Felix Contreras

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 2020 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.

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.

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