Latanya Alberto is a transcendent musician who uses lyricism to stay true to her artistic vision. Her music reimagines real life dynamics such as racial trauma, love, and empowerment and is reflective of lessons learnt. She sees her music as an emotional outlet and knows that it can serve others as a means of healing. While throwback RnB and soul music have always been an influence on her musical style, she knows the importance of branching out to experience different sides of self. We spoke about her recent track Royal (Recall) and her fluid approach to her artistry due to her intercultural upbringing.
You started writing poetry as a teenager and that has obviously translated into your artistry. For example, your lyrics from your recent release Royal (Recall), “I still got fears I don’t know about. Can’t have you help me cause I’m too proud,” are a beautiful reflection of inner turmoil. So, how has your songwriting process evolved since the beginning?
I strongly remember the love for poetry and its mystery in the beginning. I found a lot of comfort in expressing myself through words that are open for interpretation and require deep processing. In that stage it felt like this mystery was the strongest force for me to feel understood and outspoken. Throughout these past times, I’ve learned to give the ‘misunderstood’ more guidance and substance and make it more understandable for others. I’ve transitioned from writing very secluded and free to combining this with the powerful element of minimalism, and repetition by the lead of the instruments.
Royal (Recall) has a powerful title, it establishes that Black identity is firstly regal and something to be proud of. The word recall after royal seems to be a reminder to your audience that they already possess their greatness as opposed to it being something to be bestowed, would you agree?
Yes, I completely agree. Throughout a long period of time, Black identity has been associated with pain and suffering by others and by us. For years we have had the feeling like we were constantly in fight mentality mode and have had to defend our basic right of being ourselves.
With the title of Royal (Recall) I wanted to emphasise the journey of shaping a perspective where we look at the improvements and development of a world and we focus on our own success and richness rather than all the things we have lost. The royalty is inside of us, in forms and shapes we will be surprised to discover. I love the fact that family, strong bonds, love and spirituality are a big part of the values in my culture(s). With this in the back of my mind, the entire concept of richness becomes something way more valuable than capitalism and materialism.
The video depicts you reciting lyrics while looking directly to the audience. Midway throughout, two children are seen looking into their reflection in water. Near the end, an elder braids your hair and the children rest on you while in a sleep-like state. This seems like a depiction of the dependence and support that can be had between generations to heal from traumas. In your personal experience, how do you affirm yourself and those around you to catalyse healing?
I have a lot of honest conversations with the people around me about topics like generational trauma, and the effect of feeling lost. I think it’s important to remember everyone goes through their own stuff, at their own pace. But for me, conversations have given me a lot of insight in viewing things from multiple perspectives, and figuring out how these fit into becoming the person I want to be. I love providing others with a piece of my mind, and leaving them wondering about things which might spark their own process in time. I love seeing my people grow, and it makes me proud to see the improvements in mental health by doing the actual work.
Your music delves into the impacts of historical trauma on female empowerment, love, and social justice. How would you say that your intersectional identity has informed your work?
I’ve been singing all my life, and always knew I wanted to do that for the rest of my life from a young age. What I didn’t realise, was how the substance would enhance my personality when I would grow up. After I took a one-year break from music, right when I became an artist, the definition of my artistry was forever changed. The sound of my voice became a tool, to deliver a story constructed of my perspective onto the world, my femininity, my culture and the worlds’ shortcomings. For me, as a person, I religiously live by the line; "Always make sure, the words you say have substance, let them be rich with intention and make change, even if it is in thought”.
Therefore, the art I make is a direct reflection of what I see and feel needs to be out there. I’m not here to seek validation to feed my confidence of ego. I’ve discovered the beauty of bringing people along a ride on matters which matter to everyone, with music. Accountability is hard to adapt sometimes, but each and every one of us is responsible. Transferring this message through music, for me is the most piercing and pressing way to form a collective ground of understanding.
Latanya Alberto Metalmagazine 1.jpg
Your sultry neo-soul sound has been influenced by the likes of India.Arie, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, and Aretha Franklin. How have these artists contributed to your understanding of storytelling?
I have always been heavily drawn to the element of surprise. As a human being, as an artist as a listener I want to be surprised. What I have loved about these amazing artists, is the way their songwriting differs from being easily adaptable and requires depth. Listening to this kind of music has made me an active listener. My head is home to a million thoughts and possibilities and at times, it can get complicated to find the bridge between having others relive my story through my words, and for me to stay in this sacred space of infinite possibilities in thought. There are a million ways to tell one story, and the way these women translate heavy subjects and turn them into poetry, for me is the ultimate pleasure.
We talked about some African American R&B artists that inspire you. Just as R&B and Neo-soul have roots in the southern regions of America, they are also prevalent in Amsterdam where you grew up. How has that unique sound been implemented into your music?
The music I make is truly a blend of different influences and genres. Growing up, I haven’t listened to Dutch music much, so from an early age I have been treated with the sounds of pure soul, Gospel, jazz and RnB. My parents often were surprised I would listen to the same songs as they did growing up, and consider to be old soul and old jazz. I fell in love with the progressions, the chords, the delivery, before I even knew what this meant. Later on, when I started making music of my own, I finally felt able to fill in the canvas in my own way. I have never intended to place myself into one specific genre and I would like for the borders to stay blended. The most valuable skill I’ve gained, must be the undeniable creative gut feeling which produces all I make. A lot of knowledge I would have confirmed by others in words and keys, I’ve learned by listening and developing a sound created by heart.
Heritage is very important to you, your parents are Surimenese and Curaçaoan and you were born and raised in Amsterdam. How have those cultural influences developed your connection with your community?
I am very grateful for the privilege of having a strong culture to hold onto, and to be proud of. I’ve also had the blessing of growing up with a lot of people from my own community, even though I’ve been born in a western country. I’ve learnt a lot from my family and our history by searching for information about the rituals, traditions and events that shaped us. There is a relatively large group of Surimenese and Curaçaoan people living in the Netherlands. Growing up here, has led me to become more eager to learn about the Surimenese and Curaçaoan blood that runs through my veins. My community has only made this feeling stronger and gives me a sense of my Caribbean home and security, here in the Netherlands.
You’ve stated that your objective is, “To deliver the story that needs to be heard, the consciousness that needs to be awakened, and the emotion that needs to be freed.” Healing seems to be a fundamental element at the core of your art, has your music been fundamental in defining your identity or quite the opposite?
I would say the cycle goes both ways. My music is fundamental for my identity because for me writing often feels like a therapy session, as I often realize what the deeper meaning behind lyrics afterwards. The topics I write about are things I go through and see others go through. I burn for the concept of developing a healthy soul. Subjects like (in)justice, (in)equality and heritage are very collective matters, but affect me or anyone so personally. How you deal with these things become ground for the way you carry yourself, and project your lessons, pain and health onto others. My identity is fundamental for my art, because my art is the tool for the communication of topics which lay on my heart. In my daily life I’m a thinker and love using this tool for the encouragement of others to make change too. Even if it’s as small as trying to develop a more open mind.
Red Flags was your Colors Show debut which did really well on YouTube. Some lyrics from the track are, “I'm scared to be loved but even more to fall away... I like it way too much I’m distracted by your red flags.” How has society influenced your view of modern love and how you depict it?
Society has opened my eyes about the rules and restrictions we live by, which make it harder to be yourself. It has encouraged me to become more understanding and patient in connecting with people and sharing love. In my opinion a lot of things we as a species have lived with for a long time (like our checklist with the requirements of being a ‘real man’ or claiming a submissive role as a woman) are given the spotlight and a stage for it to be discussed. For example, a man becoming less male and more human, seeking less societal validation and less weight of meeting the requirements of being ‘man enough’. It’s a process which challenges the boundaries of our society. In love I try to be more aware of the space I proclaim to become, and the space I provide to let him become, more human.
The struggles and joys of Black life are common topics your body of work navigates. What conversations would you like to facilitate with Royal (Recall) specifically, that differ from your previous single Red Flags?
In my music I want to be able to share lessons I’ve learnt and also be playful with the concept of my young spirit, and still communicate a light suggestion for people to be open for people to be their selves, before you judge. Royal (recall) is an important song to me, as its message highlights work which I had to do, in order to become more developed in my identity and more confident in my pain. I would love for the song to encourage people to talk more about how their trauma affects their ability to love themselves, and love others. Truly knowing who you are and what the cause for your actions are can be scary, but beautiful. Love in the Black community in my opinion has the priceless element of common understanding and values, and I do feel like conversations would bridge the gap between the absence of knowledge and the development of the entire community.
You once said that as your career progresses you may get into producing or start playing an instrument. Do you see yourself crossing over into other music genres as well?
Right now, I won’t limit myself to one genre, so I don’t think I will completely cross over to one different genre I’m yet unfamiliar with. I do find it massively interesting to learn the ins and outs of other types of music and learn about their methods and ways in order for me to become even more blended.