Setting The Stage For The Latin Grammys Guy Raz and Betto Arcos discuss and sample music by four of the year's most promising Latin Grammy nominees: Nino Josele, Ceu, Silvio Rodriguez and Perrozompopo.
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Setting The Stage For The Latin Grammys

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Setting The Stage For The Latin Grammys

Setting The Stage For The Latin Grammys

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(Soundbite of song, "Balcon de la luna")

GUY RAZ, host:

We're hearing a track by a young flamenco guitarist named Nino Josele. It's off his latest album, and the song's called "Balcon de la luna."

(Soundbite of song, "Balcon de la luna")

RAZ: Nino Josele is one of the artists up for a Latin Grammy Award for Best Flamenco Album. The ceremony takes place this Thursday night in Las Vegas. And today we're taking a look at some of the best Latin music nominated this year with our Betto Arcos. He's a regular on this program and the host of the radio program "Global Village" on KPFK in Los Angeles.

Betto, great to have you back.

Mr. BETTO ARCOS (Host, "Global Village"): It's great to be back with you.

RAZ: Let me ask you about this guy, Nino Josele. He's pretty young for being such an accomplished flamenco guitarist, in his mid-30s, but he's been around a long time, right?

Mr. ARCOS: Yeah. He grew up - you know, he really comes from a family of musicians of flamenco. He's already collaborated with a number of great talent, and Chick Corea said he's the successor of Paco de Lucia, none other.

RAZ: Hmm. So this guy is the real deal.

Mr. ARCOS: He really is. He's got this amazing talent and an interest in Jazz. He's got...

RAZ: Yeah. Because this doesn't sound like traditional flamenco music at all.

Mr. ARCOS: That's right. What he is doing is bringing both jazz and flamenco together. In fact, this particular piece, which in flamenco jargon is called a siguirilla, is actually a slow, languid, melancholic song which he reinvents by bringing in the traditional jazz drum set, the electric bass and then combining all these elements together, making it a much more jazz-oriented piece. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of song, "Balcon de la luna")

RAZ: Now, Betto, you know I work on Sunday, but the next Sunday afternoon I get off, I'm playing this. This is perfect Sunday afternoon music.

Mr. ARCOS: Oh, it's so heavenly. I mean, jeez.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Let's move on to the next artist. This one comes to us from Sao Paulo in Brazil. Her name is Ceu, and the album is called "Vagarosa." It's being nominated for the Best Brazilian Pop Album. Let's just take a listen first.

(Soundbite of song, "Comadi")

Ms. CEU (Musician): (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: Betto, what is it about Portuguese singers? I mean, she could be signing from the phone book and it would sound great.

Mr. ARCOS: You know, what I really like about in this case - this artist from Sao Paulo is that she comes from a city now considered kind of a Mecca for talented musicians. She really does great justice to that whole scene in Sao Paulo.

You know, she lived in New York for a couple of years. She observed the music scene there. But this album is refreshing because you're hearing not only the Brazilian influences that she grew up with, but you're hearing other musics, as well, in this case, reggae prominently.

RAZ: Oh, yes. Yes.

(Soundbite of song, "Comadi")

Ms. CEU: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: That's the Brazilian singer Ceu. Betto, just - I love that. I don't want to leave it, but we're going to have to go to the next track. I'm speaking with Betto Arcos. He's the host of the radio show "Global Village" on KPFK in Los Angeles. And we're listening to a few tracks that have been nominated for this year's Latin Grammys.

Betto, we heard from two pretty young artists, and now I want to hear from a legend, an artist that you brought today. This is the Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez.

(Soundbite of song, "Sea Senora")

Mr. SILVIO RODRIGUEZ (Musician): (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: So Betto, here's a weird thing: Silvio Rodriguez has been called the Bob Dylan of Cuba, and yet he's like the furthest thing from anti-establishment, anti-government. I mean, he's like very pro-Castro, very pro-government.

Mr. ARCOS: Right. Silvio Rodriguez has been perhaps the most vocal supporter, as an artist, of the Castro regime from the very beginning in his music, in his concerts, in the press.

And I think that's what makes this record so important because it's for the first time in his career that he's actually looking critically at what's happening in Cuba.

This song, which would be translated as "Let It Be, Lady," is sort of a subtle reference to the revolution as an older woman. In other words, like the revolution was young 50 years ago, but now it's not. We need to find new ways to, you know, fix it. Otherwise, it's going to go down the tubes.

You know, it's really the most direct criticism of what's happening in Cuba from an artist who again has defended the revolution all his life.

(Soundbite of song, "Sea Senora")

Mr. RODRIGUEZ: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: Okay, Betto, unfortunately, time for just one more track that's been nominated for a Latin Grammy this year. Tell me who this is.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ARCOS: His name is Ramon Mejia, but he goes by the name of Perrozompopo, which is a kind of gecko in his native Nicaragua. But I'd like you to listen to one of the songs from this record, really touching song called "Pasando Mas."

(Soundbite of song, "Pasando Mas")

PERROZOMPOPO (Musician): (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: This record, Betto, has been nominated in a category for Best Alternative Music Album at the Latin Grammys. What makes it stand out for you?

Mr. ARCOS: Every once in a while in Latin music, someone comes along with a new vision. And honestly, it's been a while since I've seen or heard someone that's touched me so much as Perrozompopo.

He said to me in a recent interview: Nicaragua is a country in constant reconstruction. I mean, how more painful can that be when someone tells you that his country is falling apart from decades of, you know, civil war, earthquakes, devastation? But he's saying, look, we need to do something about it.

I mean, yes, it's pop music, yes, it's rock. But listen to what he has to say.

RAZ: Betto, one more time tell us his name.

Mr. ARCOS: His name is Perrozompopo, and his record is called "CPC" or "Canciones Populares Contestatarias." It's free on his website as a download.

RAZ: And that is Betto Arcos. He's the host of the radio program "Global Village" on KPFK in Los Angeles and a regular guest on this program.

Betto, thank you so much for taking us through some of the music that's been nominated for the Latin Grammys this week. Great to talk to you.

Mr. ARCOS: My pleasure, Guy. Thank you so much.

(Soundbite of song, "Pasando Mas")

PERROZOMPOPO: (Singing in foreign language)

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