Stephanie Santiago

The smell of cloves and cinnamon, the taste of café con panela (sweetened coffee), the sound of cumbia, the warmth of the accordion, and plenty of glasses filled with rum and guaro (liqueur), are just some of the things that remind Stephanie Santiago of her land, all detailed in the opening lyrics to “Alma Carnavalera”, the title track of her latest EP; it’s a song which sees her pine for the Colombia of her roots.

Born in South London to Colombian musician parents – her father an accordionist, her mother a singer – cumbia and salsa filled Stephanie’s childhood. But like anyone, she needed to find her own way, to discover London’s multifarious subcultures, to get lost in the energies of youth music. Her early work reflects this, with forays into soul, jazz, reggaeton, even punk, opportunities to experiment but also refine an inherent talent for songwriting and an ability to inhabit songs with her voice.

Stephanie Santiago Featured Image

Glimpses of Latin music have emerged in her music before – it would be impossible for them not to – but this new EP signals a new chapter in her career in which her heritage and search for identity are brought to the fore. Produced by Andrés Pascua, her new sound has a strong foundation in jazz and soul, driven by the hip swaying cumbia groove woven around funk basslines whilst Santiago’s voice cannot hide its admiration for master female Colombian vocalists like Petrona Martinez, dancing around the melodies, powerful when it needs to be. 

The Alma Carnavalera EP is the first in a series of releases from Stephanie Santiago that will see her explore her Colombian heritage, revealing a new sound informed by life in London and Latin American lineage. Home has always been in Stephanie’s heart, now we get to hear it.