Every summer, musicians from across the Spanish-speaking world flock to New York City for the Latin Alternative Music Conference. For one week, famous and aspiring musicians and members of the Latin music industry meet and greet, and then there are the shows.


CORNISH: Night after night, live musics gather throughout the Big Apple. This year was no exception. Last week, New York was bouncing with Latin music, and here to bring us the scoop on which bands wowed the crowds are Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras. They host NPR Music's Alt.Latino. Jasmine and Felix, welcome to the show.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Thank you so much for having us.



CORNISH: So who are we listening to right now?

GARSD: This is Ana Tijoux. She's a Chilean rapper whose popularity is growing and very well-deserved because she's an incredible talent.


CORNISH: And, Felix, what makes this Latin alternative because I know that definition is probably pretty elastic?

CONTRERAS: It's very elastic, and it's easier to describe what Latin alternative music isn't. It's certainly not polished pop. In this case, in Ana Tijoux's case, she's very, very intricate in her delivery and in her attitude and in her message.

GARSD: There's definitely like a cultural ideological element to what you call Latin alternative. I mean, Ana Tijoux as so many of the artists that presented at the Latin Alternative Music Conference definitely going against the big record label industry model but also discussing very political issues, very socially committed. The other big names that were present at New York was Puerto Rican rap duo Calle 13, and they, if anyone, is a political band, it's them.


CORNISH: A big band known for putting on a great big live show, tell us a little bit more about them.

GARSD: Sure. Calle 13 is a Puerto Rican rap duo. They started off in reggaeton, but they quickly expanded. And they'd mix cumbia, salsa, rock, and they also quickly expanded beyond Puerto Rico. They really carry the flag of every Latin American country. Let me just give you an idea of how popular this band is. They played at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. There was an estimate that it was like 6,500 people in the audience; 6,500 had to be turned down.

CORNISH: Oh, wow.

GARSD: Yeah. And these guys bring in the crowds, and this song that we're hearing "Latinoamerica," "Latin America," is an ode to being Latino Americano, to being a Latin American.


CORNISH: And we don't want to let you guys go without asking about some newer acts. So who were the surprises of the show?

GARSD: For me, it was a band that we've heard of and definitely listeners on ATC have heard of, which is La Santa Cecilia from Los Angeles. First up, this band was brought to my attention by Felix, and I thought, well, this is an interesting band, whatever. I saw them live. And let me tell you, I was that fool in the crowd that started singing (foreign language spoken)...


GARSD:, you know, we want another song because I just couldn't believe this woman's stage presence live.


MARISOL HERNANDEZ: (Singing) There is no end to the story. No fun, no blow. Oh, glory.

CORNISH: And, Felix, for you, who stood out?

CONTRERAS: You know, we had a table set up - Alt.Latino had a table set up at the LAMC, and people come by and drop off CDs, which is part of the magic of the DIY, the do-it-yourself crowd, of people bringing in their music. A woman named Xenia Rubinos dropped off her CD, introduced herself to me and then walked off into the crowd, and I put it on, and it stopped me in my tracks because it was just so imaginative, so creative and unlike anything I expected to hear.


CORNISH: Very nice.

CONTRERAS: You know, there's a vocal thing that she's doing there with that, but then - and later on in the track and throughout the whole album, there's a strong like a distorted almost punk feeling to it. There's an organ playing that - what it reminded me of all things Deep Purple back in the '70s because it's just so unconventional and it's just such a strong record. I really, really enjoyed this one.


CORNISH: So essentially, this is an industry event for Latin alternative music. I mean, what was the conversation about the state of the industry?

GARSD: Well, the big industry isn't doing that well right now, but for an alternative genre, a genre based on people who have a true passion for well-constructed music with a message, that kind of never falters. I mean, they're doing great.

CONTRERAS: And there's also the challenge of getting that music out and getting the word out, you know, because of the lack of radio play in both English and in Spanish. When you're pushing the DIY aesthetic like that, there's always going to be that challenge no matter what language you're singing in, but this is - that was part of the message of this conference as well.

CORNISH: Felix, thank you.

CONTRERAS: Thank you.

CORNISH: And, Jasmine, thank you.

GARSD: Thank you for having us.

CORNISH: Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras host the Alt.Latino podcast at NPR Music, and you can listen to performances from the Latin Alternative Music Conference at



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