Felix Contreras

Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering program about Latin Alternative music and Latino culture. It features music as well as interviews with many of the most well-known Latinx musicians, actors, filmmakers, and writers. He has hosted and produced Alt.Latino episodes from Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, and throughout the U.S. since the show started in 2010.

Previously, Contreras was a reporter and producer NPR's Arts Desk and, among other stories and projects, covered a series reported from Mexico on the musical movement called Latin Alternative; helped produce NPR's award-winning series 50 Great Voices; and reported a series of stories on the financial challenges aging jazz musicians face.

Contreras is a recovering television journalist who has worked for both NBC and Univision in Miami and California. He's a part-time musician who plays Afro-Cuban percussion with various jazz and Latin bands in the Washington, DC, area. He is also NPR Music's resident Deadhead.

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.

Cuba is known as much for their pianists as their percussionists — you'll see why with this performance.

After a week spent ranking the best Latin music of 2018, it's time to get back to recent releases.

Kick off the holidays with the best new Latin music, curated right here by Alt.Latino. This week, Cuñao releases the Invierno Tropical EP to warm up your winter, C.

The mail box at Alt.Latino World headquarters continues to overflow with music. Of course, you can always check our Spotify New Music playlist for weekly blasts of five new tracks or now and you can also stick it out for a larger batch of music from both new and familiar names.

Every week, Alt.Latino lines up the best new Latin music, featuring both global superstars and emerging artists on this rise. For this week's playlist, J Balvin has releases another hit, Helado Negro previews his sixth album, Juracán and Rene Lopez drop new singles and Draco Rosa flexes his rock and roll chops.

The latest reporting indicates that segments of the so- called migrant caravan from Central America are already arriving to the U.S./Mexico border.

Alt.Latino's playlist this week is stacked with heavy hitters. Colombia's Aterciopelados released a music video for their nominated song "Dúo" in advance of the 2018 Latin Grammys on Nov. 15 and Bad Bunny has dropped yet another collab, this time with Jennifer Lopez.

This week, Alt.Latino's playlist features five new songs stretching from Spain to Argentina: Rosalía's sophomore album weds pop and flamenco, L.A.-based Mitre and Argentina's Pipo Rodriguez release stadium-ready anthems, El Alfa teams up with Cardi B for a surprise dance track and Lindi Ortega covers Leonard Cohen.

A year ago, on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), we mourned victims of an earthquake in Mexico City and two hurricanes that tore through Puerto Rico. This year, more names were added to those lost after Hurricane Maria — dear souls who perished partly because of Mother Nature and partly due to government neglect. Most recently, mourners are left sitting shiva after a heinous and despicable shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

This week, the five new songs on Alt.Latino's playlist represent a mix of tradition and experimentation. Nancy Sanchez's jazzy rendition of "Angel Baby" has a new video, Gente De Zona reinterprets the Cuban music canon and Nicola Cruz keeps pushing South American rhythms to new spheres. Meanwhile, La Doña and Vicente García (with Juan Luis Guerra) have both released dance-friendly new singles.

Watching this performance is to witness a spell being cast, note-by-note. Liniker e os Caramelows (Liniker and the Caramelows) are from Brazil but steeped in the tradition of soul from here in the U.S. They started their turn behind the desk with the ballad "Calmô," a testament to the power of slow songs dripping with soulful emotion. It was a bold statement of just who they are as a band and what they stand for.

Musician Jerry González has cut a swashbuckling path in his over four decades of playing music. He was a double threat on both trumpet and congas who came of age in The Bronx learning to play in the time-honored tradition of wood shedding with albums of his heroes.

There has always been power behind Luz Elena Mendoza's voice. From her earliest days with her band mates in Y La Bamba, her voice soared with a distinct set of sonorities that seemed to be a diamond in the rough. With each release of the band's five albums, and respective audience-expanding tour, Mendoza's voice has matured and is now nestled within a sonic identity that amplifies her musical vision.

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