Felix Contreras

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Morning Edition's series called One-Hit Wonders / Second-Best Songs focuses on musicians or bands whose careers in the United States are defined by a single monster hit, and explai

When Los Lobos gathered behind the Tiny Desk, it felt like they were cramped in the back room of a family Christmas party. "The only thing missing today are the tamales!" I told my office mates while introducing the band, a reference to a Mexican-American Christmas meal staple. The vibe in the room was definitely familia, with the presence of many longtime fans as well as folks who came for the holiday cheer, Lobos style.

It was the face of a six-year-old boy that reminded me to honor those who have passed this year. He was the youngest victim of a mass shooting in Gilroy, Calif., this past July. His face has stayed with me; he looked like one of my sons looking back at me with his innocent smile.

There was a distinct feeling of history in the air when Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley took his place in our office with his band, and it wasn't just the legend behind his surname. For fifteen minutes, we were treated to the same socially relevant reggae that his father, legendary Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley, made popular when he put the genre on the international music map.

'Santana' At 50

Aug 30, 2019

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Woodstock celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this month, and it's been an amazing excuse to think back to the bands that played there on that grassy field in rural New York state. Some of them were already big names - Jimi Hendrix, CCR, Jefferson Airplane; others were virtual unknowns.

The Dominican Republic has the historic distinction of being the landing spot of Christopher Columbus in 1492 after he sailed the ocean blue, but that European invasion set off a series of historical and social events that reverberate to this day.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Sometimes a song is more than a song. As NPR's year long series American Anthem points out, anthems do not have to mean patriotic songs about specific nations.

It's been a fascinating journey following the trajectory of Rodrigo y Gabriela as they rose from self-imposed exile from their native Mexico on the streets of Dublin to international acclaim and admiration.

All with just two acoustic guitars.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Something happens when you get a chance to see Afro-Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martinez perform. First of all, his smile radiates. It's hard to imagine someone happier than he is to make music in front of people; and as we saw during his turn behind Bob Boilen's desk, he mesmerizes with this almost otherworldly talent on congas. His hands can be a blur because they move so quickly. To the untrained eye, it's hard to see exactly what he is doing to draw out the sounds he does from his drums.

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.

This week, Alt.Latino celebrates a variety of new creative heights, including psychedelic cumbia, an acoustic Pink Floyd cover and a reggaeton dance record from Anitta and MC Kevinho.

At the bottom of the page, you can follow a series of NPR Music's favorite Latin songs, updated weekly on Spotify. Catch this week's hot takes below.

It's only January and already the mailbox at Alt.Latino World Headquarters is overflowing with new music. This week, we keep it simple: New music, not a lot of talking and an array of artists that show, once again, that Latin music in all forms is a seemingly endless well of inspiration.

A soul-searing guitar solo from Carlos Santana, a bell-riddled instrumental off Nicola Cruz' electronic record Siku, and a romantic, baile-funk ballad from Alizzz are what to expect in this week's Alt. Latino playlist.

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.

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

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


Duologue is a reminder that one of the surest ways to get to the music of West Africa is to stop in Cuba first.

This week's Alt.Latino playlist is packed with percussive tracks, including rustic takes on reggaeton, classical flute juxtaposed with trap beats and romantic jingles livened with spoken word.

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.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

"There is no such thing as Chicano hippies! And playing Mexican music??"

That was my father's reaction when I described seeing five honest-to-goodness Chicano hippies with beards and ponytails playing mariachi music at a Chicano student leadership retreat at UC Davis in 1975. Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles, the group called themselves.

Each week, Alt.Latino brings together songs from Latin artists. Through Natti Natasha's ideals on female sexuality to Juanes and Labo Ebratt's stylized vallenato, this week's list lends itself as one not meant to be hidden.

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