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Arts & Life

New Compilation Features Music Inspired By 'Roma'



If you've never been to Mexico City, that is what the streets sound like. They are full of music in the form of vendors selling their wares with songs that they make up, others using whistles to announce their presence and, of course, children playing in the street. That soundscape is the first track on a new album called "Music Inspired By The Film 'Roma'." And with the Academy Awards taking place this evening in LA, Alt.Latino's Felix Contreras decided to use the event to talk about an album he features on his podcast this week. Welcome to the program.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Buen dia. Buen dia.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Buen dia. Buen dia. There are a lot of expectations about "Roma" for the Oscars tonight. It's gotten 10 nominations, including best film, best foreign film, best director for Alfonso Cuaron and best actress for Yalitza Aparicio. While we don't see any nominations for the music, it's still a big part of the "Roma" experience, right?

CONTRERAS: Exactly. And the music was used to establish a time and place - OK - 1970s Mexico City. The film's official motion picture soundtrack includes artists like Juan Gabriel, Perez Prado, Javier Solis. It's a mix of the stuff you would hear on the radio in certain middle-class homes. As we mentioned, there is also "Music Inspired By The Film 'Roma"' in which the director asked a bunch of his favorite artists to view the film and then write music. And the album is a stunning companion to the intense emotions of the film.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's good to have good friends, right?



CONTRERAS: Talented friends.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Good to be Alfonso Cuaron.

CONTRERAS: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Let's hear some of the music.

CONTRERAS: OK. As I said, the music is from a list of Cuaron's favorites. This is Patti Smith.


PATTI SMITH: (Singing) I was a wing in heaven blue out on the ocean and...




SMITH: (Singing) ...Soared in the rain.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So interesting choosing Patti Smith - that gives it a whole new dimension.

CONTRERAS: A guy like Cuaron - if you grew up in Mexico City - he's like 58, 59 years old. You know, it was a mix of Mexican music and a mix from stuff in the United States and from England. So it's - the list of musicians include Patti Smith, Beck but a bunch of Mexican musicians as well. And in this cut, it just - I think it just completely lays out exactly the themes of existential crisis, the themes of identity, all the stuff that was going on in the film and in the film's lead character Cleo.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. So tell us about some of the Mexican artists on this.

CONTRERAS: OK. For example, the director's 16-year-old daughter Bu Cuaron, she's a musician. And she played some music for the film's music supervisor. And she decided to include a track that Bu Cuaron wrote. It's called "Psycho."


MARINA DE TAVIRA: (As Sofia, speaking Spanish).

CONTRERAS: Now, the intro has some of the dramatic audio from the film as a way to introduce the song. Check it out.


DE TAVIRA: (As Sofia, speaking Spanish).

BU CUARON: (Singing) In two positions, but you won't listen. Said you cut yourself to pieces, but where are the scissors?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So this seems to be an eclectic mix of musicians. Who else is on the album?

CONTRERAS: OK. From the Mexican side - includes Quique Rangel from Cafe Tacuba, Sonida Gallo Negro - it's a killer cumbia band from Mexico. And it's important to note that the music supervisor for the film is a woman named Lynn Fainchtein. She is a film and music legend in and of herself. She's made the music of modern Mexico a character in over 100 film and TV series here in the U.S. and Mexico. And she broke ground by using just about all the Latin alternative bands we featured in mainstream films - one of the first people to do that in Mexico. And she suggested the next artist, the Cuban-French duo Ibeyi. Check this one out.


IBEYI: (Vocalizing, singing) Is it candle you light at night, the life you carried inside your belly? Oh, maybe the song you sing all day...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I love that.

CONTRERAS: It's almost preferred that you listen to the album first and then see the movie because in that particular track, there's a reference to a birth. And it's one of the most incredibly dramatic scenes in a film I've ever seen. And it just completely devastates you. And this song is perfect to capture that.


IBEYI: (Singing) Cleo, who takes care of you? Who takes care of you? Who takes care of you, you, you...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So talk to me about the instrumentals.

CONTRERAS: OK. So there are a couple on this album. And, you know, instrumentals are usually used to set a tone and all that. And that happens here. The one I'm bringing in is by DJ Shadow. And since it has no words in it, I won't say anything about it. Let's just feel it.


CONTRERAS: It's very sparse. It's very contemplative. And that's really how you are at the end of the movie. It's just - it's that powerful.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The album is called "Music Inspired By The Film 'Roma'." You can find it on all digital outlets and streaming services. And you can hear Felix and the film's music supervisor Lynn Fainchtein playing and talking about the music on the latest Alt.Latino podcast just in time for the Oscars. Thank you so much.

CONTRERAS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF DJ SHADOWS' "WE ARE ALWAYS ALONE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.