Sebastián Otero (B.A. in Ethnomusicology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies ‘19) brings an array of different creative skills to his music-making; he’s a singer, songwriter, rapper, violinist, and poet. Otero, who’s from Puerto Rico and lives there now, has spent the years since his graduation from Brown performing and creating music. In fact, his first EP, created with producer and musician Eduardo Cabra, will be coming out sometime before summer 2022.
Music has long been a central part of Otero’s life, and he spent his undergraduate years at Brown performing with various student groups as well as on his own. Instead of studying pure music, however, he decided to concentrate in ethnomusicology after taking an ethno elective during his freshman year. “I was like, this merges several of my interests -- I started to have a more anthropological lens on music making,” he says.
Studying ethnomusicology gave Otero a new language to use and new ways to think about his music. “I was developing new ethical questions and moral questions about, like, how you integrate different types of rhythms, and how you should definitely know where they came from. Ethno also gave me a lot of exposure to different music-making processes and communities around the world,” he says. Otero took theory and recording studio classes as well, sampling from all the offerings in the Department of Music to enrich his musical practice. He had “an amazing, solid creative community at Brown,” and he still works with some of the friends he made in college, like videographer Adam Hershko-RonaTas ‘18, Ana Marx ‘19, and Wes Sanders ‘15.5.
Even with the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, Otero hasn’t stopped his creative productivity, and he’s been able to work with new collaborators as well. In 2019, he connected with Eduardo Cabra, of the beloved and politically-outspoken Puerto Rican rap duo Calle 13. “Eduardo is pretty much one of my role models in terms of how to make music,” he says. “When I was eight, for example, I was a fan of Bayanga, one of his first bands, and I would go see him in concert.” Over the past two years, Otero has assisted Cabra in recording sessions, performed with his band Trending Tropics at a large music festival in the Dominican Republic, and signed to his new label, La Casa del Sombrero. Through these experiences, he’s learned a lot about performing live and the songwriting process.