(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIKE IT")
PETE RODRÍGUEZ: (Singing) Yeah, baby, I like it like that. You got to believe me when I tell you. I said I like it like that. You got to believe me when I tell you.
FELIX CONTRERAS, HOST:
Oh, they certainly did like it like that this year. From NPR Music, this is ALT.LATINO. I'm Felix Contreras, and this is our end of the year 2018 - some of our favorites of 2018. And, of course, I always bring in help to do this. Sitting in the studio with me today is Stefanie Fernández.
STEFANIE FERNÁNDEZ, BYLINE: Hi, Felix.
CONTRERAS: Thanks for coming in again. Marisa Arbona-Ruiz is here.
MARISA ARBONA-RUIZ, BYLINE: Hey.
CONTRERAS: And in WBEZ in Chicago, repping the Midwest, Catalina Maria Johnson.
CATALINA MARIA JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hey, Felix. Hey, Marisa. Hey, Stefanie.
CONTRERAS: All right, so the party's started. Now, we played just a little bit of that song just to remind people that that was such a big deal this year, and it sort of influenced some of our other decisions. Now, between the four of us, we submitted songs, and we put it into the ALT.LATINO song computer. And it came up, and it spit out this nice list. It just so happened that all four of us have agreed on one artist, one album as our - one of our favorites and probably the favorite of the year. And that's "El Mal Querer" by Rosalía.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "QUE NO SALGA LA LUNA (CAP.2: BODA)")
ROSALÍA: Lililili ali ali ali ali (Vocalizing).
CONTRERAS: Since we can't see you, Catalina, let's start with you. What is it about that record that you liked?
JOHNSON: Wow. What is it that I did not like? - which is nothing - everything about it. To me, this year was so surprising in terms of our choices - and Rosalía's "El Mal Querer" is right at the top of that - in that we had some real game changers - I mean, not just amazing music, not just extraordinary artistry but things that changed the panorama of sort of the pop, Latinx and, in this case, flamenco kind of world - like, shook it to its core and created controversy.
So I love everything about Rosalía's "El Mal Querer." She took a genre that had been kind of laying dormant - like, sort of the indie flamenco-ish (ph) version of things - since maybe the - oh, I don't know - a couple of decades, since Ojos de Brujo, and turned it on its head - and from Cataluña, which created a big stir 'cause she's not from the south of Spain. So it's so fresh. It's so different. And she has just vocal chops, you know, out the wazoo - I mean, just an amazing voice. So, yeah, I loved everything about it. And I loved the way it upended everybody's, you know - the purists - well, the flamenco purists - and just that, you know, it kind of, like, made everybody super happy and kind of pissed a lot of people off along the way, too. So that's a sign of great music, great art.
CONTRERAS: That would be el wazoo since she is from Spain.
CONTRERAS: OK, Marisa, what is it about it?
ARBONA-RUIZ: Oh, man. I thought this was extraordinary. And I love her voice. It's so breathy and warbly. It's kind of reminiscent of a Gaby Moreno or a Dolly Parton. It was enrapturing. And she's very innovative, and I loved how she blended modern and flamenco. It was phenomenal. Also, the fact that each song is part of a story, of a relationship situation and each song is titled by the name and then the chapter - so it's really innovative in that sense.
FERNÁNDEZ: I absolutely agree. This album is so rich. It's - I would say the word dense because there's so much in there, but it's not accurate because it's just so accessible. The talk is that the narrative is loosely based on this 13th century manuscript called the "Romance of Flamenca" (ph), written in Occitan, which is one of the old extinguished Romance languages. And if it's true, that story is about a husband that, out of jealousy, locks his wife in a tower after she's supposedly been with another man, and then someone else helps her escape. I love that Rosalía transforms this narrative of a woman in capture, taking the traditional Old World genre of flamenco and subverting it with new pop and trap and hip-hop and R&B influences. It's beautiful.
JOHNSON: And a touch of the whimsical in there.
JOHNSON: The whimsical and the badass at the same time.
CONTRERAS: (Laughter) Can we say badass? I think we just did.
CONTRERAS: This is "Malamente" from Rosalía, and this is the album that we all agreed on was, I guess, probably the best record of the year.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MALAMENTE")
ROSALÍA: (Singing) Ese cristalito roto yo sentí como crujía. Antes de caerse al suelo ya sabía que se rompía. Está parpadeando la luz del descansillo. Una voz en la escalera, alguien cruzando el pasillo. Malamente, malamente, mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, malamente, está en la mente, malamente, mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, malamente. Se ha puesto la noche rara. Han salido luna y estrellas. Me lo dijo esa gitana, mejor no salir a verla. Sueño que estoy andando por un puente y que la acera. Cuando más quiero cruzarlo, más se mueve y tambalea. Malamente, malamente, mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, malamente, está en la mente, malamente, mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, malamente. Aunque no esté bonita, la noche undivé. Voy a salir para la calle, en la manita los aros brillando en mi piel. Los corales me protejan, me salven, me iluminen, me guarden. Y por delante no voy a perder ni un minuto en volver a pensarte. Malamente, malamente, mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, malamente, está en la mente, malamente, mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, malamente. Malamente, ah, malamente, mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, malamente, está en la mente, malamente, mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, muy mal, malamente.
CONTRERAS: The artist that caught everyone's attention this year - that was Rosalía with "Malamente."
FERNÁNDEZ: "Malamente" won two Latin Grammys this year for alternative song and urban fusion and - slash performance.
CONTRERAS: OK, so from there, the ALT.LATINO song computer pointed out that three of us agreed on a number of songs, two of us agreed on a number of songs, and then everybody went their own separate ways, which is what we wanted to happen because it reflects just all of our different tastes here on ALT.LATINO. All of you folks have been really wonderful in writing for the website, for the blog, reflecting your different tastes. Stefanie has been curating the Spotify playlist so we have even more stuff to listen to.
So what we're going to do is I'm going to read the list of albums and artists that three of us or two of us agreed on from the stuff that we submitted, OK? And it's going to be like a lightning round. I'm going to mention it. And if somebody has something to say - one or two words, a sentence, boom, and then we're out, OK? Clock is running. Here we go. "Blueprint" by Alice Bag.
FERNÁNDEZ: A punk manifesto 50 years in the making.
CONTRERAS: There you go - a pioneer, true pioneer. "Trending Tropics" by Trending Tropics.
ARBONA-RUIZ: Eclectic innovativeness.
JOHNSON: And that was Eduardo Cabra and Vicente García.
CONTRERAS: OK, "Prisma Tropical" from Balún from Puerto Rico.
JOHNSON: Dreamy, beautiful.
FERNÁNDEZ: They call it dreambow (ph).
CONTRERAS: OK, "Orquesta Akokán" by Orquesta Akokán. Classic Cuban music recorded today, recorded in a historic studio - really liked it, very danceable.
ARBONA-RUIZ: With a huge New York influence somewhere along the way - Jacob Plasse.
FERNÁNDEZ: The best orquesta since Aragón.
CONTRERAS: There you go. Wow, look at that. OK, "Claroscuro" (ph) by Aterciopelados.
JOHNSON: This was Aterciopelados decades ahead of where they were and yet still solidly unique.
CONTRERAS: Rock en español pioneers for sure. "Vibras" by J Balvin.
FERNÁNDEZ: The reggaeton world takeover that J Balvin promised us...
FERNÁNDEZ: ...And is now delivering.
CONTRERAS: OK, "Bienaventuranza" by Chancha Vía Circuito.
JOHNSON: All of the mystical, South American, Indigenous Amazons taken to, like, not just the 21st, probably the 22nd or 23rd century.
CONTRERAS: You and I both agreed on that one. OK, that got us through the lightning round. Very good. That was fun. We're going to move on now to our individual picks. Again, these reflect our own tastes. So here we go. Stefanie, let's start with you.
FERNÁNDEZ: I have a pick that's rather different from the albums that we just spoke about. It's a single, first off, and it's by two, I think, very under spoken about and underrepresented women, reguetoneras, that have been releasing music this year. It's Natti Natasha and Becky G's "Sin Pijama."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIN PIJAMA")
BECKY G: (Singing) Solo, solito en la habitación.
FERNÁNDEZ: "Sin Pijama" - that song, which came out in April, is currently the most watched music video on YouTube by women released this year.
CONTRERAS: Let me see if I can get my commas straight. I think it's 1 billion.
CONTRERAS: Over 1 billion. Wow.
FERNÁNDEZ: It's by women singing in Spanish. Now, the popularity of YouTube in Latin America and streaming platforms in general is nothing new. But the fact that reggaeton, which is a genre innovated by women, I'll remind you - pioneers like Ivy Queen, of course, are nothing new - but it's unprecedented to see them being reflected in numbers such as these. The song and, more interestingly, I think, the music video - the subject of everyone's attention - shows us this near fantasy sequence of a bunch of women at a sleepover, but it's less like a sleepover and more like a private Victoria's Secret fashion show - very unrealistic, and it's a song about female desire. And, of course, as you can imagine from the title, something around those lines. But the end of the music video is fascinating to me because it gives way to both of the women who are suddenly just prancing around in these beautiful lace and lingerie in a bed together with face masks on, eating popcorn and junk food and scrolling through their phones together, reflecting the reality of women - what women actually do when they're together at sleepovers. And I think it's kind of this, like, subtle tour de force that's saying, we're coming to take over reggaeton and finally get the recognition in this genre that women deserve.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIN PIJAMA")
NATTI NATASHA: (Singing) Nos vamos para tu casa. Nos quedamos en la cama sin pijama, sin pijama.
BECKY G: (Singing) Si tú me llamas, nos vamos para tu casa. Nos quedamos en la cama sin pijama, sin pijama.
NATTI NATASHA: (Singing) Si no hay teatro, deja el drama. Enciéndeme la llama. Como yo vine al mundo, ese es mi mejor pijama. Hoy hay toque de queda. Seré tuya hasta la mañana. La pasamos romantic sin piloto automatic. Botamos el manual. Estamos viajando en cannabis. Siempre he sido una dama, pero soy una perra en la cama. Así que dale pon-pon-pon-pon-pon. Ponle carne a mi sazón-zón-zón-zón-zón. Choca todo eso con mi bon-bon-bon-bon-bon. Perdemos el control para ganar los dos.
BECKY G: (Singing) Así que dale pon-pon-pon-pon-pon. Ponle fuego a mi sazón-zón-zón-zón-zón. Choca todo eso con mi bon-bon-bon-bon-bon. Espero tu call. Vente. Dame el gol.
NATTI NATASHA: (Singing) Si tú me llamas, nos vamos para tu casa. Nos quedamos en la cama sin pijama, sin pijama.
BECKY G: (Singing) Si tú me llamas, nos vamos para tu casa. Fumamos marihuana sin pijama, sin pijama. Baby, hoy no vamos a dormir. Natti Nat, yeah, yeah. Becky G, baby. Baby, hoy no vamos a dormir.
CONTRERAS: Interesting choice and interesting storyline, especially given something that we've talked about this last year on ALT.LATINO, the #MeToo movement and reggaeton. And this, I think, is one of those examples of women taking control.
FERNÁNDEZ: And reclaiming that power.
CONTRERAS: OK, Marisa, you're up.
ARBONA-RUIZ: OK. My most favorite pick is "Zapata Se Queda," which is a stunning cover of a song written by Lila Downs and Paul Cohen, performed by La Colmena. And I was really drawn to this because I sang with an ensemble for many years, and this selection just captures the magic of spectacular arrangements and throwing in percussion at just the right times and also using vocals as percussion as well. La Colmena is a vocal ensemble of 15 women who come out of Buenos Aires, and they've been together for six years. I actually had never heard of them until this song came over my social media feed, and I just had to listen to it over and over.
CONTRERAS: Again, this is "Zapata Se Queda" from La Colmena.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ZAPATA SE QUEDA")
LA COLMENA: (Vocalizing). (Singing) Son las 3 de la mañana. Dicen que pena un santito. Bajito yo oigo que dice, camínale despacito. Ay, mamá, camínale despacito. Mi sueño me dice no vayas. Mis piernas me dicen tantito. Y cuando ya me doy cuenta, caramba, me muevo poco a poquito. Ay, mamá, me muevo poco a poquito. Serás tú, Zapata, él que escucho aquí, con tu luz perpetua que en tus ojos vi. En mi mente se oye que me dice así. En mi mente se oye que me dice así. Por la sombra de la selva, se escuchó un disparo, y cayó un gallo negro por la calle de milagro. Si tú dices que me quieres con el todo al todo, y te vas tú conmigo, levantamos polvo. Ay, ay, ay, ay, cuando sueño contigo, se dibuja el sereno por todo mi camino. Ay, ay, ay, ay, cuando sueño contigo, no hay ni miedo ni duda sobre mi destino. (Vocalizing). Son las 3 de la mañana. Dicen que pena un santito. Bajito yo oigo que dice, camínale despacito. Ay, mamá, camínale despacito. Mi sueño me dice no vayas. Mis piernas me dicen tantito. Y cuando ya me doy cuenta, caramba, me muevo poco a poquito. Ay, mamá, me muevo poco a poquito. Serás tú, Zapata, él que escucho aquí, con tu luz perpetua que en tu ojos vi. En mi mente se oye que me dice así. En mi mente se oye que me dice así. Por la sombra de la selva se escuchó un disparo, y cayó un gallo negro por la calle de milagro. Si tú dices que me quieres con el todo al todo, y te vas tú conmigo, levantamos polvo. Ay, ay, ay, ay, cuando sueño contigo, se dibuja el sereno por todo mi camino. Ay, ay, ay, ay, cuando sueño contigo, no hay ni miedo ni duda sobre mi destino. (Vocalizing).
CONTRERAS: How could you not be moved by that?
ARBONA-RUIZ: Love that ending. It has a jazzy end that goes (vocalizing) - wow, just, wow.
CONTRERAS: Wait. Do that again.
CONTRERAS: OK, let's see. Catalina, go ahead. You're next.
JOHNSON: I'm going to stay with the ladies...
JOHNSON: ...Because one of my picks is actually a really formidable musician from Galicia, Spain, called Mercedes Peón. And she is - studied anthropology - she's kind of a researcher - but also collected folk tunes from Galicia, which, just to remind everybody, is in northwestern Spain and shares a Celtic heritage with Ireland. They have bagpipe music. So she collected these folk songs. And, again, she's one of these musicians that kind of propels traditional roots, folk music into the future and brings in electronica, brings in all kinds of percussion. And this album "Deixaas," she actually recorded in a shipyard. So this is the title track, again, from northwestern Galicia, from a land that has a coastal area and a very rich sea life, a very rich relationship to the sea. This is "Deixaas."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEIXAAS")
MERCEDES PEÓN: (Singing in Portuguese).
CONTRERAS: Catalina, you got our attention with that one.
JOHNSON: (Laughter) I can always be counted on for the weird.
CONTRERAS: Thank goodness, right?
CONTRERAS: That was Mercedes Peón and "Deixa" (ph) - title track from Catalina's first pick from our best of the year. You are listening to ALT.LATINO. This is the best of the year 2018. I'm in the studio with Catalina Maria Johnson, Marisa Arbona-Ruiz, Stefanie Fernández, and I, of course, am Eddie Van Halen.
CONTRERAS: Thank you all for joining us.
JOHNSON: Good day.
CONTRERAS: For joining us. OK, so it's my turn. OK. I'm sticking with the ladies. Two albums that really stood out this year, and they were two Latin artists who were recorded with two very different string quartets. One of them was saxophonist Miguel Zenón - beautiful record interpreting Puerto Rican music, again, with his saxophone and a string quartet. And this one - Magos Herrera, Mexican vocalist of substantial talent who's been on a number of different types of recordings. She's jazz. She's art. She's folkloric. She's all of the above. And she recorded an album with Brooklyn Rider. And to me, it just really reflected this sort of artistic sophistication but also so earthy and so folkloric at the same time. This is a track called "Niña," and this is Magos Herrera and Brooklyn Rider.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NIÑA")
MAGOS HERRERA: (Singing) Nombras el árbol, niña. Y el árbol crece lento y pleno, anegando los aires, verde deslumbramiento hasta volvernos, hasta volvernos verde la mirada. Nombras el cielo, niña. Y el cielo azul, la nube blanca, la luz de la mañana se meten en el pecho hasta volverlo, hasta volverlo cielo y transparencia. No dices nada, niña. Y nace del silencio la vida en una ola de música amarilla. Su dorada marea nos alza en plenitudes, nos vuelve a ser nosotros. Nombras el agua, niña. Y el agua brota. No sé dónde baña la tierra negra. Reverdece la flor. Brilla en las hojas, y en húmedos vapores, y en húmedos vapores nos convierte. No dices nada, niña. Y nace del silencio la vida en una ola de música amarilla. Su dorada marea nos alza en plenitudes - de música amarilla. Su dorada marea nos alza en plenitudes, nos vuelve a ser nosotros. (Vocalizing).
CONTRERAS: Now you can see why I really enjoyed that record. I think it's a beautiful record. And if this were - Stefanie, you might be too young for this, OK? But back...
CONTRERAS: OK, but listen. But back in the day when we used to put our...
JOHNSON: You mean me and Stefanie?
ARBONA-RUIZ: Don't forget me.
CONTRERAS: OK, well, all right. Let me put myself in that category.
ARBONA-RUIZ: I'm in between.
CONTRERAS: Back in the day when I was old enough to record albums onto cassette tapes - right? - I would put - I would have put the Miguel Zenón on one side of the 90-minute cassette and the Magos Herrera album on the other side of the cassette. That's all I'm saying. All of you, of course, are much too young to remember that.
JOHNSON: Of course.
CONTRERAS: All right, we're listening to the best of 2018, and let me put an asterisk by this because we could have had 100 songs...
ARBONA-RUIZ: Oh, yeah.
CONTRERAS: ...OK? - 'cause it's - the variety of creativity in Latin music right now is just astounding. It's just jaw-dropping. And it gets better every year, and it's really hard to zero in on a handful of these recordings. We're going to have some on the show. We're going to have some on our website. But it's by no means the end-all, be-all. There's just a ton of great stuff out there. And we've played a lot of it on the show over the course of the year, and we've had it on our website over the course of the year. So if you're really looking and you want to go down that rabbit hole, go to ALT.LATINO, and you'll - we'll set you up. So...
FERNÁNDEZ: And rest assured we're still fighting amongst ourselves.
CONTRERAS: (Laughter) Yeah.
CONTRERAS: Right in the studio.
ARBONA-RUIZ: Up until the last second, well, should I do this? No, I want to do that.
CONTRERAS: Stefanie, you're up.
FERNÁNDEZ: All right, now for the cool prima to bring it back to the present.
FERNÁNDEZ: You heard the song that has been in everyone's ears whether you liked it or not, "I Like It," at the beginning of the show...
CONTRERAS: Oh, I get it.
FERNÁNDEZ: ...Featuring - thank you - featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin and, of course, by Cardi B. But I want to focus on another Bad Bunny song. Bad Bunny has become kind of the poster boy for Latin trap, especially as it's manifested in the U.S. He's from Puerto Rico, and he's been vocal, you know, after Hurricane Maria last year about staying vocally in support of the Puerto Rican people in his music and in his public face.
And in June, he released a homemade music video and song called "Estamos Bien," filmed in Puerto Rico of him and his friends just road-tripping around the island, having fun, being kids. And the song is a thanksgiving to the island. It is a thanksgiving for all that it has given him in music and in family and in values, despite the fact that Puerto Rico in international news was being featured as this place that was destroyed and that was, of course, in many places across the island, still without water, without electricity, without food, without shelter.
Regardless of all of that, he still finds room to give thanks for that. He says in the song, "Aunque para casa no ha llegado la luz, gracias a Dios porque tengo salud". So thanks to God anyway because I'm healthy, and we're all here, and we're still enjoying yourselves. Like, you know, when the whole world wanted to see Puerto Rico as this tragic place, he fought back by saying, you know, estamos bien. We're fine, and we're going to stay fine.
CONTRERAS: And for all of you old-schoolers out there who are not paying attention to some of these younger cats, guys like this really make it worth paying attention to. This is Bad Bunny - all respect to Bad Bunny.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ESTAMOS BIEN")
BAD BUNNY: (Singing) Yeah, yeah, yeah, estamos bien, yeah. Sobran los billetes de 100, yeah. No hay nada mal. Estamos bien. Está todo bien, ey. Todos los míos están bien, estamos bien, ey. No te preocupes. Estamos bien, ey. Sobran los billetes de 100, ey. No hay nada mal. Estamos bien. Está todo bien, ey. Todos los míos están bien, estamos bien, ey. El dinero me llueve, ey. Mera, diablo, qué aguacero. En la cuenta, un par de ceros, y empezamos desde cero, ey. Y eso que soy un grosero, ey. Y si mañana me muero, ya estoy acostumbrado a estar siempre en el cielo, ey. En privado siempre vuelo. En el cuello tengo hielo. Gasto, gasto, y no me pelo, muchas putas y modelos. Estamos bien. Sobran los billetes de 100. No hay nada mal. Estamos bien. Está todo bien, ey. Todos los míos están bien. Estamos bien, ey. Hoy me levanté contento y me levanté feliz aunque dicen por ahí que están hablando de mí, ey - y me levanté feliz aunque dicen por ahí que están hablando de mí, ey. Hoy ando al garete, ey, como graduando, tirando el birrete, como narco contando billetes, la Mercedes en PR recogiendo boquete, ey. Vivo como soñé a los 17, ey, ey. El que no logró nada es porque no le mete. Dime qué esperas tú. Si alguien puede, eres tú. Aunque para casa no ha llegado la luz, gracias a Dios porque tengo salud, ey, ey. La vida no tiene repetición después que mami me eche la bendición, yeah. No te preocupes. Estamos bien con o sin billetes de 100. Pero tener no es malo, así que estamos bien. Estamos bien, ey. Todos los míos están bien. Estamos bien, ey. No te preocupes. Estamos bien, bien. Hoy me levanté contento y me levanté feliz aunque dicen por ahí que están hablando de mí.
CONTRERAS: Good pick, Stef...
CONTRERAS: ...For a whole bunch of reasons.
FERNÁNDEZ: It's such an innovative track not only in its honesty and emotion that it conveys in such a short amount of time. But genrewise, it's a trap song, but it has those jazzy elements there. It has a choir sample in it.
CONTRERAS: Very nice.
FERNÁNDEZ: It's different from anything we'd heard from him before.
CONTRERAS: Very cool, good call. OK, Marisa, we're all looking at you. You have one more pick, and you've changed it three times since you walked into the studio. I could tell.
CONTRERAS: I could tell, OK?
ARBONA-RUIZ: It's killing me (laughter). It's killing me because this year I had Cuban fever. Oh, my God.
ARBONA-RUIZ: Híjole, ay, ay, ay.
CONTRERAS: You just made the Cuban American amongst us here, Stefanie, very happy.
ARBONA-RUIZ: Right, with my Mexican híjole.
FERNÁNDEZ: Welcome to the club.
ARBONA-RUIZ: Oh, you know, I went to the Kennedy Center Artes de Cuba Festival. It was a two-week long festival. It was outstanding. There were so many amazing artists. And one of them that stood out to me was Harold López-Nussa. He brings in the Cuban flavor, and he adds his own jazz to it. And the track I really want to hear is "Hialeah."
(SOUNDBITE OF HAROLD LÓPEZ-NUSSA'S "HIALEAH")
CONTRERAS: And I've got to say that this was a good year for Cuban pianists in general because Alfredo Rodríguez also put out an amazing record. We've got to make note of that. And Omar Sosa, one of my all-time favorites, also put out a fantastic record. So it was a good year all around for Cuban pianists. It always is.
FERNÁNDEZ: Viva Cuba.
JOHNSON: There's no such thing as a bad year for Cuban pianists.
JOHNSON: Have you ever heard of a bad year for Cuban pianists?
CONTRERAS: No, that's true.
JOHNSON: For Cuban musicians - everything they touch is just golden, I've just decided.
CONTRERAS: All right, so I'm losing track. So that was Marisa. Who's next? Catalina's next.
JOHNSON: Oh, I thought Eddie was next.
CONTRERAS: Eddie Van Halen's last.
JOHNSON: So this was really tough. This is like "Sophie's Choice." Like, I've only got one...
ARBONA-RUIZ: See? I'm not the only one.
JOHNSON: ...More. So I think I'm going to go with perhaps something that's a little less known or harder to discover, and it's very old-school, very roots. It's "Bachata Haiti," "Bachata Haiti." It was a little gem of an album. I mean, every track is just beautiful and delightful. And, as always, I love music that is kind of - can be read as a history book, I mean, that tells you something about the bigger picture. I'm always fascinated by that. And this is an album that highlights the relationship on Hispaniola, which is - half of it's the Dominican Republic; half of it's Haiti - and the Haitian diaspora in the Dominican Republic. And this little album erases the borders, and it focuses on bachata, which is classically Dominican. But these are Haitian tunes, and they're done in Creole, in a bachata style. And here is a classic Creole tune, "Ti Pouchon," and it's being interpreted by Franklin Medina, El Zorro Negro. So this is straight-up bachata, you know? - time to kind of, like, dance tight (laughter) and just sway along.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TI POUCHON")
EL ZORRO NEGRO: Zorro Negro. Haití. (Singing in non-English language).
CONTRERAS: In the video, he gives us a thumbs-up right as it ends.
CONTRERAS: I love it - "Bachata Haiti."
CONTRERAS: Nice call. Let's see.
FERNÁNDEZ: Mr. Van Halen.
JOHNSON: You're up, Eddie (laughter).
CONTRERAS: OK. We - you are...
ARBONA-RUIZ: Yo, Eddie.
CONTRERAS: What? I say it once, and I get a name. That's so funny. OK, you are listening to ALT.LATINO. I'm Felix Contreras, also known as Eddie Van Halen this week only. I'm in the studio with Marisa Arbona-Ruiz here in D.C., Stefanie Fernández here in D.C. and Catalina Maria Johnson at WBEZ in Chicago. I want to thank each of you for your hard work and your dedication and your wonderful sense of music. You each bring something very, very special to this show and to the blog, and it wouldn't happen without you guys. So I really want to publicly thank you all for all the work that you do and all the love that you put into the show. It's so greatly appreciated by me and, I'm sure, by all the people listening. So thank you all very much.
JOHNSON: And thank you.
CONTRERAS: What we're going to do is we want to remind you that you can go to our website at npr.org/altlatino and see the playlist that we're going to do and then also see some of the videos that we're going to post. And I do want to remind you that we're going to put together a listeners' pick for next week. So if you haven't already reached out to us on Facebook or Twitter, we're NPR's ALT.LATINO. Send us a DM. Send me a message to email. It's email@example.com. Carrier pigeon - whatever it is, get your picks in, and I'm going to put together a listeners' pick show for next week. Before I get to my last pick, let's do a lightning round very quickly - honorable mentions. Marisa.
ARBONA-RUIZ: Making Movies. And Mon Laferte - anything she touches turns to gold.
FERNÁNDEZ: "What A Bam Bam" by Amara La Negra, without a doubt - this was her year - and all of the album "Gourmet" by Orishas, who had not released an album in 10 years.
JOHNSON: M.A.K.U SoundSystem and "Por Encima" as well as Novalima and, from their album, "Herejia."
CONTRERAS: And I want to say an honorable mention for our friend Eleanor Dubinsky. She put out a really great record this year. And then also to remind people, I want to say El Tiny, OK, because we had a lot of really good Latin music on the Tiny Desks this year. So honorable mention to El Tiny. Go out and check it out - Tiny Desk, tons of great Latin music. OK, ladies, again, thank you all very much.
JOHNSON: Goodbye from Chicago. Thanks so much for checking out ALT.LATINO's best of.
ARBONA-RUIZ: And felices fiestas. Happy holidays, everybody, from Marisa Arbona-Ruiz.
FERNÁNDEZ: Muchas gracias to all of you, and dale.
CONTRERAS: Now we're going to continue with my pick. This is Alejandro Escovedo from his great album that he released this year. This is called "Sónica USA." The album's called "The Crossing." You are listening to ALT.LATINO. Thank you for listening.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SÓNICA USA")
ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO: (Singing) I saw the zeros, and they looked like me. This is the America that I want to be - anarchy and Hollywood, land of the free. I saw the zeros, and they looked like me. Feel the power, people's parade, Sónica USA. Feel the power, people's parade, Sónica USA. Little Johnny digs The MC5, Cypress Hill, Jurassic 5, saw The Pugs at Larchmont Hall. This is America. I want it all. Feel the power, people's parade, Sónica USA. Feel the power, people's parade, Sónica USA. Silver Impala 1964, "Mexican Radio" on the (inaudible) dance floor - her name was Ruby, and she was kind of cool. Defy Ruby - she was nobody's fool. Feel the power, people's parade, Sónica USA. Feel the power, people's parade, Sónica USA.
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