For over a year, Dallas musician Jason “Ariel” Bobadilla and his partner, Sophia Arana Popescu, were in a long-distance relationship — Bobadilla in Dallas and Popescu in San Antonio. The two visited each other every three weeks. Then came COVID.
“She’s a nurse and so at the beginning of COVID we weren’t really sure how everything was going and so we were just like we should keep our distance for a little bit, thinking it’s only going to be a few weeks,” Bobadilla said.
Then Popescu, a nurse, was assigned the COVID unit.
“I was so terrified that I would get anybody sick,” Popescu said. “I was seeing some really sad and heartbreaking things at the hospital, where we were getting the worst of the worst.”
Given the circumstances, the couple couldn’t see each other for two months. It was a lonely and uncertain time.
But they rode it out. The two video chatted whenever possible and sent each other care packages.
In late May, the couple decided to meet in Austin.
“When we finally were both able to get tested and then meet halfway and see each other, it was just like . . . it was like meeting your love all over again,” Popescu said.
During those months apart, Bobadilla was in a song writing rut. But on the road trip to Austin, he started to hum a beat. Then came the chorus. It was his first creative moment of the pandemic. A new song.
When the couple met up, Bobadilla shared it with Popescu.
“I didn’t really get to ask myself how I was feeling and that’s the case for a lot of nurses, regardless of COVID,” Popescu said. “So when I heard that it kind of made me assess myself in the situation and in a different light.”
After hearing the song, Popescu had an idea.
“I was actually doing the dishes and I was like you should add cumbia to this,” Popescu said. “And then it totally transformed into this fresh and unique cumbia, something that I never heard before. It’s just crazy. Our own chemistry kind of leaked into the song.”
That song became Dame Tu Amor or Give Me Your Love, Bobadilla’s first all-Spanish song.
And it’s a completely new spin on the classic sound of Latin America. There’s also a mix of indie, jazz and ‘90s hip hop.
To write it, Bobadilla had to confront some of his worst fears about the relationship.
In the song, he says, “Si no quieres hacer mi dama/No puedas escuchar campanas/No te duermas en mi casa/Okay? Okay.“
“If you don’t want to be my lady/And you can’t hear wedding bells/Then don’t sleep at my house/Okay? Okay.”
Bobadilla said the lyrics reflect the loneliness and self-doubt he’d been feeling.
“It’s just kind of like digging more into yourself and in that feeling,” Bobadilla said. “Even if it isn’t right. I think it’s things that people think but don’t say.”
But Dame Tu Amor also brought him closer to Popescu. This fall, the couple moved into together in San Antonio.
Blending Two Cultures
The blend of Spanish and cumbia is a new direction for Bobadilla. He said the song centers his Mexican American identity.
“My parents came in the 90s from Mexico City and so that’s back when Selena was popping and Los Ángeles Azules were popping as well and all those things,” Bobadilla said. ” That really was, for me, the sound of my childhood.”
But singing in Spanish wasn’t an easy decision. The collective went in different directions earlier this year and now Bobadilla performs solo as Ariel & The Culture. The collective had released a few songs in Spanglish, like No Manches and Downtown.
To say the least, this year has been a challenge for musicians. Bobadilla was afraid he’d lose fans.
“And it’s crazy because that’s been quite opposite. It’s actually grown and kind of been exploding these past few months and gained a couple hundred followers from it.”
The song has reached over 18,000 listens on Spotify. And on Nov. 14, a Dame Tu Amor music video will be released. (check back in with us on Saturday to see the music video posted here.)
With his new direction, Bobadilla hopes his song resonates with people straddling two cultures. Or whose sense of belonging is challenged.
“Dame Tu Amor doesn’t really sound too much like a cumbia but too much not. And I feel like that’s … it was really an embodiment of what my identity sounds like as a first-gen kid, just making music in Texas.”
During the pandemic, Bobadilla rediscovered music — and love. But he had to live without them first to know their strength.
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