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Funky, En Español: Groovy New Latin Beats From Panama To Puerto Rico

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Funky, En Español: Groovy New Latin Beats From Panama To Puerto Rico

Funky, En Español: Groovy New Latin Beats From Panama To Puerto Rico

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And now it's time to get down, get down. In our studios, we have our friends Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras from NPRMusic's Alt.Latino, a show dedicated to Latin alternative music. They recently did a show dedicated to Latin funk, and you know we can't resist a funky beat. So, we invited them to share their grooviest tunes. Felix, Jasmine, welcome to the program.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Thank you very much.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Thanks for having us.

CORNISH: So, what should we start off with?

GARSD: I say we should start with Mima from Puerto Rico and her song "Oigo Voces," I hear voices.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OIGO VOCES")

MIMA: (Singing in Spanish)

CORNISH: So, this is very kind of textbook funky beat. Felix, back when funk exploded here in the U.S., artists like James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone, is that what we're hearing? A little trace from that period?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONTRERAS: We're hearing leftovers, yeah. I mean, back then the technology just didn't allow the dissemination of the music as quickly as it does now. So, while James Brown and Sly - that's late '60s - they really started to define that style, it took a few years. It wasn't until, like, maybe the early to mid-'70s that some of the Latin-American countries, some of the musicians there started reflecting some of that influence.

CORNISH: And, Jasmine, give us some context about this artist, Mima. Like who is she kind of in that world?

GARSD: Well, she's a Puerto Rican artist who's really big on the island's Latin alternative scene. I like it because it reminds me a lot of, you remember that Rockwell song, "I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me?" Kind of like a spooky funk? And so she's basically talking about how when she's alone she hears voices. And she's not really alone. There's, like, ghosts all around her. But then she ends up befriending the ghosts and taking a shower with one of the ghosts and...

CORNISH: Yeah, she quoted the plot of the song alone (unintelligible). We should have led with that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: All right. What else do you guys have for us?

GARSD: Now, we have some really, a very sensual music from the Bay Area. This is artist Goapele featuring the rap duo from Panama, Los Rakas.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLAY")

LOS RAKAS: (Singing in Spanish)

GOAPELE: (Singing) I wanna know what you wanna do...

CORNISH: Feels a little steamy for Sunday, guys.

CONTRERAS: This track is really - it reminds me of the song "Pillow Talk" by Sylvia way back when. And Los Rakas add a whole different vibe to it, because they're a little bit more explicit.

CORNISH: And for people who are familiar with Goapele, I mean, she's an artist who is R and B, new soul and a little maybe on the sweet side. And this kind of brought an element of kind of danger to it. How'd they end up collaborating?

GARSD: They're both from Oakland. Her father is South African and her mom is Israeli. They're from Panama and they're also based in Oakland. We saw a stand-up comedian once that was kind of making fun of how a lot of R and B collaborations with rappers - like the R and B singer, she'll always sing something very romantic and then the rapper will sing, you know, something very explicit.

CORNISH: Right. Will come in grumbling and just kind of like...

GARSD: And it's like a clash, battle of the genders.

CORNISH: All right. So, next artist on the list.

GARSD: Next up we have a classic release. This is a song from the '90s, but this is a band that broke up and they recently announced that they're getting back together. And their press release announcing it was actually: The Funk is Back. And this is Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas from Argentina, and it's the song - my favorite of all their songs - "Jaguar House."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JAGUAR HOUSE")

ILLYA KURYAKI AND THE VALDERRAMAS: (Singing in Spanish) Welcome to the jaguar house. Welcome...

CORNISH: So, is this a new song from them or is this a song from the '90s?

GARSD: This is one of their old songs. They haven't released any new material yet.

CORNISH: Felix, can you give us an idea about who they are? I mean, in the '90s, we were still in our grunge phase, I think, here in the States.

CONTRERAS: If you deconstruct this song, get into the DNA of the song, you get an idea of who they were and where they're coming from. Because I hear a lot of Parliament Funkadelic, you know, that rhythm guitar in the background. That's a whole art in and of itself, from James Brown up through Chic and Bernard Edwards. I mean, there's all these different elements to it. And this slow, funky groove, you just can't stop it. It's like a runaway train.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JAGUAR HOUSE")

CORNISH: Well, I mean, after all of this funk, I'm almost scared about what song you want to go out on. OK?

CONTRERAS: We're going to go Mexico with a producer by the name of Toy Selectah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VILLIAN CHILLIN")

TOY SELECTAH: (Singing) (Unintelligible), everybody's looking to you and they're about to leave (unintelligible) all the way to the end of the world, yeah. And it's about to stop. Here, have a bass, sit down to the sound, here, have the drums, stop, everyone...

CORNISH: So, tell me about this guy.

CONTRERAS: Toy Selectah is a producer. He's from Monterrey, Mexico, in northern Mexico. And Monterrey is - I was there once covering Latin alternative music and it's really a hotbed of activity. It's like almost - it is the Nashville of Mexico because it's very, very - the country-style music is there. But out of nowhere, this alternative scene - the rap, the rock and the electronica - kind of spread out. And Toy Selectah is one of the main proponents of that scene. He is sought out by musicians specifically for his sensibilities. It's always very playful. And this one, it features vocals by the name of Rey Pila. To me, I hear, at first I heard Prince and then I heard Curtis Mayfield, you know? Yeah.

GARSD: This song also have an awesome name. It's called "Villian Chillin (Don't Be Afraid)."

CORNISH: Well, I thought it is - the word chillin came up in my mind, I have to admit, when I heard it. More importantly, it's the kind of song I feel like I'm going to have stuck in my head for the next couple of hours.

GARSD: I certainly hope so.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: I thank you guys for that. Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras. They host a weekly podcast on NPRMusic. It's called Alt.Latino. Make sure you check it out on NPR.org/Alt.Latino. Felix and Jasmine, thanks so much for stopping by.

CONTRERAS: Thanks for having us.

GARSD: It was awesome, as usual.

CORNISH: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

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