Fémina – an Argentinian female trio – channel blissed out, harmony-soaked soul music with a purpose. Lyrically poignant with hip hop and Latin folk major influences, ‘Perlas & Conchas’ is the group’s third album proper and unlike previous long players, is primarily an electronic statement, recorded and produced by British producer and musician Quantic – the first ever creation at his Selva Studios in New York.
The Latin word for “woman”, their name ‘Fémina’ is a simple declaration of their proud stance as a band of three females, something which set them apart when they first started performing in Argentina. Originating from the beautiful mountain town of San Martín de los Andes in the southern region of Patagonia, the group sings in Spanish waxing on themes of gender equality and race.
After their debut in 2011 with Deshice De Mi, their sophomore album, Traspasa (2014), notched up nearly 6 million plays on Spotify with the song “Buen Viaje”. Since then Fémina have grown the world-over garnering praise from Rolling Stone, Billboard and KEXP racking up hundreds of thousands of online plays. After rock legend Iggy Pop repeatedly featured Fémina on his BBC 6Music radio show, they were invited to his home in Miami whilst on tour in the US, laying the groundwork for their collaboration on the new album.
The title “Perlas & Conchas” translates to ‘Pearls and Shells’, a reference to the process through which a pearl is created a speck of dirt, encased in a shell, turned into an object of wonder. They want to do the same thing with their music to take dark, difficult situations and turn them into positivity. The title also has another, closely connected meaning, “concha” often being used in Argentina to refer to the female anatomy.
Made up of Clara Miglioli and the two Trucco sisters, Sofia and Clara, their roots are in San Martín de los Andes in the Patagonian mountains, where they grew up together sharing a love of ‘90s hip-hop imported from the US – as well as the occasional Spanish-speaking rapper from Mexico or Spain. When they started, they were one of the few all-female groups in the scene, something which they’ve been proud to see changing. Sofia and Clara Miglioli moved to Buenos Aires in 2004, intending to pursue careers in theatre and dance, where they first started the group, staying close to their early rap roots; they made music with Koxmoz, a group in the city’s then small but close-knit hip-hop scene. Sofia’s younger sister, Clara “Wen” Trucco, joined in 2008, which is when they took a sidestep in their musical style. Instead of raps over hip-hop instrumentals, they began drawing on vocal harmonies and playing live instruments such as the ronroco from Bolivia – a process that led them toward their unique style a combination of soul, hip-hop and traditional Latin American folk music.
Quantic’s deep musical knowledge helped bring to life the many and varied ideas which came out of their sessions together, realising their vision for an “obra completa” – a complete work, an expansive, cohesive collection of their different influences. “The idea from the beginning was to get together and experiment, the four of us,” Sofia says. Multi–talented with immense experience as a producer, remixer and musician, Quantic’s previous credits include the Quantic Soul Orchestra (Tru Thoughts) and inter-generational Colombian supergroup Ondatrópica (Soundway). His experience as a keen outsider to Latin American music made him the perfect foil for the group’s globally-minded ambitions a sound rooted in the history of their home continent but shaped into new and exciting forms.
Their music builds on intellectual foundations with a sensual impulse. This ranges from influences of surrealist poetry to the writings of 19th century essayist Henry David Thoreau, using different viewpoints helping to hone their unique perspective. It’s expressed in the diversity of the music they’ve produced, from ‘Brillando’, with its meditative, harmonised vocals, to ‘Resist’, where a rumbling, trap-tilted beat is given extra emotional heft by Iggy Pop’s vocal. On ‘Arriba’, meanwhile, traditional influences are fed through a funk-influenced groove, and on ‘Plumas’, they wear their electronic influences on their sleeve, the track driven by a drum machine rhythm.
They use music as the vehicle for these different ideas, a direct hotline to people’s emotions that opens them up to new ways of thinking. “We want to go with the music to a place that makes you feel good,” they say, “something that makes you feel pleasure and something profound.”
For that reason, they try to tackle the difficult or divisive subjects – to take specks of dirt and turn them into pearls.
“Fémina are just terrific.”
– Iggy Pop, US