Alt.Latino: Immigrant Songs

From Bolivia to Spain: Alt.Latino Chooses Six Songs About An Immigrant's Life

Hear The Show

14 min 24 sec
 
Manu Chao i i

Manu Chao Gonzalo Martinez hide caption

itoggle caption Gonzalo Martinez
Manu Chao

Manu Chao

Gonzalo Martinez

Who are Latinos? We come from North and South America, from the frigid tip of Argentina to the dry lands of Northern Mexico. We are the same yet also different, distinct in our culture and heritage.

There are indigenous, Semitic, white, black and Asian Latinos. We eat different foods: churrascos, arepas, chimichanga, habichuela con dulce or dulce de membrillo. And we speak Spanish and Portuguese in many different dialects.

So what, aside from geography and language, is the glue that bonds us together? For many Latinos, it's the shared immigration experience, either their own or that of their family. This experience is not unique to Latinos in the U.S. We emigrate within Latin America and to Europe, too.

In addition to the sense of struggle that we share within our Latino communities, we also share music. Latin music gives us common grounds, in part because it often tells a universal story.

In this episode of Alt.Latino, we review some of our favorite songs about the immigration experience. We only had room for six songs, so please add your thoughts on being Latino and your favorite songs about immigration in the comment section below.

Also, listen to Felix and Jasmine interview two musicians who have boycotted Arizona over the recent immigration law: Juanes and Los Tigres del Norte.

Today's theme song is "White Stripes" by the Instituto Mexicano del Sonido. To hear more songs by IMS, visit the band's MySpace page.

Alt.Latino: Immigrant Songs

Cover for Residente o Visitante

Pal Norte

  • Artist: Calle 13
  • Album: Residente o Visitante
  • Song: Pal Norte

"Pal Norte," or "Heading North," is a song by the Puerto Rican reggaeton artists Calle 13, accompanied by Cuban group Orishas. Amidst Andean music mixed with traditional beats, the song talks about the trials and tribulations encountered by those who immigrate.

Hear the "Pal Norte" on YouTube.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Pal Norte
Album
Residente o Visitante
Artist
Calle 13
Label
Sony BMG Latin
Released
2007

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Cover for Clandestino

Clandestino

  • Artist: Manu Chao
  • Album: Clandestino
  • Song: Clandestino

In "Clandestino" ("Clandestine"), the French-Spanish artist sings about being an undocumented immigrant and a life of hiding in the place he's come to call home. The lyrics are melancholy. He sings: "Alone I go with my sorrows / alone with my burden, to run is my destiny / to outfox the law."

Hear the "Clandestino" on YouTube.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Clandestino
Album
Clandestino
Artist
Manu Chao
Label
Palm
Released
1998

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Mala Rodriguez

Miedo

  • Artist: Mala Rodríguez
  • Album: Malamarismo
  • Song: Miedo

Rapper La Mala Rodriguez confronts people's fears about immigrants in "Miedo," meaning "fear." She sings: "Are you scared of people who know how to live without luxuries / are you scared that I could one day hold office?" She's accompanied by her husband, Afro-Cuban rapper Mahoma.

Hear "Miedo" on YouTube.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Miedo
Album
Malamarismo
Artist
Mala Rodríguez
Label
Machete Music
Released
2007

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Ska-P

Ali El Maghrebi

  • Artist: Ska-P
  • Album: Ska-P
  • Song: Ali El Maghrebi

In "Ali El Maghrebi" ("Ali from Maghreb"), Spanish band Ska-P sings about a Muslim man named Ali who emigrates to a European country, the difficulties he faces and the distrust he encounters. The pace of this song mimics the frantic whirlwind life that many immigrant communities experience.

Hear "Ali El Maghrebi" on YouTube.

Cover for Mas Grande Homenaje a Los Tigres del Norte

La Jaula de Oro

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Album: Mas Grande Homenaje a Los Tigres del Norte
  • Song: La Jaula de Oro

This song talks about immigrants missing their homeland. Mexican singer Julieta Venegas does an electronica-infused cover of the legendary ranchera band Los Tigres del Norte's "La Jaula de Oro," which translates as "The Golden Cage." Even though it's a modern update, Venegas pays homage to the original ranchera song.

Hear "La Jaula de Oro" on YouTube.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
La Jaula de Oro
Album
Mas Grande Homenaje a Los Tigres del Norte
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Fonovisa
Released
2001

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

King Chango

Venezuelan in New York (Englishman in New York)

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Album: Outlandos D'Americas: A Rock en Español Tribute to the Police
  • Song: Venezuelan in New York (Englishman in New York)

"Venezuelan in New York" is a remake of Sting's "Englishman in New York." King Chango is based in New York City, and this is is actually part of a collection of Latin Artists doing a tribute to The Police. In the original song Sting sang "I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien." They sing it both in English and Spanish, and they reflect a slightly different immigrant status.

Hear "Venezuelan in New York (Englishman in New York)" on YouTube.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Venezuelan in New York (Englishman in New York)
Album
Outlandos D'Americas: A Rock en Español Tribute to the Police
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Polydor
Released
1998

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Felix Contreras is an award-winning journalist who covers arts and culture. He plays congas and percussion when he's not interviewing people for NPR or hanging with his two young sons and his wife. Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine journalist. She loves music, soccer and good food; occasionally, if given enough wine, she will sing for Felix's band.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.