Alternative Latin Music Conference Celebrates Its Quinceañera

Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd of NPR Music's Alt.Latino bring NPR's Arun Rath a stack of the best new music in the Latin music scene.

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

Every summer for the last 15 years, the Latin Alternative Music Conference gathers musicians and industry folks within the corner of the Latin music industry known as Latin alternative. This summer was no different, and Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd from NPR's Alt.Latino podcast were there in New York to scout bands and geek out over the music business. Felix and Jasmine, welcome.

FELIX CONTRERAS: Good morning.

JASMINE GARSD: Thank you for having us.

RATH: So 15 years. Was this a quinceanera for the conference?

CONTRERAS: It was very much like the coming of age party that young Latinas have. And curiously, it was also the quinceanera for two other major Latin music institutions, the Latin Grammys and a festival in Mexico City called Viva Latino, which is one of the largest music festivals in Latin America.

RATH: Is it just a coincidence that all three started the same year?

GARSD: Actually, I don't think it's that much of a coincidence. I think that it really represents what's happening with Latin culture and Latin music and like, internationalization. I mean, 15 years ago, you got this really big cultural boom, and it's growing right now. I don't think it's a coincidence at all.

RATH: OK, industry talk's interesting, but I want to hear some music. Let's hear the stuff you brought back.

CONTRERAS: OK, every year there's one find, somebody who just completely blows us away. Jasmine, why don't you explain who it was this year.

GARSD: This year, the star was Danay Suarez. She's a Cuban R&B and hip-hop singer. Almost like an Erykah Badu vibe. And we brought something for you to listen to. And I'd love to know how you feel about it.

RATH: Let's hear it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YO APRENDI")

DANAY SUAREZ: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: That's nice. Pretty slick. I want to know what she's rapping about, though.

GARSD: Well, she's talking about life lessons, about stuff she's learned. We sat down and talked to her. She talked a little bit about how Cuba's, kind of, cultural isolation has turned it into this kind of musical petri dish, you know. She also has stuff like, I don't know, rapping over music that sounds like old western banjos. I mean, she's just super eclectic and smooth and spiritual. I just love her.

RATH: So what do you have next in the pile of CDs, Felix?

CONTRERAS: OK, one of the things we do every year is that we set up a table and we ask musicians to come by and leave us their CDs. So I started this tradition of like, OK, how high can I get the stack of CDs going? And one of the CDs that I got was this band called Peliroja from Brooklyn. This track is called "Bohemio."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOHEMIO")

PELIROJA: (Singing in Spanish).

CONTRERAS: They call themselves a collective. It's a great mix of New York City funk and salsa, and as you heard, they just, they nail it.

RATH: Now I could listen to that group forever but what else do you have for us?

GARSD: Next up I brought Carolina Camacho. You get a lot of CDs at these festivals, and some of them are really very gaudy and like, a lot of production into them. And this is just a CD I got that was nondescript, you know. And I popped it in, and I was taken aback. She's a Dominican artist. She has these, like, really hypnotic, repetitive rhythms. And this is the song "Embeleso."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EMBELESO")

CAROLINA CAMACHO: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: Well, that's kind of quirky and weird.

GARSD: I was just thinking that at least, like, the instrumentals belong in, like, a Tim Burton movie, you know?

RATH: (Laughing) Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EMBELESO")

RATH: Do you have one more we can squeeze in now?

GARSD: OK, one more. This is a concept album. It's called "Ama Zonas." And the concept is - is that they alternate rock, electronica, little bit of hip-hop by this Colombian band named Doktor Krapula. And they alternate it with people singing indigenous music or playing indigenous music from the Amazons. And it's a beautiful record. This track is called "Real" by the band Doktor Krapula but also features the vocalist Andrea Echeverri from the Colombian band Los Aterciopelados.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REAL")

DOKTOR KRAPULA: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: I'm really impressed by just these bands that are coming out with such fresh sound, such fully formed sounds about them.

CONTRERAS: You know, I've been listening to music seriously since I was a kid. 1972 was the year I really started paying attention. And I'm having more fun these days listening to music than I have since I was a kid, 'cause these musicians like this, the stuff you just heard. They ignore boundaries. They ignore genres. They ignore the and just create this amazing mixture of stuff that we have the privilege and the honor to share with everyone.

RATH: Well, I'm really grateful for the help of both of you because there's so much great music. I need help to -

CONTRERAS: We're going to leave you some CDs, man.

RATH: Awesome. I appreciate it. Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd are regular visitors to the show with the latest from the world of Latin alternative. They are also the hosts of the weekly podcast from NPR Music called Alt.Latino. Felix and Jasmine, thanks so much.

CONTRERAS: Thank you.

GARSD: Always a pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REAL")

DOKTOR KRAPULA: (Singing in Spanish).

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