Catch iLe at SXSW at 11 p.m. at The Townsend Thursday; 10:20 p.m. at Half Step Friday
At 16 years old, Ileana Cabra stepped into the huge spotlight that her brothers created when they formed the alternative rap duo Calle 13 about a decade ago. As the female backing vocalist, Cabra or PG-13 (as she was known back then) grew up on stage, touring extensively as the group’s fame exploded.
“It was unexpected for us,” she says. “It got very intense, very quickly.” Calle 13 is the name of the street where the family lived, and they moved there because of her, she says. When she was born, the family needed a house with more space. “Our house was always full of art and music,” Cabra says.
But after more than a decade of Grammy winning-albums that catapulted the group to new heights, Calle 13 recently dissolved. Cabra and her brothers Rene Pérez Joglar “Residente” and Eduardo Cabra “Visitante” are now all pursuing their own creative paths.
“We’re still working together in the background, though,” Cabra says. “We still need each other, and I love working with my family.”
This new chapter has meant a solo career for Cabra, whose debut album “iLevitable” recently earned her a Grammy of her own. At South by Southwest this week, Cabra will bring her own vintage, nostalgic sound at several showcases Friday and Saturday.
Cabra says she feels a closeness to the music of yesteryear. Her latest album includes two songs written by her grandmother that had never been recorded. “I feel that’s music from the heart, it’s a more personal.” Since going solo, Cabra has also been writing more. It’s something that she says helps her let go of baggage she accumulates and hopes it helps other women who may struggle with expressing themselves.
With Calle 13, Cabra says she gained confidence as a person and performer. Now as a soloist, she’s learning to trust herself more. “I really want to create more music,” she says. “I want to feel challenged and uncomfortable so that I can explore more of myself.”