Singer and songwriter iLe's third album, 'Nacarile,' finds a world deeply in flux The Puerto Rican artist returns with a new album, her first since protests galvanized San Juan and beyond in 2019.

Singer and songwriter iLe's third album, 'Nacarile,' finds a world deeply in flux

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

From the war in Vietnam to the fight for civil rights, musicians have provided a voice for change. That's exactly what happened in 2019 in San Juan, where massive protests followed a government corruption scandal and the botched rebuilding after Hurricane Maria. And those protesters forced Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello to resign. Singer and songwriter iLe was right in the middle of it. Together with Bad Bunny and Residente, she made a song that became a rallying cry.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AFILANDO LOS CUCHILLOS")

ILE: (Singing in Spanish).

That was our moment where we showed how much power it has, that the whole country goes to the street demanding something and expressing their anger towards the government.

FADEL: iLe continues to call out injustices on a new album, "Nacarile."

There's a song on the album that became an anthem in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of those protests - "Donde nadie mas respira," or "When No One Breathes." And it's about corrupt governments, colonizers.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DONDE NADIE MAS RESPIRA")

ILE: (Singing in Spanish).

FADEL: (Reading) They were seen from afar with airs of saviors. They disguised themselves as gods, and he gave them flowers. But I don't see life. I see a slow death, a silence that annihilates without anybody realizing it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DONDE NADIE MAS RESPIRA")

ILE: (Singing in Spanish).

FADEL: And at the time, you said that you wrote it for people in the world who might feel like they don't have the power to fix broken governments. And I heard frustration. Has Puerto Rico changed since 2019, when those protests showed the power of people?

ILE: Well, it was a change in the elections, even though we are still with the same party in the government, but you could see a change in the voting numbers. But at the same time, I feel that we are so used to feeling we're not worthy enough; we are not capable enough. It is frustrating, but at the same time, I keep feeling hopeful. And in Puerto Rico, I feel that we show things in subtle ways. You know, like, for example, now in. Hurricane Fiona, everyone in social media were saying, do not trust government funds. Just send the funds directly to these organizations. And people were organized because we learned a lot from Hurricane Maria. But it seemed that the government didn't learn anything, you know?

FADEL: I wondered about the song "Cuando te miro." And depending on how you listen to the song, you could hear lyrics that might be about a toxic relationship or a ravaged planet - dry riverbeds, hurricanes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CUANDO TE MIRO")

ILE: (Singing in Spanish).

FADEL: (Reading) I'm the hurricane that devastates you. I'm the energy that crushes you. I'm your source of joy, your nourishment. I'm the one who primes you until you say enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CUANDO TE MIRO")

ILE: (Singing in Spanish).

FADEL: What is this song about?

ILE: I was thinking about a toxic relationship. And I love that song. I wrote it with Rodrigo Cuevas, from Spain.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CUANDO TE MIRO")

ILE: (Singing in Spanish).

I always try to get into these feelings, you know, that we go through a lot as human beings and especially as women in this world, where toxic relationships are so normalized. And for me, it was like a way of expressing that toxicity, how we as women especially tend to be saviors of the relationship and also men - from a men's perspective, that society tells them not to cry, not to manage their emotions and how toxic society has made us relate to each other as men and women, you know, in a relationship.

FADEL: Yeah. I mean, we have to talk about "Algo bonito."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALGO BONITO")

ILE: (Singing in Spanish).

FADEL: Ivy Queen raps, (reading) I've never thought that I looked prettier quiet. When I spit, it's like fire and acid.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALGO BONITO")

IVY QUEEN: (Rapping in Spanish).

ILE: It's a way of trying to redefine what something bonito, something pretty, is for us. People think that women like these cliches, you know, like flowers, chocolates and everything. And it's like, so...

FADEL: Right.

ILE: ...Silly that we are - have been treated like that, you know, as if that is going to calm us down or whatever.

FADEL: (Laughter).

ILE: Like, it's just saying, what is something pretty for us? Like, something pretty for me is that we have our own rights and that we should be treated respectfully and that no one can say anything about what we can or can't do with our own bodies.

FADEL: I mean, and yet so much of the world tells women to what to do with their own bodies. When I was listening to this, I was thinking about right now, in this moment, women dying and protesting in Iran for the choice not to wear the hijab, women in India asking for the choice to wear it, women in the United States no longer able to access abortion care in parts of the country, femicides among the highest in Latin America.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALGO BONITO")

ILE: (Singing in Spanish).

Exactly. It's that now the protests are happening, which is difficult but, at the same time, empowering, and, you know, it's necessary. But these things were happening still, you know, this oppression towards women because patriarchy says so.

FADEL: Is it why you put politics in your music, to have these conversations?

ILE: Yeah, definitely. For me, it's my way of letting things go for a while and just having more energy to want to keep talking about this in a better way every time because there is a lot of social ignorance in this world, and it can be cleared out in just a simple conversation. And that's why it shouldn't be underestimated, the power of communication, you know, of speaking things out in a respectful way. And that's what I try to do.

FADEL: iLe - her new album is called "Nacarile." Thank you so much.

ILE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRAGUITO")

ILE: (Singing in Spanish).

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