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In Case You Can't Wait: A Preview Of Alt.Latino's Best Latin Music Of 2016

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In Case You Can't Wait: A Preview Of Alt.Latino's Best Latin Music Of 2016

In Case You Can't Wait: A Preview Of Alt.Latino's Best Latin Music Of 2016

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/504819081/505159418" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

This week, NPR Music posted its annual Best of 2016 extravaganza - 50 albums, 100 singles. It's a look back at a pretty dramatic year in music in all styles and genres. Felix Contreras is host of NPR Music's Alt.Latino, and he's here to talk about his picks of the year in Latin music. Hey there, Felix.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Good morning. Good morning.

CHANG: How are you?

CONTRERAS: I'm doing great.

CHANG: So tell me, what kind of year has it been for Latin music?

CONTRERAS: OK, in our little slice of the Latin music world, in Latin alternative and the Latin hip-hop, Latin rock, all that stuff, there continues to be this way cool movement of musicians who are expanding the notion of just what Latin music is. For example, we're listening to something right now by a guy named Helado Negro. That's his stage name. His real name is Roberto Lange. The album's called "Private Energy." This track is called "Mi Mano." And he really does this amazing job of exploring the intersection of electronic soundscapes and statements about Latino identity in English and in Spanish. It's an intoxicating mix, and I'm a very, very big fan.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MI MANO")

HELADO NEGRO: (Singing in Spanish).

CHANG: I love that percussive sound in the beginning of that clip. Where else can you hear musicians addressing their identity in music like this?

CONTRERAS: OK, pretty much all over. And one of the highlights from this year was an album by a singer named Luisa Maita. She's a pop singer from sort of an indie background, an indie world in Brazil. Now, on this track, she starts with some traditional samba drumming, but she puts some electronic treatment on it to give it another level of context. This track is called "Folia" and is from her album "Fio Da Memoria."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOLIA")

LUISA MAITA: (Singing in Portuguese).

CHANG: Her voice has this beautiful ghostly quality to it.

CONTRERAS: Yeah, it's part of the production. It's a beautiful record. It sounds like that throughout.

CHANG: OK, so what's next?

CONTRERAS: OK, now we're going to California for a group that's doing this fascinating reinterpretation of a Mexican folk genre called son jarocho. This trio is called Aparato. And what they've done is they've taken the rhythm of this son jarocho and minimalized it, right? They've reimagined it electronically so that the essence is still there.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ORBITO")

APARATO: (Singing in Spanish).

CONTRERAS: If you speed it up, it would sound like son jarocho.

CHANG: Oh.

CONTRERAS: OK? And listen to the vocalist. Cat is one of my favorite vocalists in any language. She's got a great deep, husky voice. She's a great rock singer. This track is called "Orbito." It's from their album "Huastech 3000."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ORBITO")

APARATO: (Singing in Spanish).

CHANG: Oh my God. I just want to be drinking, like, wine in my living room and swaying right now.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANG: How do you find all of this music? How do you keep up with so many countries at once?

CONTRERAS: Before I answer that, I do have to remind you that this is not a final word. This is just the tip of the iceberg. You know, we do these things at the end of the year, but there's so much great music coming out. And people send band recommendations. After six and a half years doing this show...

CHANG: Yeah.

CONTRERAS: ...You know, people kind of have an idea of what it is that we like. And we've been able to follow some artists, as a matter of fact, like our next artist, Carla Morrison. She's a Mexican vocalist. We've been watching her grow as a performer and a songwriter. You know, her sound is not particularly Mexican. There isn't anything that would make it stand out as a genre or a style. But to me, the drama of her voice recalls the best mariachi and rancheras. Her new album is called "Amor Supremo," and this is a track called "No Vuelvo Jamas," I'm never coming back.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO VUELVO JAMAS")

CARLA MORRISON: (Singing in Spanish).

CHANG: Oh, this one is my favorite so far.

CONTRERAS: Oh, yeah?

CHANG: It just feels emotional. I can't even understand what she's saying, but I feel like my chest is swelling.

(LAUGHTER)

CONTRERAS: I think it's safe to say that, you know, somebody did her wrong and she's letting them know about it.

CHANG: But why does this remind you of mariachi bands? Like, what is the quality of what we just heard?

CONTRERAS: It's the drama. The best mariachi tears at your heart strings. And it's something that, you know, as a kid, I didn't get it because I was a kid. You've got to be an adult. You've got to have loved and lost, and you have to have lived life to understand the essence of mariachi. And Carla Morrison does that with her music.

CHANG: Felix Contreras is the host of NPR Music's Alt.Latino. He'll post a more exhaustive list of favorites next week. That'll be part of NPR Music's Best of 2016 coverage. Thank you so much, Felix. It was great having you here.

CONTRERAS: It's always my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO VUELVO JAMAS")

MORRISON: (Singing in Spanish).

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