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The Blossoming Of Guest DJ Kat Dahlia

Cuban-American pop singer Kat Dahlia plays guest DJ on this week's show.
Courtesy of the artist
Cuban-American pop singer Kat Dahlia plays guest DJ on this week's show.

Who was Rihanna before she was Rihanna? Who was Beyoncé? Or Katy Perry? In a time when many pop artists are launched onto the scene already polished, flawless and ready for consumption, it's so exciting to witness the rise of a pop star as it's happening.

Here on Alt.Latino, we've been following Kat Dahlia for years. She has a voice like a young Janis Joplin and a lyrical sensibility that is a rare gem on the pop charts. (Plus, she knows how to pen a catchy tune.) It's been a pleasure to watch her hit it out of the ballpark musically — stumbling at times, maybe, but trying something new and succeeding.

Dahlia's most recent album, My Garden, is exceptional for such a young talent. A few weeks ago, when she stopped by our Washington, D.C., studios to play guest DJ, we talked about that album and everything from the music scene in Miami to developing and keeping a unique voice in the music industry today.

Later that evening, I caught her live show, and found that her stage presence finally matches her musical talent: Her performance these days is tighter and she's a lot more contained, but she's powerful in that minimalism. It's like watching an athlete who has been training and has hit her stride. And she rolls with it. On stage, she mentioned that when she'd visited D.C. last year, there had been very few people in the audience; a massive concert on the National Mall featuring Eminem, Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen and others had been scheduled on the same day. Dahlia joked about how even she had wanted to go see that concert.

After Dahlia's recent show, we met in the tiny, dark backstage area. She'd given the performance her all and was glowing with sweat, sitting on the couch next to her curling iron, sipping on a glass of scotch and joking with her managers and me. It had really been a great concert, and it offered a rare glimpse into the hard work that goes into becoming a pop star. So many naysayers say it's easy, that the artist is just a product to be molded. That's in part because of the image pop wraps itself in: that final product, the glitz, the bling, the appearance of a laid-back lifestyle, the magazine covers and blockbuster concerts. None of that hints at all it takes to get there — talent, but also a huge amount of hustle. Thankfully, Kat Dahlia has an abundance of both.

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Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.
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