Latin Grammy-winning artist Kany García never imagined she would compose her seventh studio album in the middle of a global pandemic.
“We did this album with zero planning,” the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter told NBC News in Spanish.
García said she was in an apartment in Miami “doing nothing, locked up, but at the same time receiving calls from colleagues who would tell me ‘hey, let’s do a podcast together’ or ‘hey Kany, how are you? I’m here in Spain and this is horrible,'” referring to the impact of the coronavirus in the European country.
It was during those calls “when we shared how powerless we felt under our new reality,” that García found herself writing new songs and sharing those with her colleagues. And suddenly, she had ten songs, all collaborations with beloved Latin artists such as Colombian musicians Carlos Vives and Camilo as well as fellow Puerto Rican singer Pedro Capó and Chilean artist Mon Laferte, among several others.
All the songs García composed while staying at home, riding out the pandemic, will finally exit the quarantine they’ve been living in for the past couple of months, released on Thursday as part of her latest album “Mesa Para Dos,” Spanish for “Table For Two.”
“It was kind of a beautiful madness and I told myself if I don’t release these now that we’re living this reality, with these feelings, I don’t know if when we reopen in November or October I will be able to release this album, in this way,” she said. “It made sense to me today.”
While somewhat unintentionally, “Mesa Para Dos” truly captures the ways in which people have changed how they express love, distress, powerlessness, strength and vulnerability during the pandemic.
“During this quarantine, I’ve struggled a lot with keeping my mood up in the best possible way,” said García. “And in a way, these songs came to rescue me.”
The music video for the single “Lo Que En Ti Veo” (What I See In You) features gentle scenes of García alongside her partner, Jocelyn Troche, stuck at home as well as vignettes of Nahuel Pennisi, a young acoustic guitarist and troubadour.
In a way, the songs also came to rescue the artists who collaborated with her, said Garcia while recalling how her song “Date La Vuelta” (Turn Around) came to be. Jesús Navarro, the lead vocalist of the Mexican pop band Reik, was in New York when the state “was going through a very complicated time.”
“Being able to tell him, ‘hey, I’m here making music’ and him saying, ‘let me see, let me hear it,’ and little by little, it was like the collaborations became a necessity to stay connected,” said García.
Producing an album during quarantine also “took away the artists’ glamour and we see them in their most vulnerable states, wanting to make songs that respond to the reality Latin America is living,” she said.
This becomes apparent in the song “Acompáñame” (Accompany Me), a sort of revolutionary anthem reminiscent of some of the historic mass protests seen across Latin America. “Cacerolazo” protests — consisting of the banging of pots and pans — echoed in countries such as Chile, Colombia, Bolivia and Venezuela last year in response to unrest over weak political systems. In the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic saw unprecedented mass protests take place over the past year.
García said “Acompáñame” — a collaboration with Goyo, the lead female vocalist of the Colombian hip hop group ChocQuibTown, and Cata of Colombian musical ensemble Monsieur Periné — was the “most difficult one to do” because both women lived in “two completely different realities.”
“One of them had an entire recording studio in her house and the other one had absolutely nothing, not even WiFi, and she recorded the song with a cellphone, and they recorded with so much desire to be part of this song,” she said. “It was also a complicated song because we were trying to recreate masses of people that weren’t there with three people… . Banging pots and pans, doing chants, all the choruses. But we all really wanted to do that song that is so necessary because , in reality, we often go to marches and we don’t have songs that can accompany us, as the song is called.”
As “more and more people are protesting out of necessity,” said García, who joined Puerto Rico’s mass protests triggered by a political scandal last year, “we must find new ways to protest and not wait until we have to go out to the streets, as our only resource… . I believe that we must also reinvent ourselves, in the things we believe in, because we must continue fighting for them and use social media until others hear our voices.”
While García misses her fans and being on stage, “being able to release a record at a time like this and give people music, already seems like a privilege to me.”
Until she’s able to “return to the shouting and hugging on stage,” García will be hosting “Mesa Para Dos” events via livestream, where she will have a talk with one of the album’s collaborators.
“People are looking for new music to listen to something that somehow helps normalize what we’re going through,” said García. “That’s what excites me the most.”