Felix Contreras

There is a sonic revolution happening in Cuba these days. A new generation of musicians are taking the training they received in Cuba's fabled classical music academies to new heights by incorporating not just jazz, but hip-hop, funk and any manner of experimental music. Yissy García and Bandancha may be the best example of that vanguard.

The history of television and film portrayals of people of color is pretty abysmal. Either we are not present, just in the background and stereotyped, or we're cast as maids, gardeners, servants or the comic buffoon. In my lifetime, I have never been exposed consistently to characters who either look like me, act like me or reflect my reality of those around me.

Notice I said consistently. There have been exceptions, but it seems we've had to wait patiently for portrayals that we recognize as being significant to our lives.

Colombian pop star Juanes and Chilean singer Mon Laferte recently wrapped up a sold-out tour of the United States, which (lucky for us) included a stop at the Tiny Desk.

Monsieur Periné has followed up its highly acclaimed sophomore album Caja de Música — which garnered the Bogota-based band a Latin Grammy for best new artist in 2015 as well as a 2016 Grammy nomination for best Latin rock, urban, or alternative album — with Encanto Tropical, a vision of tropical musical reveries.

This is an Encore presentation of Alt.Latino.

Even better the second time!

Enjoy.

This week on Alt.Latino, we venture into a long-running conversation about remixing classic recordings. Along the way, we feature a new album released by Fania Records called Calentura, in which the label sent a handful of DJs and producers a treasure trove of original masters from the Golden Age of the brash and innovative Afro-Caribbean music known as salsa.

I can already hear some of you reacting to the concept:

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


The guys in Brownout have done it again.

They have gone to the deep well of uncut funk to produce yet another homage to classic soul that further burnishes their reputation as keepers of the funk flame.

The presence of accordion-powered European dance music along the Texas/Mexico border is a phenomenon only about a hundred years old, forged as twists of historical fate made Tejanos and Polish farmers neighbors in the region's rural communities. One thing led to another, and soon Mexican-Americans were singing Spanish lyrics over the oompah of polkas and Bavarian waltzes. But despite its short history, Tex-Mex conjunto has made a profound cultural impact and become an identifying characteristic of an entire subculture of the Latino community here in the U.S.

When someone once asked Nando Chang if he was into Tupac, the Peruvian American hip-hop fan thought the reference was to Tupac Amaru, a legendary Incan warrior.

Updated 3:21 p.m., April 27 with more detailed information on Charles Neville's passing.

When I first heard ÌFÉ I was stopped in my tracks. Literally. I pulled the car over and just listened.

I recognized Afro-Cuban drumming and chanting, but it was coming at me with electronic furnishings that made their drums and vocals sound like a futuristic spiritual ceremony.

Mexico's musical output cuts such a wide swath across contemporary music on both sides of the border, it's often difficult to keep up. While pop music dominates, everything from mariachi to corridos to cumbia to mashups of any of the above make the country one of the most musically influential in Latin America.

Cumbia has become the lingua franca of Latin American music. A 2/4 beat that started in colonial Colombia, it has spread throughout Latin America, varying funkily throughout the continent.

So it makes sense that the artist who calls himself El Hijo de la Cumbia ("The Son of the Cumbia") lives in... Malmö, Sweden?

The U.S./Mexico border is the source of intense political discourse and heartbreaking stories of people caught in between a multi-sided immigration debate. For quite a while now, very strident music has been coming out that reflects all of the above.

Fifty years ago, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom State Prison in Folsom, Calif. The January 1968 concert and live album it produced, At Folsom Prison, helped revitalize Cash's career, inspiring him to testify for prison reform and cementing his reputation as a voice for the downtrodden.

Jorge Drexler is a poet with a gift for song. The Uruguayan singer-songwriter, like the iconic Latin American lyricists of the past (Mercedes Sosa, Victor Jara and Silvio Rodriguez, to name just a few), has that rare ability to surround multi-layered prose with music that lends an even deeper resonance to the words.

It's not often that Rosicrucianism and a salsa-playing robot come up in the same conversation — chatting with Peruvian-born, New York-based musician, composer, robotics and software developer Efraín Rozas is a heady whirlwind.

Lara Bello occupies the space between genres where magic happens. Born in Spain, she was raised with not only Spanish traditions like flamenco and canto but also pop music and jazz. The instrumentation she assembled for her Tiny Desk reflects that elastic approach to genre: acoustic classical guitar, clarinet, violin and a percussionist who didn't keep time so much as color the proceedings.

This week's show is another one of those that makes me want to climb the nearest (kinda-) tall building and shout about the variety of genres and styles continuously being released under the rubric of "Latin music." Increasingly, that identifier is getting stretched thinner and thinner, becoming inadequate to the point of being nearly useless.

Vocalist Eleanor Dubinsky is slowly, but steadily, building a body of work that consists of elegant and thoughtful songwriting that slides easily between genres and geography through top-notch musicianship, all in service to a voice that stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it. Her new album, Soft Spot Of My Heart, is her strongest work yet.

For decades, DownBeat magazine has been entertaining jazz fans with their monthly feature called "Blindfold Test," in which they play recordings for a guest musicians and have them offer impressions without any information about who is playing. That's what we did with guest host Korva Coleman; eight tracks to choose from, four selected.

Jenny and the Mexicats is a discovery from South by Southwest a few years ago that I haven't been able to get out of my mind, and with good reason: The band's high energy shows are unforgettable, as is its sound. Mixing flamenco, originally from southern Spain, with Jenny Ball's jazz trumpet background and a little bit of cumbia has created their one-of-a-kind musical identity.

I am not ashamed to admit it: I was overcome with emotion a few moments after entering Areito Estudio Ciento Uno (Areito Studio 101) inside the EGREM recording complex in the center of Havana, Cuba.

Amara La Negra is a force of nature.

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