Listen to any of Nicky Jam's recent hits and you'll hear him drop the name Saga WhiteBlack at the end of the track.
Christhian Camilo Mena Moreno, aka Saga WhiteBlack, is the producer behind those hits, and they have been some of the biggest tracks in Latin music over the past few years.
Growing up in Quibdo, Colombia, Saga held onto the dream of becoming an example in urban music, and when he began his musical story in his hometown in the early 2000s, what was at first a hobby quickly developed into something way bigger than he ever expected. "A group of us friends began to get together to improvise over instrumentals of famous rap and hip hop songs," he told Musical Notes Global. "Little by little it went from being a hobby to becoming part of my day to day life."
Saga then fell into production, which, considering his love for singing and performing, turned out to be an unforeseen career choice, but it must have been destiny that brought together the student with the art, as producing is a talent that seems to run forcefully through his veins. "I never thought to dedicate myself to musical production until I began using the software called Fl Studio, which serves many producers in making our instrumentals," he explained, However, despite the fact that he is now a 14-year veteran of the music industry as both a singer and a producer, he acknowledges that there is always more to learn and he is constantly striving to reach new goals. "I don't think that I've perfected my skills completely," he said, "I still feel that I can learn and improve much more, and I feel that I am constantly growing." After all, you know what they say: "Practice makes perfect," or, in his words, "La practica hace al maestro."
What has truly seemed to accelerate Saga's career as a well-respected producer in the Latin music industry has been his alliance with La Industria Inc., an artist development company headed up by Juan Diego Médina Vélez. Based in Colombia, La Industria is like a musical family, helping artists with management, production, promotion, and booking, and it has aided Saga in getting to where he is today. "Signing with La Industria Inc. has helped showcase and launch me as one of the best producers in the urban genre," he pointed out. "Since the beginning Juan Diego Medina has trusted in me and that helps me to stay focused and to really want to improve myself every day."
It just so happens that phoenix-like reggaeton star Nicky Jam is also signed to La Industria and, after he put a call in to Saga to record some vocals in his studio in 2013, the pair has since not only become a team, but they have become one of the most dominant Latin singer-producer duos of the moment, and their ongoing collaboration has proven time and time again to be fruitful. Jam's 2017 album Fénix hit No. 1 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart and was nominated for a Latin Grammy in the Album of the Year category this year. "El Amante," one of the album's mega hit singles, was nominated in both the Best Urban Fusion/Performance and Best Urban Song categories.
Why songs like Jam's "El Amante" and "Hasta El Amanecer" have become so popular, Saga can't pinpoint the reason specifically. "I don't think that there's an exact method," he said, "but personally I can tell you that we make every song with passion and the feeling that characterizes us. We always think about connecting with the audience and our intention is that they identify with our music."
And the numbers don't lie: the music video for "El Amante" has accumulated nearly 1 billion YouTube views to date while "Hasta El Amanecer" has reached more than 1.2 billion YouTube views. Working most of the time in a team of three, a team that, along with Saga, also consists of Jam and musician/singer/songwriter Joel, their ability to approach—and infuse—their music with such emotion allows them to genuinely strike a chord within their listeners. "The chemistry to make music and the respect between us allows us to express our energy and emotion in every work," he said. When you think about it, that just may be the most important factor in the explosion of their success.
Although Saga is perhaps currently best known for his work with Jam (who could ever forget his 2015 worldwide sensation "El Perdón" with Enrique Iglesias?), he is also a singer in his own right alongside musical partner Sonyc and has put his magical producer's touch on tracks for a variety of artists over the course of his career, including Maluma ("Ya No Es Niña") and fellow Industria artists Manuel Turizo and Valentino ("Bésame"). He also put his spin on "Perro Fiel" for Shakira and Nicky Jam, which is included on her Latin Grammy-winning album El Dorado and currently ranks at No. 2 on Billboard's Latin Airplay chart, as well as Romeo Santos' "Bella y Sensual" featuring Nicky Jam and Daddy Yankee, which is included on Santos' newest album Golden.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Saga's tremendous skills have lead to him being named as Producer of the Year by the Billboard Latin Music Awards two years in a row. "I can't explain it with words, but I can say that it is one of the nicest things that has happened to me," he said about the recognition. "I think it's too much; there's so much I would say: but it's a very great motivation to keep going forward, because this confirms that I am taking the right steps."
It's been more than a decade since Saga first started producing and now, in 2017, he has more than accomplished his goal of being an example to follow in Latin music. His passion for his art is obvious in each song that carries his artistic fingerprint, and he is no doubt inspiring young future producers in the process. "The art of creating, of expressing feelings in sounds and rhythms" is what he said he likes most about being a music producer. "I give thanks to God for allowing me to do what I do. It's a great blessing."
There is no telling what 2018 will hold for Saga, but it is sure to be nothing short of spectacular.
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