Maluca's Musical World

Maluca performs at Mad Decent Block Party in Philadelphia, photo by John Sisk
One of the artists taking New York’s music scene by storm is Maluca, also known as La Maluca Mala.

Maluca is the daughter of Dominican immigrants, and was born and raised in New York City. She recently spoke to Large Up about the inspiration she gets from the city. “New York influences my music. Everyone who’s here…the style…the vernacular…inspires the kind of music that I’ve made, the lyrics that I write, the way I dress, the way I am.”

Maluca's music in many ways reflects New York’s cultural melting pot. Her beats are a mash-up of dance music from the Dominican Republic and South America, as well as Dutch house music. One thing that comes through in Maluca’s sound as well as her interviews is her extensive knowledge of music from all over the map. Maluca digs through thrift store record crates for various forms of cumbia music, and points out the African roots of sounds from the Dominican Republic and other parts of the Caribbean.

Traveling off the beaten path to discover musical gems was part of Maluca's upbringing. In an interview with MTV's mun2 network, she says "My father used to be a DJ in the '70s and '80s. When I was kid he worked at [the record label] Delicious Vinyl ... He put me on to so much new and old stuff ... I remember feeling 'cool,' like my dad let me be part of a special club, 'cause I knew my friends weren't listening to this stuff."

Maluca photographed in New York City by Aviva Klein
The sound for Maluca's best known track, El Tigeraso, was inspired by “mambo violento”, a sped-up style of merengue music.The video for El Tigeraso takes the viewer to Audobon and West 182nd Street, an intersection in Washington Heights, the heart of New York City’s Dominican community. Maluca struts down the street wearing curlers in her hair and red high heels. But it’s when she hits a nightclub later in the evening that she really gets comfortable: she dons house slippers and socks. In her hair, a crown of beer cans serving as rollers are spray painted gold.

The song's lyrics were inspired by an issue many women deal with every day: cat calls and harassment on the street. "Dominicans call the bad boys on the corner who are up to no good – but who have mad swag – Tigeres. 'El Tigeraso' is the game or swag. Growing up, I would go visit my cousins or grandma uptown. Back then, you couldn't get from one corner to the next without those 'Tigeres' trying to holler at you. It was kinda outta control. Especially if you walked down Broadway. So the song 'El Tigeraso' is poking fun at that whole situation."

Maluca’s China Food mixtape (available as a free download on her website) is an up-tempo romp through rock, hip hop, dancehall, and Latin and Caribbean rhythms. The strength of China Food is in its fusion, and Maluca’s experimentation with music from such varied genres. Maluca's rise on the airwaves represents an exciting new chapter in music. She shares the spotlight with young musical heavyweights like Lady Gaga and M.I.A. who are cultivating a sound and a style that is all their own.