By Pablo Jaime Sainz
When Pearl was a little girl, she remembers that she was always surrounded by the romantic songs known in Spanish as boleros her father used to play with his guitar.
Her father was a member of a trio, usually a group of two guitars and one set of maracas players that perform boleros.
“I grew up listening to that soft, romantic music,” Pearl said.
But at the same time, growing up in Southeast San Diego, where the majority of the population was African-American, she said that in school and in her neighborhood her older brother Fernando would listen to hip-hop, rap, and R&B.
“I grew up more around blacks than Latinos,” Pearl said.
The influences she received from both styles of music, her father’s boleros and her neighborhood’s R&B, are present in Pearl’s debut album, titled Can You Feel It? (Hard2Kill Productions, 2006).
The 24-year-old Pearl is nominated for Best Hip-Hop Album in the 2006 San Diego Music Awards, which will take place on September 18, at Viejas Casino.
“It as a big surprise,” she said of her nomination.
That’s because releasing her first album has been a great challenge, a challenge she’s been able to overcome thanks to her brother Fernando Ayon, who produced the album in his independent label, Hard2Kill Productions.
“Every time you try to do a music project by yourself, without support from a big record company, it’s always difficult,” Ayon said.
In fact, it took eight years for Pearl’s first album to see the light.
It’s been a long road ever since she began singing her first songs in Spanish. She learnt her first song when she was barely 2 years old, she said.
“It was a song called El último beso,” Pearl recalls. “My dad would always make me sing, try to learn songs.”
No wonder her album includes songs both in English and in Spanish. In fact, she started writing her own songs when she was barely 14.
“It was important for me to perform in both languages, since both are part of who I am,” said Pearl, who now lives near Logan Heights. “I feel comfortable singing in Spanish. It reminds me of when I was a kid.”
Can You Feel It?, which was released last March, includes 17 tracks with a soft sound, a mixture of hip-hop, soul, and R&B.
Her song Darling Baby, featuring MC Magic, is featured every Sunday on the syndicated radio show Pocos Pero Locos, which airs on Blazin’ 98.9 FM.
Her talent isn’t limited to singing, since Pearl co-wrote 15 of the 17 songs included in the album.
Pearl also has been interested in contributing to the community. That’s why she performs in community festivals throughout San Diego, letting people know about her music. So far, she has performed in about 40 venues this year, she said.
A few weeks ago, for example, she was featured in the first Fiesta del Sol-San Diego festival, in Sherman Heights.
“I attract a lot of different age groups,” said Pearl, who is a student at Southwestern College. “I always get a really good response from the public.”
Although it’s been difficult to promote her album due to economic limitations, Pearl is starting to make a name for herself in the local scene.
“I perform whether I get paid or not. I prefer to get paid, of course, but I like to help the community, too,” she said.
And the album has been selling steadily, in major chain stores such as Tower Records, her brother Fernando said.
But even though she’s nominated for the San Diego Music Awards and she’s becoming known in the local music scene, she knows the road ahead is still difficult.
“A lot of people think that because I have an album I’ve made it,” she said. “But it’s hard. It’s a learning process.”
If you would like to learn more about Pearl’s music and listen to sample tracks, visit www.myspace.com/onlypearl.
If you would like to have Pearl perform at your event or would like to purchase her album, call (619) 920-3300.
The album is also available through online stores.