Afro-Latinx Artist Ir Sais Is Transcending Genre
Rising Music Artist Ir Sais Is Bridging the Caribbean Culture Gap
Even if you're not familiar with the name, Ir Sais, you're probably familiar with the artist's work. His 2019 smash hit "Dreamgirl" was everywhere and garnered not one but two remixes: one featuring reggaeton star Rauw Alejandro, and the other with dancehall legend Sean Paul. But just as the single was peaking internationally, the pandemic hit, forcing Sais (real name: Irgwin Placido Sluis) into quarantine instead of letting him ride the wave of his recent success.
"I experienced a global hit and had to sit home because I couldn't travel. It was difficult because there were no shows, no radio or television appearances," he tells POPSUGAR. "So I didn't have the chance to push it to the limit."
But rather than be regretful for what many would call a missed opportunity, Sais continues to dedicate himself to his craft with the patience and perfectionism he's displayed since childhood. Growing up in Bonaire — a small island in the Dutch Caribbean with a population slightly above 20,000 people — music was a constant in Sais's life. Even as he hopped between hobbies such as soccer, fishing, and windsurfing, he always found his way back to the studio.
"Even while doing all that, I was always singing. Going to school I would sing, I'd even sing while on the field playing football," he says. "When I'd be on the boat, I'd listen to the waves crashing against it and I'd sing, trying to create some feeling through music. Music was always in everything I did."
This dedication would eventually lead the Bonairian native to put all his other hobbies aside and focus solely on crafting his sound. And when he did, he found inspiration in the local music scene on Bonaire and the neighboring islands of Curaçao and Aruba, but also from the Dominican culture passed on to him by his mother.
"Growing up, I would pick all the best pieces of the two, the Latin genre and the Bonairian local music, to create my own flavor."
"Growing up, I would pick all the best pieces of the two, the Latin genre and the Bonairian local music, to create my own flavor," he shares.
That flavor incorporates a bevy of musical influences from reggaeton to afrobeat to ritmo kombina. The latter genre played a major role in Sais's approach to music as it originated on the neighboring island of Curaçao and is itself a hybrid of Caribbean rhythms like salsa, merengue, zouk, plena, and more. More specifically, Sais was influenced by ritmo kombina pioneer Gilbert (Gibi) Doran and grew up wanting to make his own sound in a similar fashion. The result is a sound that effortlessly melds Caribbean rhythms to produce something unique to Sais. Now, the next step is letting the world know. And so far, he's on course to do just that.
With his talents in the booth and behind the boards (the self-taught musician also composes the catchy beats he sings over), Sais is attracting a who's who of artists across the Caribbean and Latin America. In this way, the Bonairian songwriter is serving as a sort of bridge between the Latin and Caribbean genres. At the same time, he understands that part of the popularity the Latin genre is experiencing right now is due to a Caribbean influence that isn't always credited.
"We're all Caribbean, even all the Spanish-speaking islands like Puerto Rico are still Caribbean. We have our own sauce. But a lot of times when Latin artists are making Caribbean music it's just called Latin music."
"We're all Caribbean, even all the Spanish-speaking islands like Puerto Rico are still Caribbean. We have our own sauce," he says. "But a lot of times when Latin artists are making Caribbean music it's just called Latin music. So it's nice to make a fusion and give props to the influences."
His chosen method of giving props is through collaboration. Along with Rauw Alejandro and Sean Paul, Sais has worked with Anselmo Ralph, as well as Manuel Turizo, Chocquibtown, and Farina—the latter sharing a feature with Jamaican dancehall artist Konshens. And while collaborations with Drake and Doja Cat are on his wish list, there is one artist that Sais longs to work with above all others.
"My favorite artist is Romeo Santos. He's my number one," Sais says. "Aventura really inspired me growing up, their rhythms and the emotion they brought to all of their songs. They taught me to be a perfectionist."
Aventura's influence is not only evident in the work he puts into writing, producing, and mixing all his songs— a process that can sometimes take upwards of a year— it's also evident in the higher vocal register and romantic themes he employs across his catalog. But while his influences are many and he's always up to hop in the booth with singers whose craft he respects and admires, Sais doesn't feel it would be respectful to try to fit himself into established genres like reggaeton and dancehall which have their own histories and legends.
"It's never bad to try something new, but you always have to respect and understand that there are people born into these traditions that know the music better than anyone," he says.
And what Sais knows better than anyone is his own sound, one that is still evolving. When asked if he wants to recreate the success of "Dream Girl," he smiles and says he's already on to the next thing.