Argentina's First Lady of Roots Reggae Tells It Like It Is
Name: Alika & Nueva Alianza
Where They’re From: Buenos Aires, Argentina
When They Started: 1999
Genre: Reggae Villera
Sounds Like: Sampling the yerba mate, if you know what I mean.
Tango, red wine, serious looking people smoking cigarettes in ostentatious cafes: take any guide-book generalization about Argentina, and it’s wide cultural gulf from a Jamaican rasta yard. Yet a little reggae dancehall scene thrives in the land of the gauchos, and Alika & Nueva Alianza have been at the forefront of it for quite a while. Look though Alika’s videos, and you’ll soon realize she’s repping for a side of Argentina that the guidebooks rarely speak of: the gritty street life of the so-called villas miserias that have swelled since the 2001 financial crisis; the deserts and salt flats of the country’s poor Northeast (see the video for “Jenjibre” below)
Alika herself is serious about the music – she’s a committed Rastafarian and stays on the Nyabinghi message in her lyrics. Alika (real name Alicia Dal Monte) was born in Uruguay of Paraguayan heritage, and grew up in a rough neighborhood on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. In the ‘90s, she was one of the early members of the Argentinean hip-hop scene as part of the group Actitud Maria Marta, establishing herself as one of her country’s most formidable MC’s. With time, she went deeper into reggae and in 1999 formed Alika & Nueva Alianza.
Alika has done a lot of straight ahead roots reggae and dancehall, but she’s also been savvy to regularly mix it up with cumbia, the most popular sound in Argentina’s working-class and, now, a touchstone for the country’s hip beat-scene heads as well (see: ZZK ). Since 2001, she’s put out five irie albums, including a dutty collaboration with dub genius Mad Professor. Today, she says she is done with the album format, and has been releasing individual songs, often giving them away for free through her site. Just a few months ago she dropped a new single, “Jenjibre” a dukes-up hip-hop anthem reminiscent of Spanish rapstress La Mala Rodriguez at her best. Peep it below.