Felix Contreras

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During the course of their performance behind the desk, the four core members of LADAMA — Lara Klaus, Daniela Serna, Mafer Bandola and Sara Lucas — had a chance to display their individual cultural and musical roots as part of an engaging and mesmerizing whole. Represented in glorious musical virtuosity are Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela, with a dash of New York City thrown in just to make it interesting.

This week, new music came in from the around the globe and it settled on our weekly playlist. And as you would expect, they are stylistically all over, but in a very good way. Buenos Aires, Havana, Mexico City and Santo Domingo are all represented, with the sounds of folk, reggae, pop and Cuban guaguancó.

Dig in and enjoy!


Haydée Milanés, "Identidád (feat. Ibeyí)"

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:

Memorial Day signals the start of summer - slower days, vacations and a more laid-back attitude toward life. But for our friends at NPR Music's Alt.Latino podcast, summer heats up literally and figuratively. Host Felix Contreras is here to explain.

Hey, Felix.

It's been a fascinating journey following the trajectory of Rodrigo y Gabriela as they rose from self-imposed exile from their native Mexico on the streets of Dublin to international acclaim and admiration.

All with just two acoustic guitars.

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After winning multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy awards, Juanes is at a point in his caree

On one hand, Latin pop is an endless stream of singles from a handful of talented musicians who just dominate that arena. On the other, Latinx musicians are tearing down the walls of genre and creating music that sounds both familiar and new.

Such is the state of things as we present our picks for New Music for the week.


At this point, Lila Downs now has the kind of artistic stature among her fans that she has for the women she has celebrated throughout her career. She has always paid tribute to great voices and artist such as Chavela Vargas, Mercedes Sosa and even Joan Baez.

It's not often that Latin music's newest names release music at the same time as one of Latin music's most revered and respected vocalists does. But it happened this week. Girl Ultra and Cuco share space with Omara Portuondo, showing, once again, the vitality of the Latin music world and as well as the possibility that some of today's artists may still be making music 60 years from now.

Personally, I like messages with my music. Some of my first experiences with music beyond the Top 40 format took place during the heat of the Vietnam War which became a high watermark for protest music in this country. It's how I discovered musicians like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Later on, the great voices of protest from Latin America became part of my playlist as songwriters began to speak out against poverty, inequality and racism.

New music makes it way to the Alt.Latino inbox from a variety of sources. This week, one new track comes by way of the popular HBO phenomenon Game of Thrones. Spanish vocalist and Alt.Latino favorite Rosalía and Peruvian musician Alejandro Chal make it onto a taste-making compilation of music inspired by the uber popular show and that's just the tip of the iceberg of a collection of new music.

Our shortlist of must-hear albums this week includes the incredible sonic adventures of Nick Murphy (formerly known as Chet Faker), acoustic, instrumental rock from Rodrigo y Gabriela, a byzantine concept album from The Mountain Goats and more. Host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Felix Contreras and Stephen Thompson as they run through their picks for the best new releases out on April 26.

Featured Albums:

  1. Nick Murphy: Run Fast, Sleep Naked
    Featured Songs: "Sanity," "Sunlight," "Novocaine and Coca Cola"

On this week's Alt.Latino music roundup, check out the latest Latin spins we've heard reflect and cross-reference the cultural roots, settling feelings and lived experiences that are beyond our lifetimes. Yesterday, we were blessed with a new video accompanying Cuco's dreamscape song "Hydrocodone." Likewise, C. Tangana and Alizzz dropped a video for "Para Repartir," a free form visual that settles nicely over the Cuban groove.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Vocalist Angélique Kidjo is on another creative streak. As she has throughout her career, Kidjo has left little space between two musically rich releases that showcase her artistic bonafides. 2018's Remain In Light was a track by track re-imagining of the Talking Heads 1980 album of the same name.

This week on Alt.Latino, the latest Latin songs on our radar embraced the idea of reconnecting back to intimate, past experiences. Whether it be a homecoming after weeks of travel, a self-reflection in the wake of romance or a reminder of where one started. In this week's music roundup, hear Las Nubes reiterate its post-punk femininity in Miami's hardcore scene, Twanguero return to philosophical roots and VINILOVERSUS duet with Tessa Ia in what feels like hazy nostalgia.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists at the bottom of the page.

The story of the future of Latin music is being written with every new release by the vast community of musicians around the Spanish speaking world who reach beyond their influences to create a new Latin expression. The Honduran-American vocalist Lorely Rodriguez, who releases music as Empress Of, is one of those voice.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists at the bottom of the page.


Angélique Kidjo now has a pair of albums that are essentially covers of other artists, but interpreted with an African sensibility so majestic as to render the originals almost as source material.

This week, the Latin music world is quaking! Bachata band Aventura reemerge from the shadows with their first song in 10 years, Jennifer Lopez duets with French Montana and Lila Downs releases a fresh Peruvian cumbia classic. You can also hear the follow-up to Anitta's trilingual EP Solo and revisit Ms Nina and Tomasa del Real's song with a recent music video.

Spring is a time for renewal, rebirth and new music. (It's a fact — look it up.)

A couple of things stood out to me in this batch of new music: the inclusion of both Joni Mitchell and Amy Winehouse as sources of inspiration.

Also this week: collaborations! There is a stunning match-up of a female mariachi voice with an R&B pop crooner; and a Latin music icon reaches out to a group of young musicians to continue, and modernize, his groundbreaking, socially conscious musical message.

Latin musicians have a way of honoring their own pasts and celebrating their own presents with a sense of humility. At Alt.Latino, we recognize Latin artists who lead their music careers with joy, growth and self-expression.

This week on Alt.Latino's music roundup, Rosalía and J Balvin's reggaeton beat rings in the early days of summer, Jessica Medina covers Amy Winehouse and Cuco carves his own path as a young artist with a simple, string loop ballad.

Andrea Cruz brought a little bit of Puerto Rico with her when she took her place behind the Tiny Desk. It was present by way of the flag she hung up on the shelves, as well as in the lyrics of the songs and the style of music she expresses herself with.

We tried something new this year at the annual SXSW Music Festival. We tracked down a bunch of Latin musicians, put a microphone in front of them wherever we find them and then ask them about their music.

To do this, I needed help so I called in Alt.Latino contributors Marisa Arbona Ruiz and Catalina Maria Johnson.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple Music playlists at the bottom of the page.


American music can mean many things depending on the part of America you're experiencing. For much of the Southwest, the American sound includes accordions and cumbias — and that's just what we hear on American Music Vol. VII by Grupo Fantasma, a prolific nine-piece Latin funk outfit from Austin, Texas.

Years ago, Gina Chavez was a SXSW discovery for me: I'd tracked her down at some unofficial showcase and was immediately mesmerized by the Austin singer-songwriter. Since then, many good things have come her way, and she's developed into a major artist. On this Tiny Desk Family Hour video, recorded live at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church during SXSW last week, you can hear for yourself the voice that caught my attention back then — and has never let it go in the years since.

Attending SXSW is opportunistic in the sense that anyone can connect with other musicians and music enthusiasts in small bars, city stages and backyards around Austin. This year, Felix Contreras returned to Alt.Latino headquarters, aiming to balance out all the emotions of the festivals, as if his experiences came home with him.

I struggled to balance the conflicting emotions of enjoying the musical celebration that is the annual SXSW Festival with the pain of the devastating loss of life in Friday's terrorist attack in New Zealand. It was an emotional push and pull that I kept completely to myself.

Two South American countries have been in the news a lot lately. Venezuela's economy has collapsed in a political crisis and in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, the country's new far-right president, has made racist comments and been accused of stoking anti-gay violence. For musicians in both those countries, the news is affecting their work.

Each week, Alt.Latino whips up a curated list of new favorites that emerge from the Latin music world. This week on Alt.Latino, explore Piñata Protest's new twist on conjunto punk, Los Tigres del Norte's tribute to legendary mariachi singer Vicente Fernandez and a diasporic folk ballad from La Doña.

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