Karina Nistal
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Karina Nistal

Los Angeles, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2007 | AFM

Los Angeles, California, United States | AFM
Established on Jan, 2007
Band Latin Singer/Songwriter




"HPMA Aftermath: Dominique, Karina Nistal, Chango Man, the Mighty Orq and Sideshow Tramps"

It's hard for Aftermath to believe it's been a year since the last Music Awards showcase. Thanks to the "old-person-friendly" in-stores at Cactus Music, we've been able to keep up with the scene better than usual in the past year, and can truthfully say that in the 19 years we've lived in this city, this is the most vital time in local music we've ever seen. Since the Press showcase is when we usually catch up, we decided this year to go for acts that I had not seen before. We missed a few favorites but saw some great music along the way - as usual.

I started off at House of Blues' restaurant to see Dominique. We guess critics would call her style "neo-soul," but it didn't seem very "neo" to me, more like "jazzy soul." She fronted a piano-led trio with two backing vocalists and from the first sultry Fender Rhodes groove to the final explosive climax, she added some spice to HOB's catfish and shrimp. Her phrasing was definitely jazzy, more Nancy Wilson than Aretha, and she heroically resisted the temptation to oversing for the entire set.

Most of her compositions eschewed the standard verse-chorus setup in favor of just riding the groove. A mid-set cover of Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help It" brought a lovely Stevie Wonder/'70s vibe to the proceedings. Of her own songs, "Good Girl Blues" was a standout, starting at a slow simmer and building to a rolling boil just like it should. The final number let the drummer show off his impressive chops; however, the complicated rhythm seemed a little incongruous with what had come before, something that no doubt arose from the band wanting to show the scope of what they could do in only 30 minutes.

From downstairs to upstairs at HOB, Karina Nistal was Aftermath's 6 o'clock choice. We really didn't know what to expect, but sure didn't expect a potential mainstream superstar. Nistal fronted an eight-piece band with the confidence and swagger of a seasoned performer. The first number started the show in high gear with a guitar-led Latin assault that would not quit, Nistal belting it out the lyrics English and Spanish.

Suddenly she's spitting a rapid-fire rap in Spanish while the band burns behind her, bringing the song to an end and the crowd to their feet. (Well, they were standing anyway but they would have leapt up had they been sitting!) Whomever is writing the material knows what they are doing because both "Weekend" and "U Should Know" sound smash hits to our old ears. The 35-minute set flew by.

Nistal's terrific vocals, her rapping skills, strong songs and amazing band should be enough to land her a big record deal. (Her natural beauty and charisma shouldn't hurt either.) All of these elements were in full effect on set closer "Trabajolo," which sent us out with a spring in my step towards Isis and Chango Man.

The Latin groove continued with CHangoMan. Aftermath is actually at sort of a loss for words to describe their style, as they careened all over the place during their set (please don't think that's a bad thing). They mixed cumbias with Ramones-like tributes to tamales (complete with tamales thrown into the crowd!) hard-rock guitar with funky Latin rhythms all topped with a singer who began the set banging on a cowbell and ended it screaming in a fetal position. Awesome.

By the way, guys, Aftermath was lucky enough to hang out with the Ramones twice back in the day, and both times we ate tamales we kid you not. Three-fourths of the way through the set, a second guitarist arrived, bringing the total of musicians on stage to ten. We sure hadn't missed him, but the interplay between the two guitars sent the last part of the set into the stratosphere.

The singer introduced the last song by saying they were "living proof you can rock and dance at the same fucking time!," which Aftermath thinks sums CHangoMan up nicely. Our only complaint would be that the concrete-heavy Isis was not the best venue to appreciate a band this loud and raucous. Guess we'll just have to see them again.

Nevertheless, we stayed at Isis for the Mighty Orq. We had seen Orq play with Tony Vega years ago, but this was Aftermath's first time to see him with his trio. We have to say, he's another guy who could definitely break out on the national scene. This is "classic rock" in the non-cliché sense of the phrase.

Mixing catchy riffs with low-key guitar heroics, good songwriting with good singing and avoiding clichés like the plague, Orq and his trio drew a crowd that mixed classic-rock fans with local hipsters - itself no mean feat. Nothing went on for too long, and all of it was done with a laid-back professionalism uncommon to either the classic rock or hipster scene. Orq's mash-up of Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" and Prince's "Kiss" summed the experience up perfectly. It was followed by radio ready rocker "The Sweet In-Between", a place Orq seems to feel very comfortable. I left happy and headed back to HOB for the Sideshow Tramps.

- Houston Press

"Karina Nistal - Singer has her own Nistyle"

Ask any singer to describe influences, style or overall sound, and soon enough, that most common of buzz words — diverse — is bound to be uttered.

The hype, however, is often just that, relegated to a few adventurous flourishes in between the drone of pretty standard stuff.

Houston artist Karina Nistal talks the same talk.

"I wanted this huge fusion," she says of her sonic hopes. "I wanted that edgy, electro, breakbeat, drum-n-bass, dancehall, Latin kind of sound."

But Nistal does something refreshingly, perhaps astoundingly, different. She delivers on that lofty goal.

Her full-length debut disc, Nistyle, is a beguiling, bilingual blend of retro grooves, party jams and urban attitude. It was released in September on the local Starlight Beats and Breaks label.

Nistal went through the usual dance class and piano lessons combo as a child. She began writing songs at 12 years old, influenced by the rock and hip-hop music favored by her siblings.

Heritage also played a pivotal role in her musical development.

"My Cuban background was salsa, Afro-Cuban jazz," Nistal says. "My Mexican background was mariachi, . . . Spanish rock, Spanish do-wop.

"We didn't do the Tejano thing. My mom was like, 'Oh, no.' "

Before she found her solo flavor, Nistal hooked up with the Rebel Crew, a local hip-hop/breakbeat collective fronted by producers Joe B. and Lion808. She spent the late '90s "B-girlin', hip-hoppin' " as a Rebel Crew dancer.

The group toured overseas, and the exposure earned Nistal some singing gigs. She showcased her sultry stylings on several compilations and single releases, including Sabrosura, a modest club hit.

Nistyle reflects and charts that growth. Nistal wrote the tunes from 2001-2005 and showcases hip-hop (Viviendo), hypnotic club cuts (Intrigue), inspired reggaetón fusion (Trabajalo, Muchos Chavos) and Middle-Eastern rhythms (Back to Bombay).

Lyrically, she calls herself a "sucker for love." (Pat Benatar's Love is a Battlefield is a favorite.) But Nistal ultimately hopes to uplift and inspire listeners with her musical hybrid.

"I do try to write about really positive things. People need it. People need reinforcement. They need encouragement. They need motivation," she says.

"Every day's a new chance. That's one of the messages I try to spread — besides love, love, love."


- Houston Chronicle

"Karina Nistal and Rebel Crew Rap for the Troops"

On the picture-perfect fall afternoon of Thursday, October 11, Karina Nistal has a busy 24 hours ahead of her. The Houston rapper and singer, Best Local Rap/Hip-Hop winner at this year's Houston Press Music Awards on the strength of 2006 LP Nistyle, and her band Rebel Crew are about to embark on a three-week Armed Forces Entertainment-sponsored tour of U.S. military installations in six countries: Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Djibouti. They depart Bush Intercontinental Airport at 10 a.m. tomorrow, and Nistal just got all the necessary passports and paperwork from the Pentagon yesterday.

"I told myself at the beginning of the year, 'I'm going on tour this year,' and even though it's not my first choice of destinations, we're still going on tour," she says over a quick bite at Midtown coffee shop Stir-It-Up. "I'm doing it for me, but not completely for me. It's bigger than me, it's bigger than the band and bigger than anything I've ever done."

Nistal, 27, has by and large completed her lengthy list of preparations. First she had to draft her five touring companions — Rebel Crew co-founder Lion 808 on keyboards and drum machines; guitarist Mark Speer; trumpeter Jon Durbin; keyboardist/vocalist Jon Cruz; and DJ Soulfree, a.k.a. Rebel Crew tour manager and Starlight Beats and Breaks (Nistal's label) owner Tanya Pelt — from the artist/musician collective's ranks and work covers like Heart's "Magic Man" (complete with "fly-girl breakdown") and Sheila E's "A Love Bizarre" into the group's Latin-laced repertoire.

There was also getting her eyes checked, training no less than three people to take over her office-manager duties at Goldman Sachs, thanking friends and colleagues for their many farewell gifts — everything from makeup to a digital camera — and familiarizing herself with the myriad military regulations Nistal and the group will be expected to follow. "It's crazy," she laughs. "I'm going to have to wear long sleeves in 100 degrees."

And, of course, she's been reassuring her loved ones that Rebel Crew's trip, which they landed after Nistal's chance encounter with some AFE representatives at the Billboard Latin Music Conference earlier this year, keeps them well removed from any potential hot zones.

"They keep saying, 'We want to see you one last time,' and I'm like, 'Okay, I'm leaving tomorrow,'" she says. "My mom has a bunch of candles around the house, praying to her saints. My sister has been calling me, frantic, every day. I'm like, 'Guys, I'm not going to war. I'm going as an entertainer. We get protection. Don't worry, we're not, like, on the field.'"

A few weeks later, Nistal has already been back for several days and still hasn't had a chance to process her experiences or relax much at all, really. "I wanted to lay low initially — I have so much to digest, I wanted to just chill, but it didn't happen," she says as she prepares to host the Friday-night hip-hop gathering Tha Scenario at GRAB downtown. "I'm feeling really inspired right now, but people keep throwing my name on flyers."

Nistal, who says she wanted to "kiss the soil" when Rebel Crew landed in the States, uses words like "impacting," "powerful," "unique" and "pride" to describe her trip. "Despite how much we criticize our country — and I don't claim to condone a lot of what goes on over there — it gave me a lot of pride," she says.

Specifically, seeing the way women are treated in Southwest Asia gave Nistal a new appreciation of the freedoms American women enjoy, and indeed sometimes abuse. "I don't have to walk 30 paces behind a man or cover up from head to toe," she says. "Those women don't even have the option to disrespect themselves. I'm frustrated for them."

However, Nistal says she noticed times may be changing, even in such hyper-traditional societies. "Muslim teenagers were fighting the fact they have to cover their head and face," she says. "They were wearing modern clothes underneath their burkas. I saw it one day when the wind blew a girl's burka up: She had on a cute top, nice belt and was carrying a handbag."

Rebel Crew's trip was eventful from the get-go. At London's Heathrow Airport, their first stop after Houston, after the band was frisked ("I got felt up"), Russian airline Aeroflot said they had too much baggage, and it was over the weight limit — they brought their own sound equipment on the tour — and hit them up for $9,000, almost draining their AFE account before they even played a show.

When they did reach Kyrgyzstan, their bags did not, and they had to wait for almost three days before they could change clothes. Nistal got an eye infection in Afghanistan after sand got in her contact lens. The band encountered further baggage trouble in Bahrain, where they learned how giving away CDs could help grease the wheels — something that also paid off on the way home, when a London ticket agent upgraded their flight to Miami to first class.

On the base - Houston Press


Still working on that hot first release.



Singer/songwriter Karina Nistal is known to align herself with diverse and solid collaborations to showcase her extensive range. Her work consists of emotive jazz vocals on downtempo tracks, rapping in Spanish for the worldly sounds of reggaeton, or fusing soulful Latin vocals with lively dance music. Most significantly, it is a vibrant charisma that carries over her poetic musings in either English or Spanish, or her self-assured flirtatious rhymes. There's a very fine line between poetry and rap, but it's one that only Karina interconnects with finesse.

Music captivated the native Houstonian at an early age. Karina indulged in old school hip hop, rhythm & blues, soul and jazz. It was Karina's mixed Latin heritage (Mexican and Cuban) that spotlighted traditional to modern styles.

After several years of featuring on numerous Dance and Hip Hop releases, Karina made her first full-length bilingual debut album, Nistyle (Starlightbeats) which introduced the term "Reggaetron" (Electro-Reggaeton). Nistyle gives a fresh face to the growing "hurban" dance scene and earned Karina various accomplishments including an Armed Forces tour in the Middle East to provide support and morale for our troops.

The following year, the video for her single Viviendo premiered internationally on MUN bilingual video network. Meanwhile The Karina Nistal Band performed festivals all over the southern region including the SXSW Music Festival and made a major television appearance for the Mayors Tree-lighting Celebration on KHOU Houston. 

Karina is also a Houston Press Award winner for Local Hip Hop & Latin Contemporary. Her sophomore album, Nistalgia (L.O.V.E. Records) was released October 2010. Nistalgia carries her Latin Fusion sound with a mixture of Soul, Hip Hop and a few hot Dance remixes. After relocating to Los Angeles that spring, Karina began working on her project #KaRAGEous. She became an ambassador for inspirational FB network #Besomebody. Karina turned to her fans to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund her album and was able to raise over $8,000 for album costs. KaRAGEous is a fun, sassy, and well-rounded [album] that plays everything from downtempo, drum & bass, to dubstep, Karina describes her new project, You guys really need to check it out!

Karina continues performing regularly with her band The Live Project, recording singles, making videos, collaborating with various artists, hosting reputable events, and working on voice-overs for commercials. Karina has also appeared on several TV reality segments.

With seemingly a lot on her plate, the sultry, multi-faceted vocalist admits, "I want to do so much more!" 

Band Members