'The Shakira of Phoenix': This Latin-pop artist shares her roots one Spanglish song at a time

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It was inside nursing homes, orphanages and her family's pizzeria where Monique Hasbun's musical career launched. Her voice — accompanied by her brother's guitar strings — delighted and filled those spaces with enchanting melodies.

Hasbun, 24, who currently resides in Glendale, is a Phoenix native with Mexican roots on her father's side and Salvadoran and Palestinian roots on her mother's. Since she was little, she showed signs of wanting a career in the music industry.

“Ever since I was like 4, I had this idea that I was going to be this famous singer,” Hasbun said as she laughed during an interview for La Voz Arizona/The Arizona Republic.

Today, it's what she does full-time. Hasbun is an independent artist who produces music in the Latin pop genre. And it's precisely in the Valley music scene where she is known as "Phoenix's Shakira."

Giving 'joy' one song at a time

Her family's nurturing of music was her first motivation. Her mother, Patricia Hasbun, 64, played the Spanish classical guitar and taught her older brother, Erick Hasbun, 33, to play. Today he is also a musician.

“When I was 12, I would chase my brother around the house with a guitar. I would say ‘please show me how to play!’” Monique Hasbun shared.

He did and that dream that started when she was 4 years old slowly began to take form.

Hasbun and her brother made the perfect musical duo and their mother, upon realizing this, decided to take her children to places like orphanages and nursing homes to showcase their music. She wanted them to be heard by others outside their home, but she also wanted them to spread a bit of joy, instilling in her children the importance of the value of giving without receiving anything in return.

“Seeing the elderly women holding on to their wheelchairs, with their oxygen tanks and dancing, made me turn to look at my children and say, 'you came to donate your time, to give joy. Here is your payment,’” Hasbun’s mother said.

Patricia Hasbun said the people in charge at the nursing homes would call her asking her to take her children back multiple times. People appreciated them and admired their talent so much that they began to hire them for social events. Their contracts and income added up significantly over time.

Monique Hasbun highlighted the love and appreciation she has for her mother because of how she raised her, considering her a “momager” and friend.

“She is my biggest inspiration, my biggest help and I wouldn’t be able to be where I’m at right now if it wasn’t for her,” Hasbun said. “Sometimes she gets more excited than me for what I do and that’s endearing and comforting.”

Patricia Hasbun is the owner of Pizza Heaven Bistro, a Phoenix restaurant that has been in business for 42 years. It's the heart of her family, she said, being her main source of income and where she was able to raise her children and instill positive values. It was also one of the places where her daughter continued to develop as a musical artist.

“I humbly always taught my children, 'you put on an apron and clean tables.' I have always told Monique that humility is the ground on which great people walk,” she said.

In addition to helping bus tables, Monique Hasbun began performing at the family restaurant on Fridays and Saturdays singing and playing the guitar. These appearances also brought her a lot of recognition — customers would enter the pizzeria asking for her before ordering their food, her mother said.

As a student at Xavier Catholic High School in central Phoenix, she was part of the choir group and participated in her school's well-known talent shows.

Hasbun graduated cum laude in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in Innovation in Society. She crafted her speech to fit her style. Speaking in front of an audience? That was difficult for her, but when it came to singing, she's a natural. So she composed a song instead.

During the same year he graduated, Hasbun decided to launch herself as an artist and released her first EP with five songs with lyrics in English and Spanglish. But the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 put a pause on her career, giving her some time to reflect. It was during this time that she decided to start composing Latin pop music and incorporate more Spanish into her lyrics, staying true to her roots.

A shot on Netflix's 'La Firma'

One December afternoon in 2021, Hasbun was lying on the couch while enjoying a cup of coffee and checking her emails. She noticed a rather long email that at first seemed dubious.

The email talked about a Netflix musical project that was in development in which influential people in the music industry would be involved — among them Tainy, a Puerto Rican producer who had worked with Bad Bunny. The people behind the project had come across her performances on TikTok and her profile seemed perfect for the selection of contestants they were looking for.

Four months, multiple video auditions, interviews with producers, a background check and two evaluations later, Hasbun woke up one morning to a new email that would change her life. She had been selected to participate in Netflix's “La Firma.”

“I had two days to pack my entire life in a suitcase and just fly to Miami,” Hasbun said.

“La Firma,” which debuted in 2023, is a Latino musical talent contest aimed at finding the next global urban genre star. The contest was judged by music industry icons: Yandel, Nicki Nicole, Rauw Alejandro, Lex Borrero and Tainy.

Of the 12 contestants, Hasbun came in eleventh place. Despite the early elimination, Hasbun said she was grateful for having been part of the project, especially for the bond she created with the other participants. She also said it was an honor having worked with Elena Rose, a Venezuelan singer and songwriter who has composed songs for artists such as Rauw Alejandro and Bad Bunny, with whom she worked to compose the song “Dice Mami” during the contest.

Inspired by Shakira

Hasbun's biggest inspiration is Shakira, whom she wishes to meet and collaborate with one day. Like her, Shakira is of Latin and Middle Eastern descent and began dabbling in music around the same age (13) as Hasbun (12). Due to the similarities, in 2020, Phoenix Magazine named the Arizona singer “Phoenix's Shakira."

Hasbun proudly tries to incorporate her mix of cultures into each song, including different instruments and dances. Most of her lyrics are in Spanglish and include sounds derived from instruments from the Middle East, including the darbouka, a percussion instrument of Arabic origin.

With 15 songs already released, her life experiences motivate her to compose. On average, she said it can take her one to two months to produce a song in its entirety.

"LoCA" is her most recent piece and came out on March 1. "Latin Mona Lisa" is the song that she crowns as the most successful so far, with more than 6 million views on TikTok.

Along with other Latino artists, Hasbun will be performing at the Funky Latina Music Festival on March 31 at Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix.

Reach La Voz Arizona reporter Paula Soria at psoriaaguilar@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Monique Hasbun shares her roots one Spanglish song at a time