Advertisement

How a Peruvian trumpet player creates space on TikTok

Daniel Flores embraces identity, music and culture on TikTok with help from his trumpet and the city of Chicago.

Holding a trumpet, Daniel Flores poses in front of a Selena Tribute mural in Chicago
Daniel Flores in front of a Selena Tribute mural in Chicago.
(Jordan Esparza / For De Los)
Share

Smooth trumpet notes fill an empty Chicago street. There is a familiarity from the sounds emitting from the lone instrument. It feels like a modern radio hit with a classic oldie twist.

Each note complements the city lights that appear like stars in the night sky, looking down on the Chicago neighborhoods that make the city unique.

Whether it’s a passing Chicagoan on the street, or someone who scrolls TikTok, Daniel Flores, a.k.a. Trumpet Papi, wants to present this Midwest beauty to the world.

Overlooking the Chicago skyline, Flores never imagined how his trumpet cover of “La Cancion” by Bad Bunny and J Balvin would resonate with millions of people around the world through TikTok. With one hand on his trumpet, and the other pressing the record button, Daniel’s vision is twofold: to play songs that resonate with the Latino community, while showcasing the beauty and diversity of Chicago.

“There’s so many different trumpet players, but I feel like there’s only one city of Chicago,” Flores said.

Using Chicago murals and structures as the backdrop for his trumpet videos, like the Little Village arches and steel Puerto Rican flag in Humboldt Park, Flores is mindful of the spaces he sets up to record his TikTok videos. He wants to make sure his more than 65,000 followers get a different glimpse of Chicago and begin to see a reflection of themselves in a digital space.

“In social media and just in mainstream culture, I feel like we don’t necessarily see people that look like us. Music that resonates with us, music that we know,” Flores said.

Advertisement

Whether it be salsa, merengue, reggaeton or bachata, Flores is intentional about playing trumpet covers that resonate with Latinos.

Trumpet player Daniel Flores poses with the Chicago skyline behind him
Trumpet player Daniel Flores poses with the Chicago skyline behind him.
(Jordan Esparza / For De Los)

Born to Peruvian parents, Daniel immigrated with his family to San Antonio when he was 5 years old. As one of the few Peruvians in a predominantly Mexican and Mexican American community, he leaned into his musical surroundings. Some of his favorite artists were Afro Peruvian musician Eva Ayllón and Tejana singer Selena Quintanilla. With much of his extended family remaining in Peru, he would often serenade his family abroad via phone calls, later zoom, all while relishing the Tejano music scene in San Antonio.

Throughout his life, one thing has remained a constant: his love of playing trumpet. He first picked it up in the sixth grade, along with about 30 other classmates. By the following year, Flores says only four students remained with the instrument. Reflecting on his initial trumpet experiences, he believes a lot of it had to do with the nature of formal music education. Instruments are expensive, he says, and what the music students are often taught to play is not reflective of their home and community experiences.

“We didn’t see ourselves in the music we were playing. We didn’t have opportunities to play music that we wanted to,” Flores said.

He made his way to the Midwest, attending Northwestern University on a full scholarship and graduating with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Instead of returning home to Texas, Flores decided to stay in the city.

Advertisement

“I didn’t grow up here my whole life, but at the same time, I feel like so much of my life, so many of my struggles, so much, the adversity I faced I can relate with [Chicagoans].”

Daniel Flores poses in front of a mural.
Daniel Flores poses in front of a mural that states the neighborhood is “El corazón de Chicago” (the heart of Chicago).
(Jordan Esparza / For De Los)

Flores has taken the matter of representation in trumpet music into his own hands. While a student at Northwestern University, Daniel formed one of the first college mariachi ensembles at the university. He has gone on to play at various city festivals and has been featured on a Disney+ movie showing off his trumpet skills with his group Mariachi Son de Fuego.

However, when it came to posting videos of himself playing the trumpet on the internet, Flores was hesitant. He didn’t feel his skills were good enough for social media.

“I think I really had this weird relationship where I was a very much a perfectionist and I almost thought like ‘quien se cree’ to put videos of myself.”

After nonstop requests from his family and friends urging him to upload videos to TikTok, Flores finally posted videos of himself playing the trumpet. His early videos were of himself in his room with a score added on the screen for other trumpet players to follow.

Advertisement

One day, in a rush to leave the house, Flores decided to mix things up. Instead of pointing the camera toward himself, he decided to flip the lens, giving his audience his point of view.

With twinkling city lights in the camera’s far vicinity, and Pilsen homes in the close proximity, Flores played “La Canción” by Bad Bunny and J Balvin — a dreamy ballad about a past love.

Without too much fuss in perfecting his notes, Flores posted the video and ran out the door. Comments like “I know Pilsen when I see it,” “I’d run outside real quick if I heard this” or “Play a little louder so I can hear it at my house” began to flood his notifications, along with requests for more covers of popular songs.

With more than 2 millions likes, Flores realized that by combining both popular songs and showcasing a different point of view from the city, he could reach more people and provide a different perspective on Chicago.

In the videos that followed, he got over his stage fright by publicly filming in different spots across the city, and opting for neighborhoods that typically don’t get the shine that they deserve.

In one of his more recent videos, he visited Guaranteed Rate Field, where the White Sox play, to perform popular Chicago house music with a Southside backdrop. The comments were filled with Chicago love: “One of the most Chicago things I’ve seen!” and “Chicago is defrosting and heating up with this song.”

An exploration of marketing terms like ‘200%’ and how that’s shaped our identity.

July 9, 2023

“Each video is an opportunity to somehow highlight someone else that deserves to be highlighted.”

For Flores, this experience with the digital platform has given him time to reflect on his unique experiences — being from Peru, growing up in Texas, and now living in Chicago. He takes it all in thus far with gratitude for his family’s origins and decisions that have led him to where he is now.

Advertisement

“A generation ago, my dad was sitting in a village 10,000 feet above sea level in rural Peru playing like a zampoña,” Flores said. “And now I’m in another country where I’m playing other music from all these other countries.”

Learning Spanish wasn’t part of a quest for identity. I was proud of this fact; that I was pursuing fluency on my own terms and not for cultural credibility.

July 9, 2023

Ultimately, Flores wants to pay forward the opportunities he has been given with his platform. He hopes to partner up with brands to start a scholarship program for his former middle school in San Antonio to get more instruments for students. He also wants to gather resources and music instructors to engage the more than 8,500 migrants from South and Central America that were bused from Texas to Chicago this past year.

“If sixth grade me would see me doing what I’m doing now, he’d be really proud. He’d be like, dang, you can really do that with a trumpet.”

Advertisement