Felix Contreras

It was sometime back in 2011 during the first few years of Alt.Latino when I heard a CD that was unlike anything I had heard before. There were traces of ambient sound, the bips and squeaks of electronic instruments, even some acoustic music all nestled underneath a slight falsetto that seemed as if it were far away and yet right in front of me at the same time.

Each week, Alt.Latino curates a list of songs and hidden gems from the Latin music world. This week's packed with new releases and premieres, many of which engage with self-reflection and inner confidence in a fun and catchy way. Below, hear the song premiere - the only song in Spanish - off Yawner's upcoming album Just Calm Down, VINILOVERSUS' recent headbanger and an altruistic sentiment to Ambar Lucid's "Younger Self."

Every week, Alt.Latino puts together a list of songs that celebrate emerging Latino artists in the music world. This week's picks include Tagua Tagua's Brazilian rock swinging in the spotlight and a celebratory party anthem off Amara La Negra's debut EP.

As part of a series of NPR Music's favorite Latin songs, we created a Spotify playlist to accompany the songs we write about. Listen along and read our hot takes below.

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

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TEPEJI 21 (THE SOUNDS OF ROMA)")

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

There is no denying the impact Roma has had on the movie going public on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. The story of a young indigenous woman and her life as a live-in care taker for a middle class Mexican family in the mid-1970's is one of those rare instances that has crossed demographic lines and has people raving about from all quarters.

Every week, Alt.Latino puts together a playlist that hallmarks the feelings and experiences that come along with any given season. Valentine's Day passed, but love yet still swirls in the air. This week's tracks emulate self-love, identity, confidence and the search for direction. Expect a self-loving R&B track from Noa Sainz, Tomasa de Real's heart-wrenching reggaeton and an electro-trap tune by La Dame Blanche.

Something happens when you get a chance to see Afro-Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martinez perform. First of all, his smile radiates. It's hard to imagine someone happier than he is to make music in front of people; and as we saw during his turn behind Bob Boilen's desk, he mesmerizes with this almost otherworldly talent on congas. His hands can be a blur because they move so quickly. To the untrained eye, it's hard to see exactly what he is doing to draw out the sounds he does from his drums.

There is a lot going on out there in Latinx arts and culture. Usually, we explore it one theme at a time, but occasionally Alt.Latino pulls a bunch of it together, like you would in a magazine or a good anthology.

Through four conversations, Alt.Latino's "Winter Music Magazine" explores some distinct perspectives on life, legacy, creativity and moving forward.

What would El Dia de San Valentin be without a mariachi song to sing along to? Instead of paying a few dollars for one of the tried-and-true singalongs at your favorite Mexican restaurant, check out this offering from the super talented Flor de Toloache.

It's all fun and games this Valentine's Day, and it's no different in Latin music. This week's Alt.Latino playlist is stacked with lovable favorites; Think romantic sentiments, a touch of bachata and breezy Cuban ballads in between.

At the bottom of this page is the playlist, as part of a series of NPR Music's favorite Latin songs, updated weekly on Spotify. Listen and read through our weekly hot takes here.

Somewhere out there in the public domain there is an iconic photograph of someone placing a flower into the barrel of a rifle held by a menacing soldier.

The early '70s was a watershed era for Marvin Gaye; What's Going On produced three chart-topping singles and became one of the most powerful and revered concept albums of all time, taking a reluctant Motown beyond producing hits; in 1972, Gaye recorded and released the film soundtrack, Trouble Man; between 1971 and 1973 he recorded tracks for what would become the iconic album Diana and Marvin, released in 1973; just two months earlier, he had released the legendary Let's Get It On.

This week, Alt.Latino celebrates a variety of new creative heights, including psychedelic cumbia, an acoustic Pink Floyd cover and a reggaeton dance record from Anitta and MC Kevinho.

At the bottom of the page, you can follow a series of NPR Music's favorite Latin songs, updated weekly on Spotify. Catch this week's hot takes below.

It's only January and already the mailbox at Alt.Latino World Headquarters is overflowing with new music. This week, we keep it simple: New music, not a lot of talking and an array of artists that show, once again, that Latin music in all forms is a seemingly endless well of inspiration.

A soul-searing guitar solo from Carlos Santana, a bell-riddled instrumental off Nicola Cruz' electronic record Siku, and a romantic, baile-funk ballad from Alizzz are what to expect in this week's Alt. Latino playlist.

At the bottom of this page is the playlist, as part of a series of NPR Music's favorite Latin songs, updated weekly on Spotify. Listen and read through our weekly hot takes here.

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.

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.


Duologue is a reminder that one of the surest ways to get to the music of West Africa is to stop in Cuba first.

This week's Alt.Latino playlist is packed with percussive tracks, including rustic takes on reggaeton, classical flute juxtaposed with trap beats and romantic jingles livened with spoken word.

At the bottom of this page is the playlist, as part of a series of NPR Music's favorite Latin songs, updated weekly on Spotify. Listen and read through our weekly hot takes here.

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

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

"There is no such thing as Chicano hippies! And playing Mexican music??"

That was my father's reaction when I described seeing five honest-to-goodness Chicano hippies with beards and ponytails playing mariachi music at a Chicano student leadership retreat at UC Davis in 1975. Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles, the group called themselves.

Each week, Alt.Latino brings together songs from Latin artists. Through Natti Natasha's ideals on female sexuality to Juanes and Labo Ebratt's stylized vallenato, this week's list lends itself as one not meant to be hidden.

Anthems are curious things. There are the songs that each country is given to represent and sometimes unite its citizens. But other songs pop up and unite a specific subset of citizens. Songs that most often come from popular music tap into a collective energy to represent such disparate causes — from a soccer fight song to a melody that offers solace or inspiration.

New year, new playlist. Each week, Alt.Latino brings you top hits and hidden gems from the Latin music world. So far, 2019 has brought a new Ozuna hit, an episode from Locos por Juana's Postcards of Miami series and Juan Wauters singing entirely en español for the first time.

Saxophonist Miguel Zenón is a big thinker — that much is clear from his recorded output, with its deep and inspiring connection to the folk traditions of his native Puerto Rico. But you also get that sense from his turn behind the Tiny Desk, where we can watch the concentration on his face and those of his adventurous band, the Spektral Quartet. This is life-affirming music with curious twists and turns, expertly performed by amazingly talented musicians.

NPR Music's Alt.Latino podcast recently released its year-end list of 2018's best songs and albums. Along the way, the team has done some reading and deep thinking about a trend that started in 2017 has only gained momentum: In the world of streaming music services, Latin artists have been cleaning up.

Editor's note: Bad Bunny is probably the most visible Latin musician on the planet at the moment. His collaborations with artists like J Balvin, Drake, Ozuna and Cardi B on YouTube have amassed views in the billions.

It's hard to believe that the young, massively popular Bad Bunny would be nervous about putting out music. That's what the Latin trap star tells Alt.Latino in a forthcoming Spanish-language interview, where he shares his own thoughts about his debut album and a meteoric ride to the top of Latin charts. X 100PRE was surprise-released just before midnight on December 24.

Our listeners have big ears.

You have always helped expand the reach and scope of Alt.Latino with a constant stream of notes and messages that say, "Hey, I just heard a band you should know!" And it comes to a head at the end of the year when you share some of your favorites.

It's time for the weekly roundup of the best Latin music, thoughtfully curated by Felix Contreras and Stefanie Fernández. This week's playlist features Afro-Caribbean beats from ÌFÉ, Latin trap from Anuel AA & Haze and a dance track from veteran performers Wisin y Yandel.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


It starts with one of the best known guitar riffs in rock and roll. What follows is a down-home ode to the state that is known as the heart of Dixie: folksy colloquialisms, eternal blue skies, family. Pretty simple, right? Maybe not.

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