In the world of Latin rhythms, a new duo is making noise with a combination of cumbia and various electronic dance genres.
Royal Highness consists of youngster Svani Quintanilla and veteran turntablist Luis Espada. Svani is from Corpus Christi, and is the nephew of the late Queen of Tejano music, Selena Quintanilla (rest in peace), and A.B. Quintanilla's son. Espada has been part of the successful and talented roster of DJs known as Peligrosa.
Rocks Off spoke with them in anticipation of their Bombon appearance in Houston on Saturday night.
Rocks Off: First of all, you guys call yourself Royal Highness. Tell us about the name and the concept behind the team.
Royal Highness: [Luis] One night we started talking about this duo, and with Svani already going by "Principe Cu", which stands for "Cumbia", and I call myself "King Louie", it made perfect sense to call ourselves Royal Highness.
RO: What would you claim to be in your arsenal music-wise?
Quintanilla: We have a lot going on with our music, we are definitely mixing in a lot of cumbia samples and hip-hop beats, tribal, etc. I did a track recently that had influence from a new genre called tukibass. So yes, a bit of it all.
Espada: We try not to stick to one genre. The beauty of it is that we can put a cumbia beat on anything, or a latin beat on anything. So half of the time we want to do that, and then experiment with trap music, moombahton, juke, baltimore club. A lot of "screwmbia."
RO: Why is cumbia music such a beautiful, amazing, and loved genre to you and your fans?
Espada: Because it makes everyone dance, regardless of age or location. Cumbia is an ear-catcher and makes you move, no matter what.
Quintanilla: Cumbia is the heartbeat of our people. Everyone knows and loves it.
RO: When did each of you fall in love with music? What drove you to do what you do?
Quintanilla: For me, growing up in a family of musicians, it was just natural to fall in love with music and follow in the family business.
Espada: My older brother got me into electronic music. And that's why I like what we are doing right now: we are showing the Latin community that it doesn't have to be so straightforward or one-sided all the time.
We can add the electronic with the cumbia and Latin beats. I like pushing the movement just like the other crews like Peligrosa, Tormenta, Que Bajo, and Bombón. We all push the boundaries of Latin music.
RO: Given that Svani is 22 years young, and Luis has been in the game for a while and toured the world, how does the relationship between the two of you work?
Quintanilla: He's like a big brother to me, and now that I'm moving to Austin, I feel like our relationship is going to grow so much more.
Espasa: He misses me! He misses me! (laughs). Honestly, finding Svani was a blessing. Having the last name of Quintanilla isn't just something to take for granted, but he really is so very talented, especially for his age.
As for me, I'm the older cat, and I've formed many relationships in the industry, so I bring in that aspect to the team. What we are doing is based on a very healthy relationship. Lots of love.
RO: Considering the cities that you guys live in, Svani in Corpus Chrisi and Luis in Austin, do you feel that your environment has influenced your progression in your music?
Espasa: I actually started off in Madrid [Spain], then I moved to Torreón, Coahuila (Mexico), then to El Paso, and somehow I ended up in Austin. From all of the places where I've lived, and the people that I've met and worked with, I've absorbed something from everyone and everywhere. Everything I do is an influence from my life experience.
Quintanilla: If there is one influence that I've received from Corpus, it has to be Dusty [DJ Dus/El Dusty]. He was my mentor and taught me everything I know. He just got signed to Universal, so he's doing big things and leading the movement on a national scale. We actually have a track with him on our next EP, so we are excited about that.
RO: Explain to us cumbia rebajada or "screwmbia."
Quintanilla: That's definitely Houston-inspired, with the slowed-down samples. What we do is slow down a cumbia sample and add hip-hop drums onto it and lower the pitch. We keep it real Texas and Southern.
RO: Last question. If you were at a party and had only one record, something that you felt that you definitely needed to play, what would it be?
Quintanilla: DANG! That's so hard! But I got a good one: "La Carcacha" by Selena.
Espasa: Anything by A Tribe Called Quest. Or any of our own stuff like "Sin Dormir," "24 Hour Tamale," or "Screwball."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Catch Royal Highness this Saturday at Fox Hollow (4617 Nett) when the duo crashes the monthly Bombón Latin Dance Party hosted by DJ Gracie Chavez, Navo, OG Bobby Trill, and Panchitron.