Wakyin in Conversation: Exploring the Fusion of Cultures in Music

Mar 13, 2024

Photo of Michela Iosipov

Michela Iosipov

10 min read

What do you get when genres blend and cultures converge? You get tracks rich in substance, echoing across the globe's most scenic locales, and you get Wakyin. A name that has carved its niche with an unmistakable sound that bridges the vibrant rhythms of his Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage with the global appeal of contemporary music. Christian Rivera-Joaquin, the rising star behind the moniker, has seen a meteoric rise in the music scene, not just for his addicting beats but for his ability to tell a story through his melodies, a talent that has garnered him over 2 million Spotify streams and a dedicated following on TikTok.

Wakyin's journey into music, starting from humble beginnings with a jailbroken version of FL Studio on an iPod touch to a full-fledged career that refuses to be boxed into a 9-5 lifestyle, demonstrates that the young artist is fully committed to his career, pushing forward with serious momentum. His recent collaboration with Gordo, a massive name in house music, and a successful tour have only solidified his place in the music world, showcasing his talent on international stages and proving that his music resonates across borders.

His latest album, "Caras," is a culmination of years of exploration and inspiration, drawing from a wide array of influences, from classic Caribbean artists to modern-day icons. It's a project that not only represents his versatility as an artist but also his depth, with each track offering a glimpse into the different facets of his identity and musicality.

In this exclusive interview, Wakyin opens up about his musical journey, the inspirations behind his unique sound, and the experiences that have shaped him as an artist. From his first exhilarating encounters with dance music to the serene moments of peace he finds in nature and music, Wakyin's story is one of relentless pursuit, creative fusion, and the unifying power of music. Join us as we explore the thoughts of an artist who isn't just creating ripples in the music scene but is shaping the future of music, one beat at a time.

When did you get started with music, and at what point did you start taking it seriously?

I began making music around 10 years ago. I started with a jailbroken version of FL Studio mobile on my iPod touch and eventually was given a laptop with a copy of FL Studio 10. It has been an on-and-off journey, as I would always treat music as a “plan B,” even though I knew it was my passion. I think finishing my undergrad at the University of Central Florida lit the fire I always had for music, and starting a career as a Teacher/Coach made me realize quickly the 9-5 lifestyle was not for me.

How do you blend your Dominican and Puerto Rican roots with different music styles to create your own sound?

I think it all stems from the inspiration I get from listening to music from my culture. I am always crate digging and listening to classic Caribbean artists like Wilfredo Vargas and Frankie Ruiz, but also grew up listening to 80’s freestyle, thanks to my pops. I’ve always loved Afro-Latino percussion, from Congas and Tamboras to Timbales and Campanas, so I make sure to incorporate those elements into the music I create.

Can you describe an experience that made you realize you wanted to pursue music professionally?

An experience I remember vividly that influenced my desire to pursue music was my first Electronic concert when I was 16. Thanks to a close friend of mine, Tristan, I was introduced to Steve Aoki. We went to his concert at UCF, and I remember arriving late to meet up with my friends. As I walked into the Arena, Aoki’s “Pursuit of Happiness” remix started playing, the crowd was roaring, the music was blaring, and the light show was absolutely insane.

I remember standing at the top of the seats, completely forgot I was supposed to meet with my friends, and was soaking in the moment. Seeing Steve Aoki throwing cakes and jumping on stage with a sea of people going crazy made me realize, I wanted a moment like that with me on stage and hundreds singing one of my songs.

How do you stay connected to your roots while appealing to a global audience?

I believe that continuing to be true to myself and creating music I genuinely enjoy will attract those with similar tastes as me. Also, I’m Latino… Latin is Pop… Pop is worldwide ;)

What was it like sharing a stage with Gordo, and how has he influenced your music and career?

Sharing a stage with Gordo is nothing but surreal. I went from seeing him GA at Taraka Orlando last year to going b2b with him in a cave in Ecuador a year later. Gordo has always been an inspiration, especially being an Afro-Latino DJ, playing and producing the music HE enjoys on some of the world's biggest stages made me feel like if he can do it, so can I.

Aside from Gordo, which artists have you drawn inspiration from?

I’ve drawn inspiration from so many artists; if I were to list them, this would be a never-ending list haha. But some artists I get inspiration from currently have to be Keinemusik, Caleb Calloway, Pablo Fierro, Maz, and Vxsion.

How has the success of your songs on TikTok impacted people noticing your music?

TikTok is such a powerful platform to post on. People are dedicated to finding songs once they are teased and will generate traffic to all other socials. My previous songs' streams have significantly gone up, and I’ve created new fans from older music of mine.

With over 2 million Spotify streams, how do you plan to leverage this success for your future projects?

It is definitely cool to look at and monitor the progress, but I try not to let that number get to my head. I now have millions watching and know it’s important to make my fans happy with releasing songs they will enjoy. Having millions anticipating future releases definitely creates some pressure, but I'm confident my fans will enjoy what’s next. I don’t see it so much as leverage but as an indicator to stay consistent and continue to put in the work.

Can you share a memorable moment from any of your sets or the parties you played that made you love what you do even more than you already do?

There are so many more memories to make, but one that will always stand out was spinning at Attic Nightclub with one of my best friends, @LESSAINTT, during EDC Orlando mini music week. We had a flawless night, the club was packed, the energy was like no other, and the people were singing the songs all night.

I remember we played “Don’t You Worry Child,” and when it dropped, the CO2 cannons came out, and we were jumping up and down with smiles from ear to ear as if we were playing Ultra MainStage. Those moments being shared with people you love and creating memories for others that go out to have a good time is what keeps me going.

What’s the backstory behind the album you dropped in 2023? How long were you working on ‘Caras’ for, and where did you draw inspiration from?

Caras has been an album concept of mine since 2018. I’ve been journaling ideas I've had for my album since, jotting down genres and song titles. During COVID, I hit a rut and wasn’t making much music, but the little bit I did turned into samples and concepts for Caras. I started arranging the album in 2021 and dedicated my free time from fall of 2022 to summer of 2023 to finish it all. I would work on my album in-between my athletes' baseball games and even in the classroom on days my students wouldn’t have “outside days.”

“Caras,” which is Spanish for “Faces,” is about the faces I wear in relation to my music. It incorporates inspiration from Reggaeton to Afro-beat and even uses my own vocals in the majority of the album. Every song has its own unique “Face” or vibe that progresses from getting into my car and heading to the beach (Amanecer Intro) into a sunset (Midsummer Interlude) onto the late-night drive back from it all, questioning “Am I Enough”. My album takes inspiration from Drake, Bad Bunny, and Rauw Alejandro, while paying homage to Reggaeton and the Afro & Latino Culture.

Out of all the tracks you have out, which one is your favorite?

They are all my babies, but it would have to be between “Am I Enough?” or “Pa Que Goce.” Both on my album Caras. “Am I enough?” was the question I would ask myself redundantly during the process of choosing a career or music; it's also the only song I have ever made a music video for. “Pa Que Goce” has a mixture of two of my favorite genres, Reggaeton and House, and is a complete vibe. They both use my vocals, I was always insecure about, but it's been amazing seeing how people respond to those in particular.

In what ways do you engage with your fans, and how important is this interaction to you?

I try to engage with my fans as much as I can on social media. It gets difficult at times because I get so many notifications from all platforms that I don’t want to live on socials but make sure when I get the chance I reply to them and even give some advice when they ask because I know what it's like trying to be seen by artists you admire.

Are there any artists or producers you dream of collaborating with in the future?

I dream of collaborations every day, definitely not limited to, Drake, The Weeknd, Rauw, Bad Bunny, Tainy, Feid, Rosalía. If you can put me on to any of these, don’t hesitate to reach out haha.

If you could only listen to three tracks for the rest of your life, which ones would it be and why?

Major Lazer, Dj Snake, MØ - Lean On (such a feel-good song and reminds me of some great times)

The Weeknd, Drake - The Zone (Two of the goats, need I say more?)

Dimension Latina - Llorarás (I always have this song stuck in my head for some reason; it's obviously a classic and a banger)

When do you feel the most at peace?

I feel the most at peace when I am home, sitting on my patio, soaking up some rays from the sun while writing or listening to new music. Nature and music are my peace.

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