Buying concert tickets months in advance can definitely kill anticipation, but all of the built-up excitement rushed back into me once the lights dropped and Kali Uchis’ shadow danced across the stage.
Kali Uchis, real name Karly-Marina Loaiza, is a Colombian American singer and songwriter. I first heard her song “Loner” off of her EP “Por Vida,” released in 2015. I was immediately drawn to her soulful voice and relatable lyrics about being a recluse: “I’d rather be alone/ I don’t even want to know ya/ I don’t want to be known.”
Uchis is known for her wide-ranging sound, drawing inspiration from contemporary pop, jazz and R&B, to name a few genres. Her debut album “Isolation” was released earlier this year and reflects her eclectic music taste, as well as her dedication to conceptualizing her projects. While the focus of the images behind “Por Vida” was dreamlike blonde and bubblegum pink pastels, Uchis continues a surreal streak with “Isolation,” but turns to a more mature, silky, seductive image. The difference between the two is like day versus night mode, while still all remaining 100 percent Uchis.
Uchis’ lyrics cover a wide array of topics in “Isolation,” spanning from universally understood heartbreak to the more unique truth of growing up as a person of color and working hard to make ends meet. At the show, she spoke about her background and how watching her parents struggle to provide for themselves influenced her music.
“I got inspired by the fact that the majority of us, all of us except for the 1 percent of us, have to constantly work just to barely be able to feed ourselves,” Uchis said, as an introduction to her song “Your Teeth in My Neck.” “Meanwhile, these people in mass corporations just kick up their feet while they collect off the labor. Seeing my parents and how much they didn’t get to really live their lives the way that I feel they deserved to live [them] inspired me to write this song.” The lyrics attest to the truth of the exploitation of workers for the increasing gain of the wealthy: “Rich man keeps getting richer, taking from the poor.”
Uchis’ familiarity with this flawed system comes from not only witnessing her parents struggle, but also from experiencing her own difficulties to make it on her own. Uchis has been working since she was 14 years old and at 17, she was kicked out of her house by her father, who believed Uchis was disrespectful and needed to learn what it was like to be on her own. After that, Uchis lived in her car for some time and worked odd jobs while still attending school. The fact that she was able to forge such a successful path for herself indicates Uchis’ personal strength and perseverance.
Some of Uchis’ songs cover this topic of endurance, and Uchis constantly sends encouraging and uplifting messages to her fans. Those who struggle to get out of bed and be productive can relate to “Gotta Get Up (Interlude).” Her song “After the Storm,” featuring rapper Tyler, the Creator and musician Bootsy Collins, is an empowering anthem for those who need a reminder that you are in control of your own life and the bad times won’t last forever.
Other messages in Uchis’ songs relate to heartbreak, something to which everyone can connect. “Feel Like a Fool” is about Uchis’ difficulty with letting someone go, despite the fact that he has been cheating on her: “It’s no fun to feel like a fool/ When you learn your baby don’t belong to you.” Songs like “Tyrant” and “Killer” delve more into toxic relationships, specifically emotional manipulation that is sometimes hard to recognize. The messages in Uchis’ songs prompt fans to confront their pain and examine the truth behind the relationship.
Uchis does the most for her supporters. There have been several times in which, on her Instagram, she has offered opportunities for fans to win tickets to sold out tour dates. In alignment with her giving spirit, over the summer, Uchis had her first experience running her own charity. She visited her hometown in Colombia to contribute groceries and supplies to families going through hardships involving disabilities, illness and dispossession after fleeing from guerrilla warfare. In some cases, Uchis even provided house modifications for the families. At the end of the post she made regarding the charity, Uchis once again professed her gratitude for having the opportunity to help others through her success.
Seeing Uchis live after being her fan for some time meant a lot to me. Her music and the messages she preaches within and outside of her songs have helped me through some dark moments. I’m sure even her newest fans greatly enjoyed the performance, Uchis having prepared more developed choreography for this tour. Uchis is an important figure many young people can look up to and admire, especially young women of color. I cannot wait to see what Uchis does next.