Marisa Arbona-Ruiz

Funny what the passage of 50 years will do to a controversy.

Pianist, composer and bandleader Arturo O'Farrill was born into Afro-Cuban jazz royalty but growing up he rejected his famous musical heritage. Now, he travels the world sharing his late father Chico O'Farrill's legacy as a principal architect of the mash up of jazz and Afro-Cuban music in the late 1940s.

Colombian band Bomba Estéreo has a hit on its hands, and the story behind its success is a testament to fan demand and the power of a great song.

For two glorious weeks this month, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. exploded with the vibrant sound, color and culture of the historic festival Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World.

At 87 years young, the legendary Cuban Diva of the Buena Vista Social Club, Omara Portuondo, brought gasps of delight, then rapturous applause, just by walking out on the stage in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday night. She graciously acknowledged the love in the room then continued with her rendition of beloved classic "Veinte Años," backed by just a pianist.

Colombia's Monsieur Periné is at that sweet spot of a band's maturation process wherein they've solidified what they know, but are unafraid to venture towards what they don't.

Consider that the group's last album, Caja de Musica, flowed with French-inspired swing-jazz feel-goodness, leading to a breakout 2015 Latin Grammy win for best new artist.

As the humanitarian and political crisis continued to mount in her native Venezuela, Ane Diaz turned to the folk songs that shaped her early life and put her own spin on them, as a way to protect what she considers national treasures.

One of the bands I'm thrilled to catch at SXSW is Balún, who will be part of a showcase of Latin bands this week. When I first met the Brooklyn-based band at NuevoFest in Philadelphia last summer, they really stood out for their exciting, genre-morphing explorations into alternative rock, electronic pop and Puerto Rican folkloric grooves.

Colombian vocalist J Balvin is still riding the huge wave created by last year's Latin music explosion.

There is another revolution happening in Cuba these days.

A group of young female musicians — including Daymé Arocena, Danay Suárez and the all-female band Jane Bunnett and Maqueque — are challenging both musical and cultural conventions, creating innovative Afro-Cuban music fused with a variety of genres like R&B, hip-hop, reggae, electronica and jazz.

Natalia Lafourcade has developed a knack for releasing albums that her fans didn't know they were waiting for.

When Win Butler of the Canadian rock band Arcade Fire stumbled upon Bomba Esteréo playing in a church basement during the Pop Montreal International Music Festival, there was no turning back.

"¡De...spa ... cito!"

The song of the summer actually became the Song of the Year at the 18th annual Latin Grammy's held in Las Vegas on Thursday evening.

"Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee also picked up Record of the Year, Best Urban Fusion Performance and Best Short Term Video.

The Alt.Latino team is so grateful for the positive feedback to our periodic "Music Magazine" shows — and now, we're happy to present the Fall edition.

This week we put the spotlight on two playwrights, one of whom you probably know, the other someone you should.

Where cultures converge, great music happens. Last Sunday night three of the biggest acts in Latin Alternative music were brought together at the historic Hollywood Bowl amphitheater in a rare and brilliant line-up, as part of the Getty-led Pacific Standard Time LA/LA to create dialogue between Latin American arts and Los Angeles.

The latest stunner from La Santa Cecilia's visual album, Amar y Vivir, is "Ingrata," an interpretation of Café Tacvba, featuring Chilean pop star Mon Laferte.

If you took a snapshot of Latino demographics here in the U.S., you'd find substantial numbers in places most people wouldn't expect. In particular, the South has become a hotbed of new Latinx culture and artistic expression.

What does an artist do to follow up a critically and commercially successful album? The short-sighted might go for more of the same. But the truly innovative and visionary shed that success like a snake's skin and do something completely different.

That is the story behind Mexican vocalist Natalia Lafourcade's new album Musas. Music writer and Alt.Latino contributor Marisa Arbona-Ruiz had a heart-to-heart with the singer to talk about the motivations behind her new sound.

"Despacito" isn't the only catchy song of the summer that has people singing in Spanish. The Mexico City-based Chilean vocalist Mon Laferte has teamed up with Colombian superstar Juanes for the steamy single "Amárrame," whose video has lured nearly 60 million views on YouTube.

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.


There should be fireworks named after this band, for all the intensity and color and life that bursts forth from Flor de Toloache.

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