Jalmar’s music captures the essence of celebration. It’s fast, flavourful, and an ear-catching fusion of Latin music with the hard-hitting bounce of hip-hop. Tracks like ‘La Fiesta’ and ‘Mijo Rico’ are destined for the clubs, as they exude the energy of a sweaty dancefloor. Every roaring 808, every warbling horn sound, plays a part in the alchemy created to incite good times.
This sound has been one the Melbourne artist has been honing for years. He had the urge to indulge in his South American heritage, resulting in a visit to the continent to further understand where he comes from. This is where he realised what he wanted to do with the music, and the vision began to come to fruition in the studio with close friend and producer Younique. Initially gearing up to begin rolling out his art last year, COVID provided a frustrating roadblock, preventing the creation of music videos, while incurring the inability to hear the music in the atmosphere it deserves: outside. This seemingly rapid rise has been years in the making.
Now, from a studio in Brunswick East, Jalmar sits beside me. The relief of finally releasing music from the vault is evident in his friendly energy, but you can tell that his hunger refuses to starve, or stop working. He talks me through delving into his culture, the strategic aspect of releasing music, and why his style works so well.
You’ve currently got three singles out, and a standout feature on a Young Franco track, but I’m sure this is the culmination of a lifetime of work. How does it feel to be on the map now?
The journey so far has been a rollercoaster, for sure. I’ve learned a lot about different formulas and procedures to make sure the songs are right, which has come from a lot of experimenting. Two of the singles that are out were made at the start of last year, but because of COVID, we couldn’t record music videos and were told to hold up on releasing. So yeah, there’s a massive body of work behind all of this right now, and it’s starting to feel good. I work closely with my produced Younique, and our biggest thing was to not be comparable to anyone else. I think we’re doing that successfully at the moment, and will continue to do so in the future.
What’s it like having to sit on unreleased music for so long? Is it the frustration of just wanting to share your art with the world, or the strategic side of waiting for a better result that kicks in first?
That’s the perfect question because I think a lot of artists go through this. It’s extremely frustrating sitting on so much music and gold that you’ve created, and you’re just constantly playing it to yourself every day. During that whole time, you’re just trying to figure out the best way to put it out. We had a long period without management and didn’t have people interested in us until we had management, where the best opportunities for the music to be heard started presenting themselves. There was a lot of strategy behind making sure that the right people heard this stuff, because it’s a new sound with two languages spoken, and it’s not going to relate to everyone. So yeah, the whole waiting aspect was super frustrating, but I think it turned out for the better.
How do you find balance in the duality of having to be both a musician and business-minded?
I don’t think you ever truly find balance, it’s a constant seesaw. Sometimes I’ll feel like I have balance, where everything is set in stone for the release of a track. But then all these other things come up, like having to get assets or other specific things like pictures etc. There are stages where it’s calm, and there are stages where it’s chaos.
Let’s take it back a little bit. When did you know that music is what you wanted to pursue in life?
I started music when I was like 15 but didn’t take it seriously until I was 19. I went and finished a photography course, before deciding I wanted to do a music course. I was doing mixing and mastering, but I dropped it. I was doing audio production, but I dropped it. I dropped two courses in a year and was in mad debt. I didn’t have a proper job; I was just working at a factory to make money. Then I sat down and realised that I can speak the language of music, where I can sit in with producers or engineers, and understand the intricate things that go into making a track. The defining moment which made this journey real for me was when I realised people like the Spanish language. I looked at artists like Sampa The Great and Remi who really indulged in their cultures, and it inspired me to do the same. I went to South America for the first time and saw where my family and background began. From then on, I knew what music I wanted to make, and how I wanted to be perceived.
Music in a lot of cultures around the world is used to uphold tradition and bring people together. Do you ever think about your art in that way?
I honestly don’t know what some of the songs are going to do, I just know that it’s empowering. It can make girls feel sexy, guys feel powerful, everyone experiences it in their own way. That’s what it’s meant to do; empower everybody. If it brings people together, that’s amazing, but I just want people to feel independent, love themselves, and get excited when they hear the music, to the point where they just want to kill the day.
Is there an artist you remember listening to grow you up who inspired these feelings in you?
I think the main ones are Drake and The Weeknd; both inspire different emotions for me.
I once spoke with B.Wise about how owning your culture in music was initially a difficult thing. Did you have the same experience indulging in yours?
I think the biggest fear for me was that I wasn’t born in South America, and I don’t speak the language perfectly. It’s a second language for me, and while I sound good when I’m speaking it, I can’t have a full, in-depth conversation speaking Spanish. So it was hard to delve into my own culture, and I was a little bit self-conscious about it. At the end of the day, however, I realised that everybody has their own culture, and they’re going to embrace it in their way.
Your music often pairs the sounds of South American music with hard, trap drums. Why do you think they work so well together?
It all comes down to the energy in the music. I think it works well because you’re mixing the high-end with the low-end. The low-end is what makes your body sway, and your hips move. The percussion things in the Latin sound tickle the higher frequencies in your brain, so as a result, everything is getting hit. That’s what music is at the end of the day; different frequencies being hit, and I think the combination of the ones we’re hitting is why it works so well.
You’ve mentioned how closely you work with your producer Younique. How does he bring the best out in you, and how do you bring the best out in him?
It comes down to us knowing each other so well, and we know what’s going to make the product the best. We invest a lot in what we’re doing. We get our own guitars, our own trumpets, we’re here for everything. We freestyle with each other throughout the day, and a lot of that becomes the songs that we have ready now.
Lastly, what’s the plan heading into next year?
It’s going to be all about the music. We’re going to keep smashing out, and all the stuff we’ve made is going to finally get the shine it deserves. There will be little bodies of work that are going to hit everyone’s ears, and we’re just going to keep trying to create a new wave.