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iLe is the stage name of singer, songwriter and rapper Ileana Mercedes Cabra Joglar. Before her solo career she was a singer and rapper with Calle 13. (She is Visitante's [Eduardo Cabra Joglar] sister, and Residente's [Rene Perez Joglar] stepsister.) iLe's sound is continually evolving, but rooted in classic Latin styles from across the Americas. Her 2016 solo debut offering, iLevitable, was a meticulously crafted set of boleros and folk-inspired retro-pop songs that showcased her old-school singing. It earned her a Latin Grammy nomination for best new artist, and won a Grammy for best Latin rock, urban, or alternative album. 2019's Almadura differed from its predecessor through a canny use electronics alongside Afro-Caribbean and traditional Puerto Rican root sounds. 2022's Nacarile juxtaposed sounds from both records and went farther. Her third long-player included wildly diverse collaborations with Flor de Toloache, Natalia Lafourcade, Mon Laferte, Ivy Queen, and others. iLe is the daughter of actress Flor Joglar de Gracia and musician and producer José Cabra González. She is a formally trained singer. Her vocal and piano studies began while she was still in elementary school, where she sang in choir. In high school, she worked with Puerto Rican soprano Hilda Ramos and Cuban singer Gema Corredera (the latter of Gema y Pavel). Her greatest influence is the singer La Lupe. At 16, Residente picked her up from school and asked her to sing on a demo he and Visitante were working on. The track, "La Aguacatona," became Calle 13's calling card and they were signed to White Lion Records. Though younger than her brothers, she nonetheless became a collaborator on their singles and albums, and was featured in their videos. When not in school, she toured with Calle 13 as well, becoming an integral part of their stage show in several solo spots. In 2012, she participated in Puerto Rico's Banco Popular TV Christmas Special, and was chosen by boxer Miguel Cotto to sing the Puerto Rican National Anthem prior to his fight against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. In 2015, iLe announced her stage name and that she was recording a solo album of Afro-Caribbean boleros, boogaloos, mambos, and danzons with co-producer Ismael Cancel. Most were classic tunes, but there were also songs written by her father, sister, and grandmother, centering on themes of sexuality, love in many forms, and heartbreak. It was also an ode to the classics that shaped her musical heart. The set featured some of Puerto Rico's most famous musicians, including her father, brothers, Cheo Feliciano (in his final recorded appearance), Piro Rodríguez, Charlie Sepulveda, Bayrex Jiménez, and Ciro's Fofé Abreu. Her first single and video, "Canibal," was issued in April, followed by the release of the full-length iLevitable in June, which placed in the Top 15 of the Latin albums charts. In July, she followed it with the Kacho Lopez-directed video for "Te Quiero con Bugalú." After sold-out tours of several Latin American countries and the United States, two Grammy nominations and a win, iLe took a short break and returned to the studio. She and Ismael Cancel co-wrote and produced the political Almadura (its title is a play on the word armor, which literally translates as "strong soul") in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Its songs are filled with emotion, calls to action, and militancy for people who have been colonized by the United States for more than a century. Among its plethora of originals are the lead-off electro-bomba single "Odio" and the sultry salsa "Dejame Decirte," with Eddie Palmieri on piano (he also added an interlude to "Mi Novia"). Her sister Milena Perez offered the song "De Luna" and acted as a creative adviser. The lone bolero on the set is second single "Temes," and is non-romantic -- it literally translates as "You Fear" to fit the album's various socio-political themes. Almadura was released to universally positive reviews in May 2019. In April the following year, she and Natalia Lafourcade collaborated on the rumbling pre-release cumbia single "En Cantos." In August she joined Leonel Garcia on his smooth, jazzy, bossa single "Libro Ábierto." Two months later she released the cinematic groover "Donde Nadie Mas Respira." 2021 offered other pre-releases including the ballad "No Es Importante." In March 2022 she served as Adrian Quesada's vocalist on the dramatic bolero "Mentiras con Carino." iLe also guested on singles and videos by Circo ("Me Saben a Miel") and Los Rivera Destino ("Foto de Perfil" that also included Nengo Flow). She enlisted Mon Laferte as a songwriting and duet partner on the cumbia/son fusion "Traguito" in September. She followed it with Nacarile, her third full-length, in October. The infectiously musical, richly collaborative set included the singles with Lafourcade and Laferte, as well as guest spots from Flor de Toloache, Trueno, Ivy Queen, and Rodrigo Cuevas.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo
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