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How Migration Can Change a Musician's Path


Moving from one place to another can be a life-changing experience, sometimes driven by external circumstances beyond our control, while other times by personal choice. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating journeys of three renowned artists who built their careers in foreign countries. Our focus will be on exploring the diverse contexts in which they migrated, how their music reflects their roots, and how their art was shaped by the cultures of their adopted homes. By analyzing the stories of these musicians, we'll gain insight into how identity is a complex blend of places, people, connections, and experiences, transcending the boundaries of nationality.


Camila Cabello performing alive in Central Park
Figure 1: Camila Cabello in the Global Citizen Live Festival in 2021

We will start our analysis with Camila Cabello, a singer who was born in Cuba in 1997 and currently resides in the United States. At age five, Camilla emigrated from her country of origin to Mexico. A year later she crossed the border between Mexico and the United States to finally settle in Miami. Between 2013 and 2016 she formed the group known as "Fifth Harmony" composed of 4 other singers. After separating from the group, she began her solo career where she has to her credit several albums, collaborations, and singles, such as the world famous Señorita which accumulates millions of plays in different media. Her songs are mostly written in English rather than her native Spanish, which demonstrates how her environment of moving from one place to another influenced her music. Another point of view is that singing in English sells better in the market because it has more listeners worldwide. Camila would have probably written more songs in Spanish if she had stayed in Cuba and started and developed her career there, as it is her first language. Aside from this approach, the artist has a record called "Familia" that was released in 2022 and discusses her roots, with some songs sung in Spanish. This Spanish album demonstrates Camila's connection to her roots and country of origin while pursuing a career abroad and in another country while never forgetting where she came from. In a way, releasing an album of this style into the world broadens musical diversity by bringing something different from someone who became famous for singing in another language.


Justin Bieber during the MTV Video Music Awards of 2015
Figure 2: Justin Bieber on the MTV Video Music Awards 2015

Our second artist under analysis will be Justin Bieber, a Canadian-born musician who has become a household name in the entertainment industry. Interestingly, he gained recognition by uploading cover videos on Youtube, which later caught the attention of Scooter Braun, a former record label executive from Atlanta. Braun was impressed with Bieber's talent and made contact with him and his family. After obtaining permission from his family, Bieber, who was only 14 years old at the time, traveled to Atlanta to record his first demo. From that point on, Bieber's solo career skyrocketed in the United States, with hit songs such as Love Yourself from the album "Purpose" garnering millions of plays on digital platforms like Spotify and Youtube. Despite his international success, Bieber never forgot his Canadian roots and has often praised the country's public health care system. It is fascinating to see how Bieber's migration to the United States has contributed to his fame, as he might not have reached such heights if he had stayed in Canada. Nonetheless, his loyalty to his country of origin remains unwavering, proving that one can achieve success in a foreign land while still being proud of their roots


Jorge Drexler visiting the Berkley College in Valencia in 2020
Figure 3: Jorge Drexler at Berkley College in Valencia 2020

Another artist we are going to examine is Jorge Drexler, a Uruguayan composer born in Montevideo in 1964. Before committing entirely to music, the composer studied medicine and worked as a doctor for several years until his thirties, when he decided to devote himself entirely to music. At the time, he relocated to Madrid on the advice of world-renowned musician Joaquin Sabina, who invited him to Spain. Almost all of Drexler's musical work was created in Spain. His first two albums were commercial failures, as detailed by the author, but with his third album "Frontera," released in 1999, Drexler stated that he had his first good indication of sales and reception, but not in Spain or his native Uruguay, but in Argentina. The author began to spread and develop his successful career as a soloist in Latin America and around the world the moment he became known in this South American country.


In this article, we delved into how identity plays a significant role in music. We explored the intriguing stories of artists who were born in one country but went on to make it big in another. Let's take Camila Cabello, for instance. As a child, her family left Cuba, and this forced her to pursue her music career in the United States. Had she stayed in Cuba, her career path would have been entirely different. Perhaps she would have sung in Spanish, and her songs would have had a different feel altogether. Similarly, a young Justin Bieber moved from Canada to the United States to chase his dreams as an artist. But what if he had stayed in Canada? Would he have still become the global sensation that he is today? That is a question we can only speculate about. Then there is Jorge Drexler, who took a bold step in his thirties to leave his well-established medical career behind and move to Madrid to pursue music. This decision turned out to be the turning point in his career, and he went on to become a successful musician in Spain and Argentina. By examining these examples, we can see how an artist's environment and upbringing can shape their musical identity. The culture and language they are exposed to can have a profound influence on their music. As we can see from Camila's story, singing in English helped her develop as an artist and reach new heights of success. In conclusion, the stories of these artists show us how their first significant decision to move to a new country influenced their careers and shaped their musical identity. It is fascinating to ponder what might have been if they had stayed in their countries of origin. But regardless, their journeys are a testament to the power of music and the impact of identity on artistic expression.

Bibliography References


Hargreaves, D. Miell, D. (2002) What are musial identities, and why are they important

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/252461217_What_are_musical_identities_and_why_are_they_important


Siemann, I (2017) The impact of music on identity

https://www.thetribune.ca/sci-tech/the-impact-of-music-on-identity-032117/


Stokes, M (1995) Ethnicity, Identity and Music: The Musical Construction of Place

https://www.jstor.org/stable/899032


Waldrip, R (2021) We are what we listen to: How music makes our identity

https://www.spiceworks.com/marketing/customer-data/guest-article/we-are-what-we-listen-to-how-music-makes-our-identity/


Yhap, C (2019) The Shape of You: Music´s Impact on Identity

https://digitalcommons.ursinus.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=music_sum


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1 Comment


Anna Frost
Anna Frost
Jul 04, 2023

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