Residente’s documentary about the making of his upcoming debut solo album will take you around the world.
Puerto Rican rapper Residente was once a part of iconic rap duo Calle 13, for more than 10 years, and recently left to embark on his solo career as well track down his ancestral roots, which we explore in the film. Residente, born Rene Perez Joglar, has won 24 latin Grammys and currently holds the title as the latin artist with the most Grammys. His self-titled documentary Residente tells the story of how he traveled to 10 different countries including Russia, Ghana, China and Puerto Rico to connect with his heritage and use these influences to create his first solo project slated to release March 2017. Residente managed to provide a 2 year experience in only 90 minutes which is a difficult task for anyone.
Much of Residente and Calle 13’s music throughout the year have had politically driven and socially conscious themes so it’s no surprise that his documentary share similar sentiments. Residente visits countries stricken with political warfare and economic disparity and humanizes the trials a tribulations of obscure marginalized groups while simultaneously documenting the production of his album. Residente mentions in the introduction of his film that he has an attention deficit disorder and that this, in part adds to his creativity and desire to go from place to place. In each region that he visits, Residente attempts to form bonds with the natives to no only better understand their culture, but to understand himself as well. For someone who cannot read or write music, Residente does an impeccable job of communicating his musical desires despite the language barrier himself and his diverse collaborators.
Post screening Residente answered a few questions about his experience filming the documentary:
What was the hardest experience you took away from the film?
Going to Armenia and watching the young boy cry over his father who stayed behind in the village to fight. I put myself in his position and it was terrible that feeling and you can’t do anything about it, but I wanted to go there and help, but I couldn’t do anything. Every place had good things and bad things.
What’s something you learned from this experience?
I learned how to make music without being able to read music. Concept is the most important thing. It’s very funny because they don’t pay for the concept.
How are you thinking about this film in the current political climate?
I think this topic, not the documentary, is very relevant, but now is more relevant because of what’s happening with Trump and not only Trump because there is a lot of racism around the world. I think its important to have this and the DNA thing because maybe it makes people want to do a DNA test and maybe they can see that came out of a black woman (a reference Calle 13 song “Somos Abnormales”) like every one of us came out of Kenya. When I was doing it I was thinking more about the music, but when I was listening to their stories I started to think more about their stories and about race.
From challenging the ancient structures of Chinese opera to recording the traditional instruments of various cultures, Residente’s upcoming album is sure to be both a conceptual and sonic masterpiece.
The film premiered at SXSW 2017.
Photo Credit: Billboard