Still under 30 years old, Jean Carlos Santiago, also known as Guaynaa, has gone further than he ever imagined by becoming one of the most acclaimed artists in the urbano genre. From sharing covers of songs on his social networks to stardom, he is now enjoying the release of his first album ‘La República”, which is a mixture of everything he has learned through his travels. The new record will be released on October 29.
This exciting chapter in his musical career is only just beginning, and when the Puerto Rican singer spoke with HOLA! USA, he shared how the importance of good examples from his loved ones has grounded him, the emotion behind highlighting gypsy culture and of course, he spoke about the woman that inspires him daily, Lele Pons.
Answering questions humbly and with sincerity, Guaynaa is aware that there are two concepts he follows to achieve his professional goals in the difficult and competitive music industry: values and education.
‘La República’ is his first official album and consists of 18 songs and the result of this sound exploration has transformed him as a human being.
His songs have transcended cultural barriers showing significant consumption in countries including Vietnam and Slovakia, not to mention Latin America. You don’t want to miss this interview!
“At the end of the day I believe that values and education take you anywhere and the doors open for you. With dedication, discipline and talent, one reaches certain goals, but education and values are what open the doors for you.”
I’m very happy! I think we completed this album in a reasonable time. We traveled several times and had interactions with different cultures, different sounds, and new friendships as well. This is all reflected in this album and I feel ready to show a bit of myself.
There are two: values and education. I did things in this album that I never imagined I could’ve have done. I have a collaboration with Los Ángeles Azules, with India Martínez, and Eduardo Cabra - he is a well known producer of great caliber. At the end of the day I believe that values and education take you anywhere and doors open for you. With dedication, discipline and talent, one reaches certain goals, but education and values are what open doors for you.
“I’m family oriented. I don’t go out much; I don’t have much social interaction and my friends and they are just like me.”
I’m family oriented. I don’t go out much; I don’t have much social interaction and my friends and they are just like me. It depends a lot on the personal circle with which you surround yourself, my immediate circle is obviously my family, but after that there are my friends like Danny Ocean, here I have Mau and Ricky, my girlfriend, who are just like me, they have their family as well. Producers like Andy Clay, Edgar Barrera, they are very down-to-earth as well and outside of music as well, friends and actors, athletes. I think it depends on what you surround yourself with, how my grandmother used to say: “Tell me who you hang out with and I‘ll tell you who you are”
It was part of a vision, it was deciding what I want the most for myself, what represents me the most. I think it would be very unfair to release a first album, which basically describes your work in the sound, composition and visual, etc., without knowing what you want or what you feel comfortable with.
Possibly, an album with all these genres fused has never been made, there is also ballad, pop, flamenco, and even a collaboration with a French singer/songwriter named Poupie. It was quite interesting because apart from the fact that you are learning about cultures… I went to Spain and recorded flamenco fused with reggaeton, I was at gypsy parties and I learned things that make you have chills and that bring you to tears. Besides, you are taking your platform and teaching your followers that there is something, that it is not necessarily what you do or what they know you for, that it is amazing, with people who do it and have talent. I think that is a very significant way of creating culture and bringing it to the fore, that is why I did it.
A song called ‘Payo’. This is the most special collaboration and it’s with India Martínez.
For gypsies, the term ‘Payo’ means someone who is not a gypsy. For example, if you and I are Latinos, and someone from outside comes, we call them a name. The gypsies call those who come from outside the ‘payos’. When we did this song, I arrived in Seville on a Monday and we were already planning a video. We had nothing, only a YouTube track that was a reference and the choir voices. That Monday, I arrived, and we began to record the strings, on Tuesday the percussion, on Wednesday we began to record the gypsies, on Thursday India Martínez recorded and I recorded as well, and on Friday we made the video. While we were doing the song, we were realizing what it represented. Apart from the song being a tribute to gypsy culture, which is a fairly broad topic, and if we talk about it, we would never finish, the gypsies were not protected by the Spanish Constitution.
Gypsy women were healers but they were said to be witches when they came to heal slaves or Indians, regardless they killed them anyway, it was a very delicate subject. Over time they were assimilated but it does not mean it was not their story and roots. It is important for us to return to our roots in a positive way and sing about the beautiful things that the gypsy culture represents. The song is about a ‘payo’ who arrives and falls in love with a gypsy woman, and this goes against the norms; in love there are no rules. I think that India Martínez represents that culture very well, we did it with great respect, the subject is very inclusive, both in the rhythm and visual composition. It was a very cultural combination, very beautiful, we cried writing it. It was something so special.
I feel happy. Hopefully the song will be important perhaps it will not become mainstream as it does not speak or have the rhythm or characteristics of a mainstream song. I feel happy with my art, with my knowledge and with my composition. Besides singing for the club, I am also singing for social issues. I feel very satisfied and I think I do it to leave my legacy, not so much for the respect because when people listen to this song they will probably say: “wow”! We went to another level; they have a special talent ”and they start to see you differently’. I do it for my legacy and to teach those who come after me to continue contributing to cultures.
“Success for me has been having the ability to heal, having the ability to identify what is good for me and what is not good for me.”
I would say that success for me has been having the ability to heal, having the ability to identify what is good for me and what is not good for me. If you measure success by fame, by money and by likes, cool. I measure success by how healty or happy I am, and also you measure succes with your work.
Music changed me and there was a transformation in me as a person. Before I was not what I am today, now I’m a disciplined, determined, quite respectful boy with values. I had them before but I was in that first phase of questioning what do I do? I think that is the success that music has brought me at my 29 years of age. Having the ability to assimilate what you represent, but with your feet on the ground.
I would like to travel more. I am not luxurious, my house is not the most luxurious in the world. I would like to travel to see cultures and to experience and grow as a person. I’m a nomad, I love to travel, what I don’t like are airplanes (laughs). So on the personal side, travel a little longer. I would say I’m considering a family, marriage and children, I think when I’m a couple of years older, touring and stuff. I would like to go to Alaska, where there is one of those very beautiful spiritual and energy retreats, Canada, Mexico, Peru. I feel that I have a lot to contribute to the world, I would like to move from place to place.
Keep fighting, keep working hard and don’t give up. You have to keep fighting for what you want. Many things are going to happen, but to let himself go foward and know I’m very proud of him.