If you grew up in a Spanish-speaking household, chances are you’re familiar with the musical prowess of Ivy Queen. Born Martha Ivelisse Pesante Rodriguez in Puerto Rico, she carved out a successful career during the international explosion of reggaeton. Unlike her male contemporaries such as Daddy Yankee and Nicky Jam, Ivy Queen’s rise to fame was a groundbreaking moment for women in the industry. Her influence has paved the way for a new generation of female artists in the charts.
HOLA USA! had the privilege of attending Ivy Queen’s performance at the Tiny Desk concert series. The concert, hosted at NPR’s headquarters in Washington D.C., has seen a variety of musicians grace its stage, from pop sensations to indie talents. Ivy Queen’s performance was a fitting finale to NPR’s Hispanic Heritage month-long segment, aptly named ‘El Tiny’, spearheaded by NPR Music’s Alt.Latino. Felix Contreras, co-host of Alt.Latino, explains, “We’ve been running ‘El Tiny Desk’ for the past three years. The idea was born out of the sheer volume of Latin artists we wanted to feature, which couldn’t be contained to just a few weeks. So, we dedicated an entire month to it.”
This year’s ‘El Tiny Desk’ has been a melting pot of Latin artists from diverse backgrounds and genres. From the Venezuelan beach band Rawayana to the queer trap music of Villano Antillano, the series has showcased a wide spectrum of Latin music. Contreras adds, “We strive to balance pop music with folklore. It’s crucial for us to acknowledge the folkloric roots of the culture we’re highlighting. We also feature alternative artists who deserve more recognition.”
Ivy Queen’s music harks back to an earlier style of reggaeton, characterized by its sparse arrangement, poignant lyrics, and unforgettable percussions. She occupies a unique space in the pop and folklore spectrum, with every reggaeton artist since the 2000s owing a significant debt to her work. Accompanied by her band, featuring strings and a piano, Ivy’s performance allowed her songs to be reimagined, resulting in a moving set that showcased her vocal range and powerful songwriting. Her feminist and proud lyrics remain as potent as when they were first penned. Her 25-minute set included hits like ‘Reza por Mi’, ‘La Vida Es Asi’, ‘Menor Que Yo’, and ‘En Que Fallamos’. The opening strings of ‘Quiero Bailar’ sent a wave of electricity through the room.
Contreras shares, “My favorite part of doing Tiny Desk is finding a spot to sit and watch the audience’s reactions. Seeing people enjoy the artist and the space they’re in is truly the best part.” As Ivy sang and shared her wisdom with the audience, it was a surprisingly intimate moment. People were visibly moved, wiping away tears and exchanging glances. The experience of being in close proximity to an artist at her most raw and powerful is something that will stay with us for a long time.