Catalina Maria Johnson

International radio broadcaster, bilingual cultural journalist, music curator

Kat Dahlia punctuates her expressions with an intense force that is also characteristic of her fierce brand of tropical hip hop, and when she says, “I want people to learn from the lessons I’ve learned, the mistakes that I made, I think that´s the only way to turn a wrong doing and doing something positive!”, you absolutely believe her.

The 23-year old singer songwriter from Miami, daughter of Cuban immigrants of Lebanese background and one of six siblings, combines pop, hip hop and reggae in explosive mixtures that tell stories of taking on all sorts of challenges and not just surviving, but doing so with style, grace and loads of sass.

Many of the difficult moments that are revealed in her anthems such as Gangsta (nine million views on Youtube, and counting) are based on personal experiences, says Dahlia. By phone from Miami, she explains that she learned that… “I had allowed myself to be abused by others, and I abused myself as well, just kind of by not taking care of myself, even my own health. Or even my pride getting in the way, so I had to take myself off a pedestal and assess the situation in a different way.

Dahlia’s songs are windows into her own experiences and emotions, and the verses pour out smart and tough yet with subtle touches of vulnerability. It’s all about the human condition, she says. “Society tells us what we should be like. I’m seeking the truth about what life is all about, why are we here? What is our true purpose? Instead of being with the norm, being like another cow in a herd of cattle, going through that big gate like all the other cows!”

Her melodies flow influenced by blues, R&B and Elvis, with touches of the classic Latin music most 2nd Gen Latinos are exposed to through their parents, in her case, Tito Puente, Buena Vista Social Club, Celia Cruz and Héctor Lavoe. All of these strains make their way into her tunes. Take for instance, her take on Celia Cruz’s “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” which Kat sings bilingually, and in one acoustic live version, paraphrases to entone “¡La blanca tiene tumbao!”

Along the way, Dahlia has a musical vision she hopes to share, “In the world, every day goes by and there is a shadow cast that’s getting darker and darker. and the theme of light and righteousness its just getting smaller and smaller, it’s more and more about material things. If I can create music that can shed some light, well that’s exactly what i want to do.”
Kat Dahlia will perform at Schuba’s February 26 at 8pm.

Explore nuestra cultura and música with Catalina’s weekly show Beat Latino. On Facebook,  and Itunes, and archived  with playlist every week!