Her name is Karen, but in high school in Minnesota nobody could pronounce it right. The closest thing to the cultural references of her schoolmates was the name “Pablito” and by putting the two together the young Ecuadorian girl began to forge an identity that today is her nom de guerre.
With the release of her new track “Corazón Partido” dropping today, Kablito has become one of the freshest Latin beat voices in the United States.
But the road has been long and diverse.
Kablito was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and immigrated to the United States when she was still a child. Her story, like that of so many Latinos in the country, was one of journeys in search of opportunities and radical change for the family.
Along with her mother, the singer arrived to “a very white town” in Minnesota, not knowing how to speak English well and being one of the few people of color in school. It was then that music began to weave connections to her new home.
“When I was younger I was still writing in Spanish because I picked up the guitar when I was really young,” she remembers. “When I moved to Minnesota I wanted to do Latin music but it felt weird.”
Like so many girls of her generation, Kablito grew up with the albums of a rocker Shakira, a Natalia Lafourcade who sang “En El 2000” and, of course, soap operas, a background that would lay the foundation for her sound over the years.
“I always listened to music in Spanish, from Selena to Shakira,” she adds. “In the beginning, the music I made at home as a child was more folk, and I think Shakira’s early albums have profoundly influenced my background. But as I evolved, lived in different places and experimented with different sounds, things have changed.”
After studying music composition and education at McNally Smith College of Music in Saint Paul, Kablito took a turn in her professional life, searching for that sound that could merge her two worlds.
“I ended up moving to New York, where I stayed two and half years. I taught myself how to use Ableton, trying to learn how to write better and how to record music on my own,” she told us.
What she now describes as “urban pop in Spanish” has been a process of personal discovery through music.
“When I was in New York I was trying to do the production thing myself. I realized that there was a big gap in women not doing production. All the producers are mostly men, especially in the Latin space,” she told us about her first steps. “But then I realized that my gift is writing, that’s where I’m best at. I can sit down and write a song, no problem. It’s something I was born with, whereas production is something really complex. I wanted to be good at one thing versus trying a bit of everything.”
Hence, her indie and alternative music influences began to seek a stronger rhythm, a bass line that would set the tone.
“The sound evolved with every state I lived in. Like, for example, Minnesota isn’t a very diverse state. There weren’t many Latin people, especially in school. I think I was one of the few Latino kids in school. I was born in Ecuador.”
It would be Los Angeles the city where she would finally find the middle ground and be able to “make music that both Latinos and Americans can listen to.”
“I first started doing some indie music with some artists here in LA. That’s when I realized I really wanted to do this music thing seriously,” she confessed. “I started by doing sessions with people. At the beginning it was just with my friends. Then I recorded Telenovela, and I’ve been expanding my sound ever since.”
The singer refers to her 2018 EP, a collection of sounds inspired by 1990s R&B, which opened the door to collaborations with producers such as Tainy, DVLP, and Samuel Kareem.
In this way, and only a year later, the artist released the singles “Vete de Aquí” and “Yo Nunca Te Quise,“ which finally catapulted her career and put her on the radar of industry giants like J Balvin and C. Tangana.
This new stage allowed Kablito to connect with the Latin scene in her new city, fueling both her music library and her desire to do something different.
“Right now, there is so much room for Latino women in general,” she said. “I think it’s such a good time for making music and changing this scene. You sometimes feel like all the artists are doing the same song. But right now, it’s a really interesting time, because Latin music has the space, and it’s shifting towards this other place where we can be a bit freer and take a little bit more risks.”
The singer assures that Latin music needed precisely the breakthrough of artists like Rosalía, “someone who could represent a Latin girl.”
Without falling into debates about Latinity — since it is clear that, for Kablito, identity has no boundaries — the artist is convinced that it is precisely the opportunity to “be more out there” that translates into a responsibility for the new urban voices.
“For me, I really think we have to represent. When I was a teenager I didn’t have someone that I felt like I could necessarily look up to completely. I never felt someone represented me,” she concludes. “I think we need to be more out there.”
And that’s precisely what she’s doing.