When Desta French dropped ‘Aguanta’ last month we instantly fell for the track’s infectious radiance and it continues to bring the perfect summer vibe. We caught up with the London-based artist to talk five tracks that have influenced her sound.
With her music, Desta, who is half-Italian and half-Colombian, seeks to carve out a voice for the Latinx community in the UK drawing on her own identity to craft a distinct, rich fusion of influences. ‘Aguanta’ demonstrates this perfectly as she blends skittering trap beats with intricate Latin guitar riffs, her vocals soaring from soft, suave melodies to sharp, slick rap. Her first track sung fully in Spanish, ‘Aguanta’ oozes confidence and empowered attitude, capturing the sultry dynamism of summer in the city.
Speaking on the track, Desta expresses, ‘Because of the lack of visibility of the community, and where that sits in British music culture, and where I sit in this culture here (in my community and in this city). It’s hard to know when or how to make the decision to let your heritage be a part of your art. Because there are not that many people like you, you don’t know how familiar you are to others, or how connected people would feel to that. But fuck it, now’s the time to create a place for myself.’
Ahead of releasing her new EP this summer, get to know Desta French In Five…
“Maria” – Crudo Means Raw
This guy comes from a Hip Hop background so his flows are sick but has incorporated a very Latin feel to his recent music. Being an independent artist, I also look at how people are releasing music and I really like the way it has built a community. Much like many collectives here.
‘You’re Making Me High’ – Toni Braxton
I love Toni Braxton’s ‘HEAT’ album. There is just pure grove the whole way through like in this song which is one of my favorites of hers. There’s also a lot of Latin flavor in the way this RnB music is written.I’m a big fan, and also of Babyface who used to work closely with her.
‘ANACAONA’ – Cheo Feliciano
This song always felt really spiritual to me. It’s by one of the great singers (soneros)of Salsa music. Anacaona was a female Taino Indian leader who was hung by Spanish colonialists. Eventually, they went on to wipe out the majority of Taino Indigenous people who were known as one of the kindest and most forthcoming tribes in Central America. I was so interested when I discovered the depths behind the message in the song and realized I wanted there to be messages in my writing that would make people think beyond the song.
‘Engineers’ – HP Boyz
These Australian guys seem to use a lot of Spanish guitars and Latin samples over drill/trappy drums. It’s just a constant grove and bouncy flow, I love it.
‘Mulemba Xangola’ – Bonga
I remember sending this to the producer I work with, (Dfawzi) and we just loved it. I sent him a lot of music with a lot of beautiful guitars, as he too is a great guitarist.
Desta French’s new ‘San Lazarus’ EP is due for release July 2020.
Photo credit: Reece Whyte