What Is Latin Alternative Music? And Who Are We?

Alt.Latino's Hosts Jasmine Garsd and Felix COntreras; credit: Yanina Manolova / NPR i i

Meet Alt.Latino's hosts, Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras. Yanina Manolova / NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Yanina Manolova / NPR
Alt.Latino's Hosts Jasmine Garsd and Felix COntreras; credit: Yanina Manolova / NPR

Meet Alt.Latino's hosts, Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras.

Yanina Manolova / NPR

We think the answer lies in first describing what it is not: It's not just traditional genres of Latin music (salsa, merengue, cumbia), nor is it American hip-hop, indie or rock.

Borders and boundaries mean nothing to us. Latin Alternative is a little bit of everything from everywhere mixed into a completely new Latino soundscape.

We think cumbia sounds perfect when mixed with electronica or when dancehall meets Dominican merengue.

For us Alt.Latino is more than a new NPR show about Latin Alternative Music. It's a chance to connect with others who think like us. And with those who would like more from their music. Let's talk.

Las damas primero:

My name is Jasmine Serena Garsd, but people call me Jas for short. I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on a steady diet of Argentine rock.

Bands like Los Piojos, Los Redonditos de Ricota and Soda Stereo provided the soundtrack of my childhood and adolescence, which was a time of dramatic change in Argentina. Every angst-ridden teenage experience like broken hearts and adolescent rebellion were intensified by the chaos of social and governmental breakdowns.

I turned to rock music for solace, criticism and explanation.

After I graduated from high school and immigrated to the U.S. I discovered new bands from all over: Mexico, Colombia, Spain, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. If before I had a Latin rock habit, I had now become a full-blown addict!

Anyone who works in an office can empathize with the next part of this story: Every day at around 3pm I get a sugar low, so I always make my way to the vending machine on NPR's third floor. On my way, I always walked past this Chicano arts reporter sitting at a desk surrounded by stacks of CDs. We'd talk about Latin rock bands we love. He knew his stuff and he made me laugh. One day we thought—"Why don't we just make a show about our conversations?"

My friend's name is Felix Contreras, and he's my co-host on Alt.Latino. I'll let him introduce himself.

Hi, this is Felix.

I didn't discover these bands until I was well into my 30s, which makes me a Latin Alternative late bloomer.

In fact, as a second generation Mexican-American, I only knew the Mexico of my grandmother.

So I was blown away when I first heard Mexican Latin rock pioneers like Cafe Tacuba, Maldita Vencindad and Caifanes. I listened to music I didn't know delivered with an attitude that seemed to scream "WE ARE THE NEW VOICES OF LATIN AMERICA!!"

I really liked that the music both revered and challenged tradition. It was vibrant, new and unlike anything I had ever heard. At the shows I went to I saw faces with obvious indigenous features on bodies sporting tattoos, piercings, Doc Martens boots and Sepultura t-shirts.

Every week as we produce our show I'll think back to those first days of discovery when a whole new world opened up and every thing sounded fresh, exciting and yet oddly familiar.

Jasmine and I also want to challenge the idea that Latin Alternative music is just "rock in another language".

We want to be true to the music that reflects you, our listeners.

So join in the conversation, get us back on track when we stray and help us discover important new bands.

But most importantly spread the word!

Gracias,

Jas and Felix

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