'Alt.Latino' Playlist NPR's Alt.Latino posts playlists weekly. We mine some recent playlists for some surprising and noteworthy tracks.
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'Alt.Latino' Playlist

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'Alt.Latino' Playlist

'Alt.Latino' Playlist

'Alt.Latino' Playlist

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NPR's Alt.Latino posts playlists weekly. We mine some recent playlists for some surprising and noteworthy tracks.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Every week, NPR Music's Alt.Latino publishes a playlist of new music that you can stream. And every month, Alt.Latino's Felix Contreras joins us here on WEEKEND EDITION. So let's take an opportunity now to enjoy some of the music on those playlists.

Hi, Felix.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Who's this?

CONTRERAS: OK. This is pianist Roberto Fonseca. He's originally from Cuba. And we featured him two weeks ago on the playlist. This is a track from his new album. It has lots of contemporary references and feelings. And we can call it jazz, but it's so much more. This track is featured on the playlist. It's called "Cadenas," or chains.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CADENAS")

DANAY SUAREZ: (Rapping in Spanish).

CONTRERAS: Like so many musicians from the island, he's adept at a variety of styles and genres. And they're schooled in classical music at the conservatories. And the usual path is that they learn about things like timba, folkloric rumba, stuff like that, after school, after hours when they go out and explore on their own. And in this case, as you can tell, there's also quite a bit of hip-hop influence.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. What's next?

CONTRERAS: OK. So while searching for music on the playlist from the last month, certain songs stood out, and I noticed they were all Cuban. So there's a Cuban theme.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We always seem to have a theme...

CONTRERAS: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...But I'll go with Cuban.

CONTRERAS: I knew you'd appreciate it. OK. But there's an important distinction. These songs reflect just what a wide swath of styles and genres are being played on the island. Fonseca was a good starting point. Now check this one out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL POTAJE (FEAT. OMARA PORTUONDO, CHUCHO VALDES, PANCHO AMAT AND LA ORQUESTA ARAGON)")

ORQUESTA ARAGON: (Singing in Spanish).

CIMAFUNK: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Very funky - I dig it.

CONTRERAS: I'm such a big fan of this artist. This is a former medical student who calls himself Cimafunk. It's a...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: See, I used the word funky correctly.

CONTRERAS: Right. Yeah. As you could tell, it's an amazing mix of Cuban son, funk, soul and even hip-hop. This track is called "El Potaje," and it's a killer collaboration with Cuban diva Omara Portuondo from Buena Vista Social Club and the iconic Orquesta Aragon and a bunch of other people. Check out how easily they moved from Omara Portuondo to funk.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL POTAJE (FEAT. OMARA PORTUONDO, CHUCHO VALDES, PANCHO AMAT AND LA ORQUESTA ARAGON)")

OMARA PORTUONDO: (Singing in Spanish).

ORQUESTA ARAGON: (Singing in Spanish).

PORTUONDO: (Singing in Spanish).

ORQUESTA ARAGON: (Singing in Spanish).

PORTUONDO: (Singing in Spanish).

CIMAFUNK: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I love the mixture of the juxtaposition. It's great. Oh, it's really great. All right. Let's keep mining these playlists you put together over there at Alt.Latino. Who's next?

CONTRERAS: OK. This is a very cool mashup of Cuba and India.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh.

CONTRERAS: OK? The Cuban...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I wasn't expecting that.

CONTRERAS: Right? The Cuban twins known as Ibeyi - they have a new single out with Anoushka Shankar, who's the daughter of Ravi Shankar. She's playing sitar. They are big Alt.Latino favorites, Ibeyi. And it's a great joy, let me tell you. It's a really nice thing to watch them and listen to them as they develop as musicians. We've been following them for a while. They started with amazing talent and a great concept, and it keeps getting better and better. This track is called "Lovable."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVABLE")

IBEYI: (Singing) More lovable, more lovable, more lovable, more lovable. Hey, hey, hey, more lovable. I'm more lovable...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's really interesting, actually. It's a really interesting kind of fusion. Wow.

CONTRERAS: Yeah. Ibeyi - their big thing is vocals. They layer these vocals. They're just two of them, but they layer them like choirs sometimes. And they use Cuban music sometimes, but most often, they don't. But it still has a Cuban (speaking Spanish) - right? - a Cuban feel. Everything they do has a Cuban feel.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. All right. Let's keep moving.

CONTRERAS: OK.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What's the next track?

CONTRERAS: All right. This is X Alfonso.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REFLEXION")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

CONTRERAS: He's a Cuban hip-hop pioneer. He had a 2001 album that was a tribute to Benny More. It was amazing. It was a brilliant use of sampling, as well as mambo and cha cha cha. And it was mixed with early hip-hop. It really just opened the door to Cuban hip-hop for the rest of the world. He's released a handful of albums. Each is a very musical exploration of contemporary music through a Cuban prism. And he's got a new record, and it's an expansive look at Cuban music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REFLEXION")

X ALFONSO: (Rapping in Spanish).

CONTRERAS: He's a very deep thinker, an amazing musician. He's releasing a track a month until the album comes out. And we're going to feature him on the playlist.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That sounds amazing. Felix Contreras helps assemble the Alt.Latino playlist. It's published every week on NPR.org/altlatino. It's also available on Spotify and Apple Music. Just look for Alt.Latino.

Felix, thank you so much.

CONTRERAS: Thank you, Lulu. And shout out to Stefanie Fernandez, who helps us every week pull this thing together.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REFLEXION")

X ALFONSO: (Rapping in Spanish).

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