Calle 13 | Photo courtesy of Kimmel Center Presents

With more than enough English-language music flooding American airwaves to make even the most eclectic music-lover’s heads spin, a group like Puerto Rico’s Calle 13 might easily fall under the radar. Maybe you were lucky enough to hear their eccentric mid-2000s breakout hits “Atréve te-te” and “La Jirafa” at a college- or work-sponsored Latin music night and thought “Hey, this is a pretty cool beat,” before shimmying your hips off-rhythm for the next few hours.

But while you thought they were just some party group (or neglected to even recognize their role as the creative vanguard of reggaeton’s mid-aughts international explosion), stepbrothers René “Residente” Pérez (vocals, lyrics) and Eduardo “Visitante” Cabra (instrumentals, production) are actually conscientious and creatively-rigorous artists, balancing sonic curiosity with strong social and political criticism that never crosses the uncomfortable line into “preachy”. They’ve made a progressive name for themselves by publicly protesting issues as widespread as accidental celebratory gunfire deaths, FBI suppression of Puerto Rican self-determination, and pan-Latino solidarity – all the while subverting reggaeton cliches and winning over a rabid following. Even those who don’t understand Spanish can comprehend the immense power of their music, as collaborations with folks like Tom Morello, Seun Kuti, and even Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange attest.

On the eve of announcements that they lead the way in this year’s Latin Grammy nominations, the band is embarking on a massive tour to support their latest full-length album Mulit_Viral and making their Philadelphia debut on Saturday at the Kimmel Center’s Merriam Theatre. Considering that they’ve sold out venues multiple times this size the world over, Saturday’s show will be a unique chance to see a superstar act in an intimate setting. But this won’t just be a history-making event for Greater Philadelphia’s growing Latino and politically-progressive communities. Rather, it’s a one-in-a-million chance to see one of the world’s most celebrated and impactful bands, up-close and personal. Still, if their extraordinary ascent from the past decade is any indication, Calle 13 will be taking over Anglophone tastes and returning to Philadelphia far sooner than we expect.

Calle 13 make their Philadelphia debut at the Merriam Theater this Saturday, September 27 at 8 PM. Click here for tickets and more information.