When Electronica Meets Folk ... A Dance Craze Tell Me More's celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and the music of Latin America wraps up this week. The hosts of NPR's Alt. Latino podcast, Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras, share the unusual mix of electronica and folk. They talk about artists Los Macuanos, Geko Jones and others.
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When Electronica Meets Folk ... A Dance Craze

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When Electronica Meets Folk ... A Dance Craze

When Electronica Meets Folk ... A Dance Craze

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MICHEL MARTIN, host: And as Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close on Saturday, for this year, anyway, we are going to wrap up our series celebrating the music of Latin America with an interesting and unexpected pairing. We'll be hearing what happens when electronica meets folk.

To guide us through this collaboration are the co-hosts of NPR Music's ALT.LATINO podcast. That's an online program about Latin alternative music. Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras are with us once again. Welcome back, you two.

FELIX CONTRERAS: Thank you. Thanks for having us again.

JASMINE GARSD: Thank you so much for having us.

MARTIN: So electronica meets traditional musical styles, Felix.

CONTRERAS: It's part of a new trend that I think is going on all across Latin America, and it's - part of it comes out of the DJ culture, where they're doing all these interesting things with music digitally and sonically, and a lot of these guys are going old-fashioned crate-diving, going to record stores, looking for obscure stuff.

They're finding elements within that music and mixing it up with electronica. They're just making fascinating music.

MARTIN: I love crate-diving. Did you make that up?

CONTRERAS: Oh no, no, that's...

MARTIN: That's a term?

CONTRERAS: It's a vinyl thing.

MARTIN: It's a vinyl thing.

CONTRERAS: Yeah, it's a vinyl thing.

MARTIN: Crate-diving, I love it. So Jas, what are you going to start with?

GARSD: Well, I wanted to start us off with a genre coming out of Mexico, of the border area, northern Mexico, which it's a pretty new genre, and it's called ruidoson, which literally means noise music. Ruido means noise. And it's a fusion of Mexican regional, Mexican folk, pre-Columbian beats and electronica.

You know, it's interesting, you hear a lot in the news about what's happening in the border area with Mexico, the violence. Music is also being deeply affected by that, and in this case, it's a really dark, almost like an apocalyptic sound. And I just think it's fascinating. This is Los Macuanos doing "Ritmo De Amor," or "Rhythm of Love."


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in foreign language)

MARTIN: Felix, you're also a musician, in addition to being, you know, a fabulous guy. So what am I hearing?

CONTRERAS: You're hearing cumbia, and you're hearing a little bit of accordion that's been treated with electronics, and then you're hearing the DJ, the artist himself, kind of mixing it all up. Interestingly, DJ music artists, there's club music, but this stuff is most fascinating with headphones because as you can hear, if you're listening on ear buds, you can hear all this crazy stuff going on, and that's what they're doing. They're mixing it up.


GARSD: And Michel, there's a really interesting trend with the whole Ruidoson movement, which is that kids in northern Mexico are wearing really pointy boots, but I'm talking about, like, feet long, like two, three feet long of point on the boot. And they just go to the club, and they start dancing in these really pointy boots.

CONTRERAS: Crazy boots, man.

MARTIN: Like elf shoes.


CONTRERAS: Sort of like elf shoes, but they're cowboy boots. They're cowboy boots with the point elongated like crazy, like big, giant curlicues.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're having our final chapter in our series for celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. We're visiting with the hosts of ALT.LATINO, the online podcast about Latin alternative music, and we've been digging into great music from all over the world; from Latin America, bringing in elements from all over the world, with the co-hosts, Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras.

So Jas, people who listen to the program, your podcast ALT.LATINO, regularly, which of course we do.


GARSD: Know that you have a favorite DJ. Why don't you tell us about him.

Well, Geko Jones, who is American, Colombian, Puerto Rican DJ, he is pretty much one of our favorite DJs just because he is such a master at mixing traditional Colombian music, and I mean beyond, you know, salsa music and what you would associate with traditional Colombian music.

He goes - like Felix said - he goes crate-diving for music that is obscure even in Colombia itself, and he mixes it, and he has described himself kind of as a chef, that, you know, if he - you know, you don't want to overcook a tune, and he does it so perfectly.

I wanted to share a great example. This is a traditional song called "La Quatro Palomas," or "The Four Doves," and it's a remix featuring DJ Reagonomic.


MARTIN: Felix, tell me again, what are we hearing here?

CONTRERAS: Those are allegric(ph) drums. They're like a form of djembe from West Africa. It's a leftover legacy from the African presence there in Latin American Colombia. So you hear - in some of those rhythms, you're hearing shakers, you're hearing different - what he does is he goes in to find - like he hears about - there's a specific beat from a specific region, and he wants to go find it, and he will go to that region and, like I said, go to these record stores and find stuff or find the artists themselves and sometimes record them himself.

But mostly it's just pre-recorded stuff, and you're hearing it all mixed in, and eventually he brings in stuff that we will recognize from going to clubs and hearing stuff on the radio.


MARTIN: You know, it's interesting. It's also kind of a musical quilt, which is, you know, a combination of your own artistry but the fabric and elements that you might have inherited. It could be from, you know, generations ago.

CONTRERAS: That's exactly. I mean, he's - like Jasmine said, he's Puerto Rican and Colombian; Colombian on his father's side, and he told us when we had him on the show that he's using his own music to discover things about himself, by going back to his Colombian heritage and discovering that music and in turn discovering things about himself.

MARTIN: Before we let you go for now, I did want to ask you about some of the responses that we've received from listeners about our conversations. I have to ask you about this email that we received from one listener, who said she was shocked and outraged that you would feature the music of Brazil on a show called ALT.LATINO.

And her argument is that - make sure I have this right - is that Brazilians are Hispanic but not Latino. And so - because, well, Portuguese is their primary language. So do you want to address that?

CONTRERAS: You know, the only thing certain about whether someone's a Latino or a Hispanic is that it's uncertain. You know, it just depends on a self-identification. And, you know, there's - whether or not you want to consider Brazil part of Latin America, it is part of the continent of America. They do speak Portuguese, which makes them different from - the rest of the continent speaks Spanish.

But, you know, there's - some do, some don't. I mean, it just depends - she could be right; we could be right. It all depends on who you talk to.

MARTIN: And also, Jasmine, you made the point that the Latin Grammys also include...

GARSD: Many, many categories for Brazil. I know many Brazilians who would be offended by that assertion. I mean, look, I think at the end of the day, these terms are just so ambiguous, and in the worst of cases, they're used to discriminate, and in the best of cases, they're used to encourage an understanding and sharing of culture, and that's really what we're trying to do.

MARTIN: So Jasmine, take us out on this. What shall we play to go out on?

GARSD: Well, Michel, I wanted to bring you one of my favorite, favorite artists. When...

MARTIN: They're all your favorite.


GARSD: I love music. But when it comes to mixing folk with electronica, I do want to recommend listeners check out two labels, which is ZZK from Argentina and Waxploitation, and they really - all of their artists specialize in doing this type of mix, and this is Mate Sundel(ph) from Argentina. What he does it he mixes a lot of traditional indigenous instruments and sounds with electronica, and it sounds kind of like this. This is (foreign language spoken) off of the mix tape called "When I Dance, The Earth Trembled."


MARTIN: That was Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras. They are the co-hosts of NPR Music's ALT.LATINO podcast of Latin alternative music. You can hear them at npr.org/altlatino. Jasmine, Felix, thanks so much for sharing music with us these last few weeks, and I hope you'll come back and see us. Don't be strangers.

GARSD: Oh, we'll miss you.

CONTRERAS: It's been a pleasure, thank you.

GARSD: Thank you.

MARTIN: Just ahead, nobody said marriage is easy. Demanding jobs and family responsibilities can put stress on even the strongest marriage. A new book reminds newlyweds and the not-so-newlywed to take a deep breath and keep things simple.

CYNTHIA BOND HOPSON: If you need some quiet time, if you need some space, you need to say that. You shouldn't expect people to read your mind.

MARTIN: We'll talk with Cynthia Bond Hopson and the Reverend Roger Hopson about how they've made their 35-year marriage work and their tips for other married couples. That's just ahead on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

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