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Whether Ximena Sariñana is enjoying a night out dancing with girlfriends, hanging with a big group at a party, or at home by herself blasting music on the stereo, she has one mantra: “As long as you’re in the right headspace, then everything is fun.”
That’s the energy Sariñana, a Mexico-based singer and songwriter, wanted to capture with her newest album ¿Dónde Bailarán las Niñas? (in English, “Where do the girls dance?”), which dropped on March 1.
She sat down with the Daily Dot between her shows at SXSW last week to talk about her album and her journey to make it, framed by a shifting atmosphere for Latina artists.
“I think it’s an album that found me in a place and time when I was just really happy with everything around me,” Sariñana told the Daily Dot. “Especially coming to terms with the aspect of being a woman.”
But, she clarified, not what it’s like to be a woman in the entertainment industry, which is something Sariñana has known for a long time. She grew up acting in telenovelas before transitioning to music. In 2008, her first album Mediocre was nominated for a Grammy.
Her newest project, though, came after Sariñana became a mother and started thinking about intentionally cultivating “feminine spaces.”
“I kind of wanted to create music that would represent that and that other women or other girls could listen to it and not only feel identified but also feel that they felt good about themselves just by listening to it and feeling represented by it,” she said.
The female representation in ¿Dónde Bailarán las Niñas? is both figurative and literal, as it features collaborations with Brazilian singer-songwriter IZA; Mexican R&B and trap artist Girl Ultra; and American-Chilean singer Francisca Valenzuela, who founded a woman-centered music festival and collective called Ruidosa.
“They’re doing a lot in their countries, kind of breaking barriers with who they are and what they represent,” Sariñana said.
On her track “Si Tú Te Vas,” Sariñana worked with producers Andrés Torres and Mauricio Rengifo, who broke a different kind of barrier with “Despacito,” the 2017 summer smash single that surpassed 1 billion streams on Spotify and broke a YouTube record.
Sariñana said her collab with the duo came before they knew what massive global success “Despacito” would have. But it’s encouraging to see more and more Latin representation on U.S. charts and lineups.
“I think you become a little bit less surprised by that kind of thing because really it’s something that happens sometimes in such a random way,” Sariñana said. “Of course ‘Despacito’ is such an amazing song, but they’ve written a lot of other really amazing songs. Suddenly, something happens where one particular audience connects with a lot of people. It’s just really, wow, interesting to watch.”
SXSW itself had a heavy Latin lineup this year, with acts including Texas native Gina Chavez, Venezuelan pop artist Lolita de Sola, and reggaetón star J. Balvin. When it comes to her own music, Sariñana said she appreciates the unique relationship to her U.S. audience—which since her songs are sung in Spanish—is often formed via her beats, melodies, or her voice.
“They don’t necessarily understand the lyrics,” she said. “But it’s really interesting to see people connect, and it’s wonderful that music is like that. Music connects independently, [no matter] what language a song is sung in. It’s great.”
And she’s inspired by shifts in social movements, which she said despite being “polarizing” are also opening people’s eyes and ears to other music genres, other cultures, and other ways of understanding the world.
“I love that all these movements are happening. I love that people are becoming more and more conscious,” Sariñana said. “I just think it’s such a positive time to be a woman in the music industry and be a Latina in the music industry.”
Kris Seavers is the IRL editor for the Daily Dot. Her work has appeared in Central Texas publications, including Austin Monthly and San Antonio Magazine, and on NPR.