Soto Voce

photo by Eddie Chacon

In this stark, chilling video for “Better” — a single released by Soto Voce earlier this year — disturbing images of violence and atrocities around the world becomes the backdrop of a more immediate, front-and-center persecution. The song received some attention when it was used in an episode of the ABC-TV drama series, How To Get Away With Murder, and recently a tech/deep house Speaking in Tongues remix appeared, but the original track is a darkly shaded, angsty stunner that requires no reinterpretation. Enjoy the slow burn.

Soto Voce, now based in Los Angeles, is the collaboration of Kenny Soto, a trans woman from the inner-city of Oakland, California and Miguel De Divo, an immigrant from Colombia. Their music, a smooth yet ferocious blend of R&B, ’80s new wave and ’90s industrial music, with elements of pop and hip-hop, was born of harsh and explosive upbringings. For Soto, it was growing up in tough Oakland schools as a female soul trapped in a male body, and learning to fight back against the constant bullying and persecution. Music became a sanctuary and an outlet. As Soto explains, “By the time I was 16 I had a lot of angst and I was rebelling and music was the thing I could go to to release a lot of pain and anguish and shit like that.”

For Miguel De Vivo (formerly with Villains), musical inspiration came from the sounds of his native Colombia (Spanish salsa, merengue and vayenato), and from family hardships when they were forced to escape to L.A. after his father, a port official, refused to collaborate with Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s trafficking cartel.

Kenny and Miguel were introduced by a mutual friend and immediately bonded over their musical influences. They combined Soto’s soft and sultry to ferocious vocals with Miguel’s shimmering to incendiary synth-fueled production. A furious three-year period of creativity culminated in the birth of Soto Voce. The duo’s name is derived from the Italian phrase sotto voce, which means to purposefully lower your voice for dramatic effect. Says Soto, “there’s also the mafia situation, if the big boss walks into the room it’s like ‘be quiet’ and there’s the idea that me or the band could have that kind of effect.”

Their spirit and sound lies in the duality of what Soto calls her “hyper-sensitive feminine personality” and the resilient varrior who has had to endure life’s slings and arrows. As one grows more comfortable in one’s own skin, power and creativity can take hold and flourish. The message is “perseverance, preservation and positivity.”

Soto Voce will be releasing their debut album in 2017.

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