Alt.Latino: Mixing Genres With Chicano Batman, Los Cenzontles
(SOUNDBITE OF ALBUM, "SHADES OF BROWN - THE ZYDECO MEXICAN CONNECTION")
LOS CENZONTLES: (Singing) You're close to me. I feel real...
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
OK, a lot of you out there might recognize that as Zydeco. That Cajun music from the dance floors of Texas and Louisiana. But it sounds like there might be some other influences working their way into that music. Who better to help sort it out than our very own Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd. They are the hosts of NPR's Alt.Latino. Hey guys. Welcome back.
JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.
FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: All right so, Felix, Zydeco and what else is happening in that track?
CONTRERAS: There's a little bit of Mexican music. This is from a band called Los Cenzontles. They're from the Bay Area. And they put together this really great album called "Shades Of Brown - The Zydeco Mexican Connection." And it features the accordionist Andre Thierry and David Hidalgo from Los Lobos. And in this song, as we're hearing right now, it's in three - one, two, three - there's a waltz. But the Mexican jarocho - son jarocho is also based on a rhythm in three or six. And so there's a little bit of that flavor on this particular song.
(SOUNDBITE OF LOS CENZONTLES ALBUM, "SHADES OF BROWN - THE ZYDECO MEXICAN CONNECTION")
CONTRERAS: The rest of the album is amazing. It features an accordion player named Andre Thierry from the Bay Area. And previously there was a great big Mexican migration there as well as migration from Louisiana after the Second World War. People were going to work the shipyards in Oakland. So that's sort of the leftover of all of that stuff. This is a fabulous album.
MARTIN: All right, I like it.
GARSD: It's the most Felix thing ever.
GARSD: California, Zydeco, Mexican.
MARTIN: I like it. I like Felix. I will probably like the album. OK, so, Jas, I understand you have brought in another cultural mash-up of sorts, this time from the other end of the continent. What you got?
GARSD: Yes. Well, this comes from South America. There's this collective of DJs in Argentina that we are huge fans of, Felix and I. It's called ZZK Records. And several years ago, they started this awesome trend of mixing digital electronica club beats with indigenous and folk music. And they did this awesome remix of a Bolivian singer called Luzmila Carpio. And I just love it because it's straight from Bolivia, but into the dance club. It's a really unusual, but very good mix.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUZMILA CARPIO MEETS ZZK")
MARTIN: I love it. I love it. You can't sit still.
GARSD: Well - and it used to be in Latin America that folk and indigenous music was on one end, and nightclub music, electronica - it was very European. It was like this two sectors that didn't really mix. And ZZK started this awesome trend of mixing those two sectors. And it makes perfect sense.
MARTIN: I like it.
GARSD: It sounds great.
MARTIN: So, Felix, to wrap us up, you've got a band with a very cool name.
CONTRERAS: Chicano Batman.
CONTRERAS: Very Felix.
GARSD: ...Very Felix. I think Felix is Chicano Batman.
CONTRERAS: This is a great band from Southern California. This is a song called "Cool Blessing."
(SOUNDBITE OF CHICANO BATMAN SONG, "COOL BLESSING")
MARTIN: Smooth jazz, Felix.
CONTRERAS: (Laughter). It's more like '70s Chicano funk.
CONTRERAS: They're doing this very cool, retro thing where they're playing a lot of the instruments - same interments that were from this whole era of Chicano music from the '70s that featured all of this, you know, crazy, '70s funk stuff.
MARTIN: Yeah. That right there (humming).
GARSD: You could never be Chicano Batman. You couldn't be Batman. You're too laid back. You'd be like, oh, I've got to go rescue people.
GARSD: Cool blessing, man.
MARTIN: He would be a different kind of Batman.
CONTRERAS: These guys are having a great year 'cause they were chosen to open up Jack White's last tour just this past month or so. And they're one of the few Latin bands scheduled to perform at Coachella, the big Coachella music festival this year. So they've been around for a little while. They've been working really hard. I really like their sound, happy for them.
MARTIN: I love it. I love it. You guys always bringing me these musical gifts, broadening my musical horizons.
GARSD: So much fun.
CONTRERAS: Always a blast.
MARTIN: Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd. They are the hosts of Alt.Latino. And they join us once a month to update our playlists. Thanks so much guys.
CONTRERAS: Thank you.
GARSD: Thanks for having us.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHICANO BATMAN SONG, "COOL BLESSING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.