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One of the biggest stars in Latin music, collaborating with the likes of Juanes and Gwen Stefani, Mon Laferte did not enjoy overnight success in Chile but is finally reaping the benefits of a life-long determination to pursue music in her own way.
After a string of highly successful albums (and a Latin Grammy along the way), Mon Laferte’s emotional, heart-wrenching boleros and pop songs can be heard in the streets of Chile and across all of Latin America. Whether blaring from car radios or drifting from windows, no other music has captured the continent as well as hers. Her timeless style takes cues from the melodic drama of traditional Latin ballads, which she then infuses with a contemporary pop flair.
Mon Laferte grew up Monserrat Bustamante, and started out playing in the bars of the Chilean port city of Valparaíso. She rose to national fame after placing third in a Chilean reality show, and then went to Mexico to pursue her career.
Although she’s now signed to a major label, with slickly produced tracks and film stars in her music videos, Laferte maintains control over her style and artistry, writing her songs directly from the place where she wants them to be felt: the heart.
“Mexico influenced me a lot, because I came to live here a long time ago,” she tells Culture Trip. “It was here I really began my career as an independent solo artist.” She spent the first few years away from the limelight, overcoming cancer and releasing two low-key independent albums before attracting the attention of Universal Music Mexico.
Laferte is one of Chile’s most-loved musicians, and she returns frequently to play free shows and tour the country. “I reconnected with Chile on my trips, especially to the music scene there, which is incredibly interesting. I think that both Mexico and Chile influence me a lot,” she explains.
“Everywhere I go in Latin America, I find local places where I can find out more about the folklore of every country, and then try to incorporate those styles into my music,” she says. She calls her latest album, Norma, “very cinematographic,” as it matches the various stages of a relationship to different styles of Latin music. “I wanted to use all the rhythms to tell a story of love.” ‘El Beso’ is a cumbia song about the fun, flirtatious phase of a relationship; ‘La Mambo’ has “a violent rhythm” and is a song about jealousy; ‘Funeral’ is a tearful bolero ballad about a break-up.
Laferte is known for her heart-wrenching lyrics and sob-provoking songs about heartbreak. “I have always liked music to cry to,” she says. “It is music of the barrio, of the people, an affirmation of my social class. It’s the type of music I like.”
“She’s super-nice,” Laferte says with a laugh when asked about working with Gwen Stefani for a cover of Spanish Christmas classic ‘Feliz Navidad.’ “I am a superfan of hers; I grew up with the music, so it was great to meet her and collaborate with her.”
Laferte has performed across the United States and Europe. She isn’t fazed by performing to non-Spanish-speaking audiences, explaining that her concerts are more than just a rehearsed repetition of songs. “I want it to be much, much deeper than that,” she says. “It is very theatrical. I like to move people, and they become emotional.”