Kin Balam: a multidimensional musical project

Left to right: Alan Ruiz on bass, Yoandry Trujillo on flute, Balam S. Antonio
on guitar and native instuments, Juan Encinales on drums and Sangito Bigelow on latin percussion.| Photo by Nicolas Segura.

Balam S. Antonio is a multi-stylistic music artist of group Kin Balam.

At the age of 22, Antonio searched to find a musical style that truly spoke to him. After struggling to find his corner in the music scene, he decided to incorporate all the styles that spoke to him into a new combined, revolutionary sound all his own and thus began the creation of his music project, Kin Balam.

“I was really tired of playing the music of other people and I really wanted to create something that was more me. I always tell my musician friends, if they don’t really identify with what they play, then create something. Make something. Push yourself,” says Antonio.

Realizing a dream within

Born in El Salvador, Antonio moved to North America as a child with his family, who were political refugees. Antonio says he had a difficult youth surrounded by poverty, violence and racism. He grew up listening to rap and hip-hop and felt he could relate to many of the themes present in these genres of music. As he got older he became more interested in playing music and at the age of 22, he traveled to Madrid, Spain to study under the great flamenco musician, Jeronimo Maya. At this time, he also began to have an intuitive feeling that he needed to create something that was all his own.

“I had been part of different groups. Some of it was more Latino, some of it was more Flamenco, some was more like raw hip-hop, but I didn’t really find myself fully,” Antonio says.

Three years ago, he moved to Vancouver and had a realization.

“I told myself, I didn’t want another year to pass where I did not manifest [this] project.”

He began writing and composing his own music, pulling inspirations from a multitude of different genres that spoke to him. He wanted to incorporate his Native ancestry, his Latin roots, his internal connection to hip-hop and rap, as well as the flamenco style he had learned in Spain.

Making his music reality

One year ago, Antonio began recording some of the music, but realized that in order to make the incredibly diverse sounds he craved, he was going to need help bringing his music to life. He called up a few other musicians he had connected with and asked if they would be interested in helping him create this musical project, now known as Kin Balam.

“Kin means the path and Balam means the jaguar… Sometimes I play alone, but usually I tell people, I’m just Balam. But Kin Balam is the project,” Antonio explains.

Kin Balam consists of four core members: Colombian-born musician Alan Ruiz, Montreal-born musicians Myles Bigelow and Sangito Bigelow and Antonio himself. Ruiz came to North America to study music and master the guitar. He has since learned the bass as well, which he often plays in Kin Balam. Myles and Sangito are skilled musicians who Antonio says provide the beautiful percussion sounds for the group. Besides the main guitar, bass and percussion, each member has learned to play a collection of native clay instruments that Antonio has been collecting over the years. These clay instruments provide many of the unique nature sounds found within the band’s music.

The message

Antonio says that traditionally there is a lot of poverty and racism among the people of his Latino and Native heritage, so he aims to portray a message with his music.

“What I wanted to do, was to take pride in something that we had been taught not to have pride in, to have shame… We need to be proud of where we come from and who we are.”