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Buscabulla offers electro-Caribbean music for the pandemic

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Buscabulla, a Puerto Rican duo playing electro-Caribbean music, is promoting a “hymn of belonging” to lift spirits during the pandemic. The video of the group's latest single, “Mío,” includes images of the Carnaval de Ponce and the Day of the Holy Innocents, also called the Fiesta de las Máscaras de Hatillo, known for pranks, floats, drinking and loud music.

“It speaks to the Puerto Rican who is here to feel proud, to embrace a sense of belonging, to defend what is theirs,” said lead singer Raquel Berrios via videocall from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, a small town visited by surfers two hours west of San Juan.

“The sense of belonging transcends money. Sometimes it’s really hard to conceive of that now, when ... spirituality and traditions seem to go to a secondary plane,” she said. Berrios is also the group's designer, composer and DJ, while Luis Alfredo Del Valle, the other half of Buscabulla, is DJ and instrumentalist. They met in 2011 while living in Brooklyn, New York, and now have a 6-year-old daughter, Charly,

The word “buscabulla” is Puerto Rican for “troublemaker," someone looking to start fights at parties. Three years ago, Berrios and Del Valle returned to Puerto Rico — hence the title of their first LP, “Regresa,” released in May. “Mio” is one of the tracks.

When they came back, they found an island devastated after Hurricane Maria, economic crises and political turbulence. “Lots of locals are leaving, and many foreigners are coming to the country buying land, buying coasts, trying to develop without any regard to the environment,” said Berrios.

Despite those concerns and some melancholy lyrics, the tone of “Regresa,” with its synthesizers and reverbs with retro touches, is calming and warm, like a sunset on the beach. That's thanks to the sweet voice of Berrios.

“No sabemos” is one of the most electronic songs on the album, and conveys a message to persevere despite the uncertainties of 2020. “I realized that sometimes things happen in life that we didn’t plan, that end up being a hidden blessing,'' said Berrios. She called the song "an exercise of faith.”

Buscabulla had planned a tour after launching “Regresa,” but everything changed with the coronavirus. “It was a shock at the beginning, but to be honest, I also felt relieved. Having a 6-year-old girl, we would have been away from her all summer,” said Berrios.

She thinks the pandemic deepened the album's message. "In the end, the album is about accepting yourself with your mistakes and imperfections,” she said. One of the songs, “Nydia,” is dedicated to singer and TV host Nydia Caro, who Berrios said helped her “during an existential crisis and a creative block” with good advice.

As for working with her husband, Berrios said it hasn’t been easy, but they have managed to find balance. “At the beginning we used to fight a lot. There were many clashes producing, or maybe we were working a lot and that was affecting our personal life. But with time, we have identified those patterns, and being conscious of them makes it easier and helps to separate work time from family and couple time,” she said.

During the pandemic, they have also been working on a documentary about their album, and creating videos like the one of their virtual concert for NPR’s recently premiered series “Tiny Desk.” They also help their daughter with online classes.

“Here at home, we have lots of materials for crafts and many books to learn to write,” said Berrios, showing a table with scissors and cardboards. “We’ll need vacations after this year.”