languages” and Yendry’s reminder to her listeners “not to take things too seriously”. Where does the name come from ? “Ki-Ki” is an abbreviation of the word “juaniquiqui”, a Dominican slang term that refers to money.

“The song is about how being independent and earning money takes hard work, so most of the time we’re not free to just enjoy life, our families and our friends. It’s good to make himself unavailable to take care of us and celebrate life,” Yendry said in an official press release for the new single. To appreciate the significance of Yendry’s release of a dembow-inspired track, you need to understand how it all started for the artist. Her experience of being both Dominican born and raised in Italy not only impacts her identity and the way she operates in this world, but also strongly influences her music. The beautiful blend of sounds and cultural influences tells his story of juggling two worlds and never quite fitting into one box.

Image source: Jamie Parkhurst

“I was born in the Dominican Republic, and I moved when I was 4 years old. I moved to Italy with my mother, and there I met my Italian father, who I call that. My biological father is in New York, and he’s Dominican too. That way, I kind of grew up with people thinking that I’m half and half. Like, ‘Oh, you’re half Italian, half Dominican.’ Well, I’m all Dominican but I grew up in Italy. But the thing is, I also absorbed a lot of Italian culture living there,” Yendry told POPSUGAR. After emigrating from the Dominican Republic to Italy, her mother worked hard to learn the Italian language and assimilate into the culture while maintaining her Dominican identity. It was a challenge for Yendry.

“That’s why I talk about identity a lot. Because for me it was very difficult to decide how to identify myself, you know.”

“That’s why I talk about identity a lot. Because for me it was very difficult to decide how to identify myself, you know. At first I was like, ‘OK, I’m Dominican.’ But I was in survival mode and I had to be like the other kids. So for me, it was like, ‘Oh well, but I speak perfect Italian. I’m Italian,'” she tells us. “I always had the Dominican part back home. We always went to the Dominican Republic – not that much, but we always went there. We saved money to go to the Dominican Republic to visit family. We always used to eat Dominican food, [and] we were still listening to Dominican music — the culture was still there. The only problem was that I was in a new country and so was my mother. So it’s kind of hard for that kind of generation to identify with, and I struggled so much. Growing up, I remember at 22, I felt like I was missing something.”

“In Italy, when I was a teenager, I covered up a lot. I used to dress super oversized because I didn’t want people to see me as the stereotype – the sexy, provocative Latina.”

This identity struggle inspired Yendry to take a trip to the Dominican Republic herself. She wanted to explore her roots and find out who she really is. “It was amazing because when I went to the Dominican Republic before, I was just a kid and I was just at my grandmother’s house. So I didn’t really explore the country and the culture, [but exploring it as an adult] was amazing because it felt like home,” she says. “There were a lot of things that I couldn’t understand about myself and that I [suddenly] understood when I was in the Dominican Republic. Even the way I present myself – my body. In Italy, when I was a teenager, I covered up a lot. I used to dress super oversized because I didn’t want people to see me as a stereotype – the Latina who’s sexy and provocative.”

As she discovered her own identity, Yendry found herself constantly battling stereotypes of being a Latina living in Europe. These days, she dresses how she wants and doesn’t apologize for it. In fact, Yendry’s personal style is just as compelling as her music. She embraces her natural curls. She will wear a tight dress as often as baggy jeans, an oversized plaid shirt, a crop top and sneakers. It’s all about self-expression for her.

Image source: Jamie Parkhurst

“That’s why I talk about it a lot because I really want my generation to understand that there’s nothing wrong with being raised in two different countries and having two different cultures and backgrounds,” she adds. . “So I find myself Dominican, but I’m also Italian because it’s my home now.” When Yendry first decided she wanted to be a singer, she started singing in English. She didn’t like the way she sounded singing in Italian, and she didn’t think to sing in Spanish until she sang Silvia Pérez Cruz’s “Mechita” in rehearsal – and it did. is where everything clicked. It was almost as if the Spaniard had chosen her.

“It was weird because there were a lot of words that I didn’t even remember having in my brain, and they just came out. So I wrote two or three songs. I wrote ‘Barrio’ and ‘Nena’, and it was natural. I never liked my voice in Italian. I never understood why. And then I started singing in Spanish, and it was so natural. So I try now to do my music in Spanish and English because that’s what I speak, and I don’t want to have limits in the creative process,” she says. “I really needed to connect with my roots at home to present myself to the world. That’s what I feel. Even my curly hair, that’s what I represent and that’s what I wanted to be represented by, and I didn’t really find many musical artists representing [that].”

Image source: Jamie Parkhurst

Part of Yendry’s trip to the Dominican Republic was also about reconnecting with the sounds of her childhood. She grew up listening to merengue and bachata, and she wanted to find ways to incorporate those rhythms into her music. She wanted her audience to know that Latin music goes far beyond reggaeton. Her diverse musical tastes in everything from the Dominican music she grew up with and Caribbean sounds to European influences and her love for artists like Björk and FKA Twigs is what keeps her music fresh and experimental. She is always looking to merge different worlds and sounds together. That’s why his music is unlike anyone else’s, and his own journey of identity is prevalent in tracks like “Nena” or his latest, “Ki-Ki.”

As for future collaborations, Yendry intends to continue to surprise us. The artists she listens to these days range from Vicente García to Nathy Peluso. She also dreams of possibly doing a song with Tego Calderón. “I feel like he’s such a statement when it comes to Latin music or even what we call ‘urban’ now. It went from there,” she recounts. “He’s like the father of it, and he did it in a way that the others didn’t. He did it with his flow and all the drumming he used and the way he was singing. Even the lyrics are always so different. They’re different from everything else in the game.” What Yendry may not yet realize is that for this generation of Latinx music listeners, she is revolutionizing the game herself. No one writes lyrics quite like hers. No one is bringing what she brings to the table right now, and we’re excited to see what else she plans to bless us with in the near future. We are ready for it.

Yendry’s connection to her multicultural roots fuels her musical genius originally posted on POPSUGAR Latina