South America’s most audacious pop export, sometimes eats worms
A first day at school is daunting for most, but for Lao Ra it became a statement of intent. In front of the entire class at her school in Bogotá, Colombia, she picked up a worm from the ground and ate it in one go. “I had to do something to have people respect me,” she says. “I wouldn’t do that today, though – that’s f**king gross.”
This story encapsulates everything great about the 25-year-old. Her music is a fiery mix of bombastic pop music, with a welcome Latin twist – but she doesn’t play by any rules other than her own. Her 2016 debut EP featured the rebellious ‘Jesus Made Me Bad’, and her live shows are proving to be the hottest ticket in town. “When I play, I’m a fireball,” she says.
She had enough time to stoke that fire, though. A move to the UK at age 18 saw Ra live in Guildford briefly and then take on odd-jobs as a carer, a breast model and doing PR for a smoke alarm company – basically everything apart from making music. It was a chance meeting with her now-manager at a London curry house in 2015 that saw her finally unleash her musical potential: “I started to do exactly what I wanted, without any kind of restrictions.”
Since then, she’s released a string of intoxicating singles – including the M.I.A.-esque ‘Bala’ and the dance-pop banger ‘Body Bounce’. It’s ‘Bang Boom’, though, where Lao Ra really cements her reputation. “Bang, shot me down / But I’m a pitbull, boom / Like a shark I’m gonna eat you,” she warns in the song’s chorus. Now, with a new single on the horizon, she’s ready to take the next step and give her self-coined brand of “pineapple pop” a little kick. “I’m going in for the kill,” she says. “I feel like my sound has matured. It’s more like piña colada now – it’s got that little rum twist. I wanna get you all drunk!” We’ll drink to that.
Lao Ra plays NME & BFI present CineJam supported By Zig-Zag at Rooftop Film Club, Peckham, a series of summer music and film events curated by Bastille’s Dan Smith.
From: Bogotá, Colombia
Buy: ‘Body Bounce’ is out now
Live: NME & BFI CineJam, London (Aug 27)
Best Track: ‘Body Bounce’ – A delicious blend of big beats and tropical trumpets.
Strange But True: Lao Ra has matching Real Madrid tattoos with her three brothers and father. It was, of course, her idea.
For Fans Of: M.I.A, Major Lazer