'Bimexicano': Rock Versions Of Mexico's Latin Classics Mexico celebrates the bicentennial of its independence from Spain this week. Celebrations are subdued because of the violence plaguing the country. But a new album featuring rock versions of the classics is a counterpoint to the pessimism and gloom. It features traditional Mexican songs performed and reinterpreted by international Latin artists.

'Bimexicano': Rock Versions Of Mexico's Latin Classics

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

On the other side of the border, Mexico is celebrating this week. It is the 200th anniversary of the country's independence from Spain. A renegade priest began the fight against colonial rule in 1810.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This week's celebrations of that event will be muted because of Mexico's modern-day drug violence, but a new album offers a counterpoint to the gloom. It features rock music versions of Latin classics. NPR's Felix Contreras has this music moment.

(Soundbite of music, "La Llorona")

FELIX CONTRERAS: That is not the sound of tradition. It's what happens when tradition is reinterpreted by forward-thinking musicians like Mexican vocalist Ely Guerra. The name of the tune is "La Llorona," and it's folk tale that also has a history as a folk song. Here it becomes a plaintive musical exploration of past aided by the technological sleight of hand of a contemporary music studio.

(Soundbite of song, "La Llorona")

Ms. ELY GUERRA (Singer): (Singing in Spanish)

CONTRERAS: The Mexican band Jaguares offers a reverential take of the song "La Martiniana" by recreating the one-two-three, one-two-three beat of the huapango, a polyrhythmic style that dates back to before Mexico's fight for independence.

(Soundbite of song, "La Martiniana")

JAGUARES (Rock Band): (Singing in Spanish)

CONTRERAS: Vocalist Chavela Vargas is one of Mexico's living musical legends, mostly because of her distinctive voice, but also because she challenged Mexican society and customs by living a gay lifestyle for over five decades. The Colombian band Aterciopelados offers this tribute to Vargas by covering a song she made famous, "Un Mondo Raro," a mariachi song about forbidden love.

(Soundbite of song, "Un Mondo Raro")

ATERCIOPELADOS (Rock Band): (Singing in Spanish)

CONTRERAS: While Mexicans do indeed have many things to keep them preoccupied these days, they can certainly look back on a rich musical history and find reason to celebrate.

Felix Contreras, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "Un Mondo Raro")

ATERCIOPELADOS: (Singing in Spanish)

WERTHEIMER: Find more Latin alternative music on Alt Latino at npr.org/altlatino.

(Soundbite of song, "Un Mondo Raro")

ATERCIOPELADOS: (Singing in Spanish)

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News.

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