Childhood Sounds: Carolina Montano

Sofie Araya

Childhood Sounds is a Method series exploring how the music we grow up with grows with us; how culture and sound are inextricably linked, and what it means to carry these songs with us to college.

I’ve always believed that the music someone listens to can tell you something essential about who they are as a person. Music has the impeccable power to unify and create bonds between us and others, especially when taking into account music from decades ago. It’s an amazing sight to see people from different generations singing together to a song by Al Green or Pink Floyd.

Since coming to Wesleyan, I've discovered dozens more artists from my friends, whether that be from parties, listening to music on Foss Hill, or looking through their Spotify playlists. You can regularly see me sitting in Pi Cafe Shazaming songs playing on the speakers. In a separate article I wrote for The Artifex, I talked briefly about the influence the artists I listened to while growing up had on my relationship with music. In this article, I interview Carolina Montano ’21, also known as Caro, for the first installment in a series where I talk to members of the Wesleyan community about the music they listened to during their childhood and how that has impacted them as young adults today.

Below is a transcription of our conversation.

Where are you from?

Miami, Florida. But my family is from Cuba. My mom and her parents came in 1980 in the Mariel boatlift. My dad came in 1994.  

What’s the first song you think of that reminds you of home?

The first song ever that i remember listening to is “Obsesión” by Aventura. That’s what all my cousins were listening to at the time. They’re all a lot older than me.
What’s a song that would make you want to call your family immediately and tell them, “they’re playing this song at Wesleyan, OMG!”?

A lot of the influence from the music I listened to was because of my Grandma, because she used to be from a really rural part of Cuba. I don't know what the euphemism is for a redneck and I want to be, you know, PC, but that equivalent in Cuba is called guajiro.

Oh ya, guajira.

And there was this artist called Polo Montiñez, who was from the same region as [my grandma], and that was the only CD she owned because it was the early 2000s. She would just play it over and over again. That and El Buki. If I heard that at Wesleyan I think I’d actually die.

When would she usually listen to this music?

When she was cleaning the house. Anything to pass time. When she was doing laundry, cooking, literally all the time because that's all she did. [laughs]
Was there any tradition involved in listening to these songs? For example, my mom used play Cuban music on Sundays.

Definitely family gatherings and big family dinners when it was most of us together. We like to go to concerts as a family.

Did music strengthen your relationship with your culture? If yes, how so?
Of course. After coming to Wesleyan I've identified more strongly to my Hispanic and my Latin roots. So sometimes, well, a lot of the time, when I’m feeling homesick I literally just listen to these songs and just dance by myself in my room, because that's what my grandma does. That’s what I saw her do when I was growing up. It reminds me a lot of home and it just reminds me of them… it's a nice little thing to help me get by. [laughs]

Do you feel comfortable sharing these songs with people at Wesleyan who are not Hispanic? Do you expect them to listen to it to be nice or because they’re actually interested in hearing the music? Because one of my friends who is Nigerian told me how she doesn’t feel comfortable playing music by Nigerian artists because she doesn’t think her college friends will like it.
Yeah, I mean some people would obviously listen to it just to be nice because it’s a very different sound. It’s very raw. It’s very different than folk music, I guess? Or just your regular everyday pop. But I know some people are very appreciative of other cultures. But yeah, I think I would be able to share it with people here who would appreciate it.

Did the music you listened to growing up help you appreciate other genres?

Yes, definitely. Just like slow songs in general. I’m not a very romantic person in general, but listening to that music now in retrospect, I’m more interested in baladas romanticas, like ballads, very dramatic songs. Jazz definitely, like Buena Vista Social Club or just a jazz band of Cuban artists. That genre of music made me appreciate the sound of two, what they, claves. I forgot what they’re called but they’re two wooden sticks. Just that rawness. It’s just you and other people who with the same vibe and you just go at it. It’s just beautiful.

Did these songs introduce you to other genres?

Yeah, jazz…Boleros, all of those.

How have the songs you listened to influenced you today? Have they made you appreciate music more?

It just made me see it more like that for  some people this is their whole life. And they spend their whole life just doing what they love. They do it knowing that people out there appreciate it and it also changes their life. It’s just, like, an art form and a science. It’s honestly so beautiful and it made me appreciate my experience growing up and my roots and the people who made me and have helped me become the person I am today. All through a simple thing, like music.

You can find a playlist of the music that influenced Caro the most here.

Follow The Artifex on Spotify.