Ani Cordero is a Puerto Rican singer, songwriter, drummer and activist, and all of those talents and parts of her personality are on display in her recent single “No Me Da La Fokin’ Gana”. The break-up track hooks you in from the initial rhythm, and whether you speak Spanish or don’t, the attitude and vibe of the song transcends language. Watching the video, the song takes on new meaning, becoming a protest against Neo-colonialism on her island home.
Based in New York but raised in both Georgia and Puerto Rico, Cordero brings a worldly-outlook to her music, both in her lyrical point of view and her eclectic sound. When I heard “No Me Da La Fokin’ Gana”, I knew I wanted to speak to her about the track. Thankfully, she was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the writing process, the track’s origins and its place in her upcoming album.
The Indy Review: Just to start, can you talk about what first got you interested in, and writing, music?
Ani Cordero: I started as a drummer. I’d wanted to play drums for as far back as I can remember. I don’t know why – it’s just always been a part of me. When I started high school, I joined the marching band to learn to play snare and also saved up my babysitting money and bought a drum set. From there, I joined a bunch of indie bands and played as much as I could. In my early 20’s, I joined a band called Number One Family Mover, and that band was the first one where I did a lot of touring. We got signed to a subsidiary of Sony and it was very exciting, but a few years later the singer, who I’m still very close with, decided to end the band.
At the time, I was a bit in shock. I had my identity wrapped up in that band, and also it was my only creative outlet. I suddenly felt that I was dependent on others for my creative output – and that didn’t feel right to me spiritually. Because of that, I decided to become a songwriter and that’s when I learned guitar and started writing songs.
IR: You spent your youth traveling between Atlanta, Georgia and San Juan, Puerto Rico. What were the music scenes/cultures in both places like, and what kind of inspirations did you draw from each?
AC: When I lived in Atlanta, I was frequently playing shows or going to shows. It was the 90s and there were many bands that I looked up to as a teenager and young adult. The Opal Foxx Quartet, Dirt, Magna Pop, The Jody Grind, Swimming Pool Q’s, The Rock*A*Teens, The Subsonics, my friends UltraBabyfat…plus all the music coming out of Athens. At the same time, it’s Atlanta so Southern Hip Hop was also part of my sonic landscape. I especially liked TLC, Outkast, and Arrested Development.
In Puerto Rico, I listened much more to latin music. I just felt it went more with the landscape. I would listen to my grandparent’s boleros, my uncles’ salsa and merengue, bomba and plena music, and also catch up on rock and pop from Spain, Mexico, and Argentina which would play on the rock stations in Puerto Rico. Whenever I was in Puerto Rico, I didn’t go out at all, because I was not allowed. So I didn’t really participate in the music scene there until I was an adult and could do what I wanted.
IR: Your new song “No Me Da La Fokin’ Gana” is an absolute banger. What drew me into in the first second was the drumming and rhythms. As a drummer, do you craft your songs around the percussion, or do you have a rhythm in mind when you first start writing?
AC: Absolutely. All my songs start as a vocal melody and a beat. I sing it to myself and can hear the drum parts right away. Eventually, I use the guitar to give a guide of what the chords are and sometimes some riffs or bass lines, but it always starts with voice and a beat.
IR: How were the initial seeds of “No Me Da La Fokin’ Gana” planted, and how long did it take you to finish the track?
AC: I had a friend who broke my heart, and I wrote this song as a way of processing that friendship break-up. It took a short time to write the main song – like a week. But I almost threw it away so many times because I wasn’t sure if the emotions were a place I wanted to revisit, or how it would fit with the theme of the album. Luckily, I showed it to a couple trusted friends and they insisted I keep it. I’m grateful of course!
IR: You’ve said the track is a break-up song, where “I could try to untangle who is at fault, but I don’t fucking feel like it. – I’m done.” I love this empowering ethos – has it always been how you’ve chosen to deal with “energy draining and non-productive” parts of your life, or has the song acted as a catalyst in some way towards that way of living?
AC: This idea is something that I’ve only really learned more recently. Most of my songs have a mantra-like element, and “No me da la fokin’ gana” is one of my favorites! I have been really into doing only what I want to, and I know that “I don’t feel like it” is a fine reason to say no or move on. Our time here is our most precious personal resource.
IR: In the track’s video, evidence of neo-colonialism in Puerto Rico is shown in full effect. How do you see this imagery corresponding to the song’s message?
AC: I love this video so much, because it captures the reality of what’s happening on the island. In this context, the song becomes a commentary on the troubled relationship we have with our corrupt politicians who continue to disregard the needs of the people and pander to colonial power and interests. When everything is built on corruption and lies, do you even bother trying to have a dialogue anymore?
IR: Your upcoming album that the track is on, Anamores, is bilingual. Does one language come more naturally to you when writing songs? Was “No Me Da La Fokin’ Gana” always one you constructed in Spanish?
AC: I don’t intentionally pick which language to write a song in. The songs announce themselves in the language they arrive in. Some ideas come in Spanish, some in English. “No me da la fokin’ gana,” is such a Puerto Rican expression. There’s a musical lilt to it – I love it.
I feel my feelings in Spanish, so it’s actually easier for me to write songs in Spanish. But I’ve also noticed that the storytelling or more analytical songs tend to come out more in English. That’s just how my brain is. The one song I worked hard to translate is “One Hundred Years,” which is a message to my future great-great-grandchildren. I wrote that first as a letter in English, and then translated it to Spanish, and then made a bilingual version. It was my first time doing something like that. I ended up re-writing the song three times because each version informed and improved the other versions.
IR: How does “No Me Da La Fokin’ Gana” fit in with the overarching themes/narratives of the new album?
AC: This album is about different types of love – so at first, I was unsure how this song would fit in that concept, but then I realized that self-love is the most important love from which all healthy love can grow. So, I put it in that category of self-love song!
Anamores comes out on June 9th, and you can listen to “No Me Da La Fokin’ Gana” in our A Single Sit-Down Playlist!