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.
Santana, "Do You Remember Me"
Carlos Santana has a busy 2019 in store. He's celebrating the 20th anniversary of his chart topping album Supernatural, he's also scheduled to participate in the 50th anniversary of his career starting performance at Woodstock. He has his band back out on the road this summer and fall on their endless tour and he has a new EP out this week entitled In Search Of Mona Lisa, a three-song meditation on emotions stirred up by an audience with the iconic painting during a recent visit to Paris.
The first five minutes of "Do You Remember Me" is all Carlos, a first take improvisation on an Afro-Cuban riff that has all the sonic qualities that make his sound recognizable with just one note.The rest of the song is a slow burn in both English and Spanish, singing the praises of the painting or any other object of desire.
Overall, it's a nice warm up for hopefully more music during an already busy year. — Felix Contreras
Ozomatli feat. Chali 2Na and Cut Chemist, "Libertad"
Ozomatli (Ozo) is back in peak form with this back to basics mix of Afro Caribbean funk, hip hop, funk and message music.
"Libertad" (Freedom), featuring Chali 2Na and Cut Chemist, is a socially charged message for the times, something the band was literally born to do having started in 1998 as part of a social justice movement in SoCal. Chali 2na preaches freedom and change before the band changes it up with their trademark horns calling the party into action. Hard to believe they have been doing this since '98, but their sound still reflects the vitality of the group's earliest days. — Felix Contreras
Nicola Cruz, "Okami"
Nicola Cruz is a gifted sound alchemist. Mixing folkloric instruments and sounds from his native Ecuador with his background in electronic music, Cruz has crafted a remarkable set of soundscapes on his recent album, Siku.
"Okami" is exemplary of the hypnotic, layered explorations that unfurl like the sweetest Vidalia, revealing layers and layers of engaging sounds and ideas. It's only January, but it feels like this album will stick with me for the rest of the year. — Felix Contreras
Y La Bamba, "Boca Llena"
"Yo si lo veo lo que no se ve," Y La Bamba's Luz Mendoza begins — if I see what can't be seen -- trailing off before she can finish the thought with an incantation, or a threat: "canción de vida / palabra tierna y boca llena / de pura maldición."
Ahead of Mujeres, out Feb. 8, Mendoza has already delivered a thumping pro-woman anthem in the title track "Mujeres," but on "Boca Llena," she shifts her focus to the deep-seated, gendered trauma that lies beneath so family Latin American families: the father, distant and overpowering amidst societal emasculation, and the mother, pained and irreconcilable. Yet Mendoza's music is not a vessel for trauma; the video features women painted like birds, dancing and laughing in their new forms. "Boca Llena" is a celebration of the lives we can build in spite of trauma, building upon knotted roots, and dancing on them. — Stefanie Férnandez
Alizzz feat. Jesse Baez & Paula Cendejas, "Tu Cama"
Cataluña is having a moment musically. Catalan producer Alizzz released two wildly different, equally inventive beats this week (honorable mentions to C. Tangana's "Pa' Llamar Tu Atención"). "Tu Cama" is a baile funk-R&B ballad that demands to be played from an iPhone (no case) on the floor of a lowlit bedroom as the lyric video suggests. The vocal pairing of Guatemalan singer-producer Jesse Baez and Madrilena Paula Cendejas is perfection. *Chef's kiss* — Stefanie Férnandez
Juan Wauters, "Mi Vida"
January 2019 saw the release of La Onda de Juan Pablo, Juan Wauters' first opus dedicated to Latin America and sung in its language, composed and recorded across six countries on the continent. The album is picaresque in its depictions of everyday heroes and their daily quests against the decidedly frenzied backdrop of the Uruguayan singer's American transplant sensibilities.
One of the most enchanting sounds amid many is the guitarrón chileno played by Luciano Fuentes Borquez, a payador Wauters heard play in Santiago, Chile. "A veces pienso si a mi vida quisiera cambiar," Wauters sings, inhabiting the kind of long conversation you might have with a melancholy stranger on a bar porch with no particular time constraints, before qualifying the statement with a dogged, particularly Latino ability to find good in circumstance.
"A veces pienso y después no sé / me siento bien, muy bien en mis amigos." — Stefanie Férnandez
This playlist is updated weekly.