As a child in Montreal, Edi Cruz made a hobby of recording songs with friends and singing in local choirs.
But the singer known today as Cruzito didn’t discover his passion for reggaeton until he returned to visit his native Honduras as a teenager.
Then he started recording reggaeton songs and used blogs and forums to share his work across Latin America.
“When I was about 15, I started recording my own demos, even producing my own beats,” he told CBC News.
There is no doubt that Latin music has become mainstream over the past decade. In fact, he was the fifth most popular musical genre in the United States in 2019, beating the likes of country and EDMaccording to Forbes.
And while Latin artists and their music have worked their way to multiple charts over the years, some of them based in Canada say a lot more can be done at home.
As Cruzito’s songs became more popular, he caught the attention of Raphy Pina, producer for Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee. Pina reached out to arrange a meeting.
“I was one of the few artists here in Montreal who was signed overseas,” Cruzito said. “I have to work with all these artists, I have to tour, I have to do stadiums – I have to do a lot of shows.”
After putting his career on hold, Cruzito returned to the music scene in 2017, but signed to another label: Montreal’s Joy Ride Records. In doing so, he became the first Hispanic-Latino artist on Joy Ride’s roster.
“When we started working with Joy Ride CEO Carlos Munoz, who is also Latino, we had this idea that we could push the Latin scene forward and do more,” Cruzito said.
“It’s about creating a movement here in Canada, and in Quebec, to make sure everyone is aware that Latin music and the Latin scene is very powerful right now.”
With this idea in mind, Cruzito, Munoz and Joy Ride decided to create a Latino branch to work with new artists, calling the branch Joy Ride Latino. They nurtured new talent, created a platform and helped showcase their talents to Canadian audiences.
Last year, the Joy Ride Latino team released an EP titled YNG LGNDZ Season 1 featuring four Hispanic or Latino artists based in Canada. Happy with its success, they plan to release another album in collaboration with 12 Canadian artists.
“We could use a little more credit for what we do”
Chantel Collado is a bachata singer born in Mississauga, Ontario. She credits her family for making music a big part of her life, especially her father, who she says is her biggest influence.
“I started playing at a very, very young age,” Collado told CBC News. His father, originally from the Dominican Republic, was the manager of several bands in Toronto.
She started writing her own music at the age of 15 and eventually fell in love with Bachata. She thought the musical genre of the Dominican Republic would be the best way to explore her roots.
“I grew up in a family where my parents were Latino and spoke Spanish, I would almost say it’s my mother tongue,” Collado said.
In his music videos, Collado attempts to blend Canadian and Latin American cultures. In frozenshe shows her audience what winter in Ontario can be like.
But like many others in the industry, she believes there are few opportunities for Latin singers in Canada.
“I feel like we could use a little more credit for what we do. We almost have to leave our country and take our music somewhere else,” Collado said. “I feel like there could be work there [in Canada].”
The Evolution of the Latin Music Scene in Canada
The Latin Canadian music scene grew and Alex Puentes – better known by the stage name Alex Cuba – took advantage of it, earning wins and nominations at the Grammys, Latin Grammys and Juno Awards. Cuba won its first Grammy on Sunday and is also nominated for World Music Album at the 2022 Junos in May.
The singer is grateful that people know more about Latin culture today, “even though it’s just one type of Latin music,” he said. He remembers seeing a shift in the genre when he was sitting in a Tim Hortons and the song Slowly of Luis Fonsi and Justin Bieber appeared.
“I never dreamed that I was going to be at Tim Hortons and listen to Latin music,” the Grammy nominee said. “Slowly overcome so many barriers.
But this does not mean more visibility for Latin artists. Cuba asked the Juno Awards to introduce a Latin music category and said they received the same response: “There’s not enough music yet.”
“We fought really, really hard to get him to where he is today.”
CBC News has contacted the Juno Awards about Cuba’s comment, but has not yet received a response.
Advice to artists: don’t give up
Montreal music producer Kiko, who is part of the duo Los Audio Kimikos, said it had been a “long and tedious battle” to gain recognition in Canada. But he hopes for a future of more Latin-inspired music.
His advice to young artists?
“Don’t give up and don’t be afraid of where you come from…just be grateful and show your culture.”
Kiko remembers his passion for music when he was around 13, making beats at home as a hobby. Today, as a producer, Kiko says determined new Latin artists in Canada can also make their mark.
It’s “a lot of hard work and dedication, blood, sweat and tears…but it pays off.”