Latin Picks From Betto Arcos Of 'Global Village' The host of KPFK's world music show discusses some of his favorite tracks with Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz. Among them are songs by Jorge Drexler, Omar Sosa and Lila Downs.
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Latin Picks From Betto Arcos Of 'Global Village'

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Latin Picks From Betto Arcos Of 'Global Village'

Latin Picks From Betto Arcos Of 'Global Village'

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(Soundbite of song, "Las Transeuntes")

GUY RAZ, host:

For his latest album, Uruguayan musician Jorge Drexler transformed a television studio into a recording studio, complete with a live audience. And he invited musicians to help him make his new record. It's called "Amar La Trama."

(Soundbite of song, "Las Transeuntes")

Mr. JORGE DREXLER (Musician): (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: The song is called "Las Transeuntes," the female pedestrians. This is one of several new Latin tracks Betto Arcos has been spinning on his radio program "Global Village" on KPFK in Los Angeles. And he's with me here in the studio at NPR West.

Betto, good to have you back.

Mr. BETTO ARCOS (Radio Host, "Global Village"): Great to be here.

RAZ: Betto, you brought some new music primarily from Latin America. But before we get to those, tell me about this piece we're hearing by Jorge Drexler.

Mr. ARCOS: This is his first attempt at doing a song in a sort of Flamenco style. It's a rumba.

RAZ: And he lives in Spain. We should say he's Uruguayan but he lives in Spain.

Mr. ARCOS: He's been living in Madrid for over a decade now and invited one of the great Flamenco musicians Josemi Carmona to play Flamenco guitar on this. And the solo, ah, it's just amazing stuff.

(Soundbite of song, "Las Transeuntes")

Mr. ARCOS: Interestingly, this song, he said, it really wasn't going to end up in the record because it's an unfinished song. It's a song about the exercise of writing a song. It has to do with the writer sitting in front of the window, looking out and these pedestrian women walking by. And he's trying to get inspiration to write a song but he can't. So he just jots down whatever comes to his brain and creates this melody. And he says it's funny because the song doesn't really end. It just asks questions.

(Soundbite of song, "Las Transeuntes")

Mr. DREXLER: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: Betto, up next, you brought us some new music from Cuba. And this is Cuba via Germany.

(Soundbite of song, "Cha Con Marimba")

Mr. ARCOS: This is Omar Sosa. In my opinion, one of the most amazing pianists today. He's based in Barcelona, Spain. He's from Cuba. He lived in the Bay Area for a number of years.

And this is his first record where he has a big band in a sort of homage or a tribute to the great Cuban big band of the '50s, you know, Machito, you know Tito Puente in the '50s, Tito Rodriguez, the great Cuban bands. Bebo Valdes had a big band as well, Benny More.

So he's tried to kind of conjure up this era in his own style. A very current sounding though.

RAZ: And when I say via Germany, he recorded this record with a big band, a German big band from the NDR Radio Station in northern Germany.

Mr. ARCOS: Yes. And what he's doing here with this piece called "Cha Con Marimba" is he is paying tribute to a region in South America called Esmeraldas where there is a significant African presence...

RAZ: Yeah.

Mr. ARCOS: ...an African community in South America. And it has to do with -the main instrument there is a marimba. And he plays the marimba from Esmeraldas, from this region in South America in Ecuador.

And so he's mixing all of these influences of the marimba music and the Cha-cha-cha that we know from Cuba with this beautiful big band. But the solo is to die for.

RAZ: Yeah. Right in the middle of the song comes this piano solo.

(Soundbite of song, "Cha Con Marimba")

Mr. ARCOS: Now, if you ever get a chance to see Omar Sosa live - I've had an opportunity to see him several times, and I tell you, you think he's bleeding from playing the piano because he puts so much intensity and passion into his playing. You go home transformed.

RAZ: Betto, I am really excited about the next piece we're going to talk about. This is straight from Oaxaca, Mexico kind of. It is Lila Downs.

(Soundbite of song, "Paloma Negra")

Ms. LILA DOWNS (Musician): (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: What a voice, Betto. Tell us about this song.

Mr. ARCOS: This is a classic ranchera from about the 1930s, '40s in Mexico, popularized on countless black and white films during the Golden Age of Mexican films.

RAZ: Except this is a brand-new music.

Mr. ARCOS: Yeah. Lila reinvents the song and adds that electric guitar flavor, kind of bluesy flavor to it. But her vocal chords are the soul.

(Soundbite of song, "Paloma Negra")

Ms. DOWNS: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: This song is called "Paloma Negra." And it almost sounds like she's crying, like she's wailing tears.

Mr. ARCOS: It is a song about pain and despair. It is about longing and this deep pain that we all have sometimes. And it's really this very deeply-rooted Mexican quality. It's really - in my opinion, it's like the blues.

RAZ: And there's that moment in this song where she just holds that note for just an endless period of time.

(Soundbite of song, "Paloma Negra")

Ms. DOWNS: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. ARCOS: People say if you want to sing rancheras, you need to be prepared to sing rancheras because these are songs that you have to take in seriously. This, by the way, is her first live record that's come out. She has about six, seven albums but this is the first live album ever of Lila Downs.

(Soundbite of song, "Paloma Negra")

Ms. DOWNS: (Singing in foreign language)

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

RAZ: Betto, finally, since we are both in Los Angeles this week, speaking face to face, we have to hear, I think, from the quintessential L.A. Mexican rock band Ozomatli.

(Soundbite of song, "Are You Ready?")

Mr. ARCOS: If there is a band that represents what L.A. is today, it's called Ozomatli, not just in its sound because they do mix rock and they do mix salsa and they do mix hip-hop and other genres, but it's because the composition of the group. It's made up of different cultures, of different ethnicities. There are Latinos. There's a Jewish guy. There's a Japanese-American, a couple of African-American guys. It's really what L.A. is. L.A. is a city of diverse cultures. And Ozomatli is, in my opinion, the one that best represents the city.

(Soundbite of song, "Are You Ready?")

Mr. ARCOS: You know, they've put on shows that people - they can't stop dancing.

RAZ: Yeah.

Mr. ARCOS: If you go to a party and you, you know, I've seen them at the Hollywood Bowl, I've seen them at outdoor concerts, and every time they get on stage, it is an endless party. They walk in with, you know, like a Brazilian-style Batucada. They walk in playing music as they parade into the venue. And when they leave, they do the same thing. It is a party non-stop.

And I have to say one more thing. This is from a record that's not even out yet, so we're hearing this for the first time.

RAZ: For the first time.

Mr. ARCOS: It's the first track in their fourth coming record called "Fire Away" just out next month.

RAZ: The track is called "Are You Ready?" It's from the fourth coming record by the L.A.-based band Ozomatli.

Betto Arcos pops in from time to time to talk about some of the music he's spinning on his show. It's called "Global Village." And you could hear it on KPFK in Los Angeles.

Betto, thank you so much.

Mr. ARCOS: Always a pleasure. And great to meet you face to face. And welcome to Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of song, "Are You Ready?")

RAZ: And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Special congratulations tonight to Southern California Public Radio marking its 10-year anniversary.

I'm Guy Raz. Thanks for listening, and have a great night.

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