Felix Contreras

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.

I say this to anyone who will listen: Latin music these days is exploding with so much creativity and inspiration that it is simply overwhelming. Once you get past the billions of views on YouTube of the reggaeton- inspired pop music, you'll find myriad artists who consider their cultural backgrounds a blank canvas on which they express their sense of self and identity.

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.

Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodríguez gave our office audience a very quick lesson on why pianists from that island nation are so impressive: they treat the piano as the percussion instrument it is. Rodríguez immediately let fly with an intense flurry of notes that were as melodic as they were rhythmic.

We all knew vocalist Rubén Blades knew his way around the clave, the rhythmic pattern that propels the Afro-Cuban dance music he's known for.

But I bet you didn't know he could swing a big band jazz tune with an easy flair that recalls past masters like Mel Tormé, Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra.

Latin forays into the pop realm continued unabated last week, and while Drake rapping en espanol may have commanded most of the attention, it was far from the only noteworthy song. Ozuna and Selena Gomez on the same song? Yes, it happened. We also received music from our favorite garage punks from Mexico and discovered two new tracks from way down south — the Southern Cone to be exact.

It's appropriate that the pioneering Mexican band Café Tacvba (Tacuba) start its set with "Olita del Altamar" ("Waves from the High Seas") from the group's 2012 album El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco. It's essentially an incantation of the magic that transpired during their performance behind Bob Boilen's desk.

For those that don't know their Latin music history as well as they should, it's easy to write off José Feliciano as just the guy who wrote and sang that Christmas song "Feliz Navidad." Maybe they'd be aware that he also wrote and performed the theme song to 1970's NBC sitcom Chico and the Man.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's remember this morning how Havana sounded back in the 1950s and 1960s.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

There's so much joy in the sound of the Hammond organ, especially for those of us of a certain age. Hearing it can transport you to the early '70s, when every rock band seemed to have one in its arsenal: The Allman Brothers, Santana, Deep Purple. In the hands of true masters — like the late Billy Preston and the very-much-alive Booker T. Jones — the organ can be a melodic, funky rhythm machine.

Historic Panart Records sessions have been remastered and collected in a new five volume set. The Complete Cuban Jam Sessions were recorded at various locations around Havana from 1956 to 1964 for the historic Cuban label Panart Records. The five volume collection includes the definitive must-haves among Cuban jazz aficionados, Cuban Jam Sessions in Miniature "Descargas" by Cachao Y Su Ritmo Caliente.

In the days leading up to the November 2016 election, I taped an episode of Alt.Latino that was intended to be a musical healing session. For just about everyone in the country, the campaign season was rough ride and I had created a healing playlist for myself, which I then decided to share.

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

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

It's been quite the week. Many people have taken to social media to express not only their opinions of recent political news but also a sense of emotional exhaustion. Alt.Latino's Felix Contreras joins me now. Felix, welcome. And are you feeling exhausted?

Magos Herrera's talent refuses to be limited by genre. The Mexico-born artist is generally considered a jazz singer, but has also taken on Brazilian-influenced pop and Mexican rock. On her latest effort, Herrara partnered with the string quartet Brooklyn Rider to create the classically-inspired, and culturally relevant album Dreamers.

Musicians from Latin America are starting to call it "El Tiny."

The popularity of NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts from All Songs Considered has spread far and wide. One group of musicians told me about a bar in Montevideo, Uruguay that had "El Tiny" playing on TV monitors on a loop.

Unless you've experienced it, it's difficult to fathom just how intense the power of a Category 4 hurricane is. And to get slammed by two in less than a month?

Latino Heritage Month (Sept 15. -Oct. 15) is the perfect time to use our Spotify playlist to highlight the width and breadth of Latinx musical expression.

The five women on this week's list couldn't be any more different from each other in terms of style: An electronic pioneer from Argentina; a Brazilian jazz vocalist; our favorite Chilean rapera/soul singer; a Spanish flamenco-inspired pop vocalist; and a Mexican vocalist so versatile it's impossible to pin her down to one genre.

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