Listener Picks: Songs Of Hope And Calm : Alt.Latino If there was ever a need for the healing power of music, now is that time. We put out a call for the songs helping you cope and, on this episode, we play your picks.

Listener Picks: Songs Of Hope And Calm

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FELIX CONTRERAS, HOST:

From NPR Music, this is ALT.LATINO. I'm Felix Contreras. It's very curious to me that just about everyone I know has been turning to music for calming and reassurance, and it says a lot about the role musicians play in our collective psyche. Music seems to be helping many of us deal with the very serious things we need to consider, and I'm always curious to know what other people are listening to for that. So I asked you, the ALT.LATINO familia, when I put out a call to send me some songs that are helping you cope. This week, we're going to hear some of that music and hear from some of the people who sent in songs. And I have to say we have quite a variety of music this week. Lots of different people with very different musical tastes listen in every week, and this show reflects that. And we're going to try to do this thematically.

Let's start with a song about the power of songwriting. It's called "Cantor Del Pueblo," and it's written by Alexander Abreu, the genius behind the band Havana D'Primera. Part of the lyrics say, I am an artist, and I sing to everyone. He also sings, my greatest crime is to move hope within my people, and my song stands so clean and so pure that it has no death. Thanks to David Cáceres for sending this one in and starting us off. This is "Cantor Del Pueblo" from Havana D'Primera.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CANTOR DEL PUEBLO")

ALEXANDER ABREU: (Singing) Soy el cantor del pueblo, el que no tiene miedo, el que no tiene miedo, el que no pone barreras para que la gente exprese su sentir. Soy un artista y a todos me debo, y es que si un día me falta mi gente, en serio podría morir. Soy es mismo, sí, ese del que hablan mierda, ese que van diciendo que un día se muere entre vicio y dolor. Pero lo que no saben, es que paso las horas buscando canciones que muestren al mundo la identidad de un pueblo. Sigan, no molesta que me busquen esa oscuridad para empañar mi imagen, porque estoy limpio y lo único que tengo es mi piel. No tengo miedo a caer, porque del suelo vengo. Sigan, que mi mayor delito es mover la esperanza dentro de mi gente, y mi canción se alza tan limpia y tan pura que no tiene muerte. Soy un artista y a todos le canto, soy de lo bueno bueno, corazón, pero no soy un santo. No soy un santo.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Soy un artista y a todos le canto. Soy de lo bueno bueno, pero no soy un santo.

ABREU: (Singing) Yo vivo de mi vida tranquila, y en estos tiempos estoy curado de espanto. No le temo a la caída y si caigo me levanto, seguro que sí.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Soy un artista y a todos le canto, soy de lo bueno bueno, pero no soy un santo.

ABREU: (Singing) Soy Alexander Abreu, con Havana D' Primera, D'Primera. Vaya, camina por arriba, tú sabes. Ando derecho, derecho, y no me importa la fama, y sigo siendo el cantante de la familia cubana. Va.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Lo que se diga por ahí me resbala, me levanta, me entretiene. Al enemigo hay que mirarle la cara, y el que no la debe, no la teme. Lo que se diga por ahí me resbala.

ABREU: (Singing) ¡Va!

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Me levanta, me entretiene. Al enemigo hay que mirarle la cara, y el que no la debe no la teme. Al enemigo hay que mirarle la cara, y el que no la debe no la teme.

ABREU: (Singing) Lo malo que se comenta, es la energía que me mantiene.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Al enemigo hay que mirarle la cara, y el que no la debe, no la teme.

ABREU: (Singing) Cuidadito.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Anda.

ABREU: (Singing) ¿Qué fue?

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Cuidadito por las calles. Fíjate bien de los detalles. Que aquí el que no puede, manda.

ABREU: (Singing) Cuídate, cuídate, cuídate.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Anda.

ABREU: (Singing) Que yo me voy a cuidar.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Con cuidadito por la calle, fíjate bien de los detalles, que aquí el que no puede manda. Anda, con cuidadito por la calle.

ABREU: (Singing) Ah, Yemayá.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Fíjate bien en los detalles, que aquí el que no puede manda. Anda con cuidadito por la calle, Fíjate bien de los detalles, que aquí el que no puede manda.

ABREU: (Singing) Mira.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Porque el que sabe, sabe.

ABREU: (Singing) El que sabe, sabe lo que tiene y no lo quiere perder.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Porque el que sabe, sabe.

ABREU: (Singing) Por eso mismo tengo un pueblo y lo voy a defender.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Porque el que sabe, sabe.

ABREU: (Singing) Tengo mi conciencia limpia y he puesto en alto mi nombre.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Porque el que sabe, sabe.

ABREU: (Singing) Estoy en paz con mi Dios, mi conflicto es con los hombres.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Porque el que sabe, sabe.

ABREU: (Singing) El hombre que en su ignorancia crucificó a Jesucristo.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Porque el que sabe, sabe.

ABREU: (Singing) Ahora somos pecadores, y hombre perfecto no he visto.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Porque el que sabe, sabe.

ABREU: (Singing) Aquel que sigue comentando que sea más inteligente.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Porque el que sabe, sabe.

ABREU: (Singing) La osadía de la lengua la pagan siempre con los dientes.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Porque el que sabe, sabe.

ABREU: (Singing) ¡Vaya! Soy un cañón y tú lo sabes.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Porque el que sabe, sabe.

ABREU: (Singing) Mano pa' arriba La Habana.

HAVANA D'PRIMERA: (Singing) Porque el que sabe, sabe.

CONTRERAS: And now a couple of songs about comfort - emotional comfort, physical comfort, spiritual comfort. First up, a song from the poet laureate of Latin America, Jorge Drexler, the great Uruguayan songwriter that all of Latin America has seemed to claim. In 2017, he released a song recorded with the Chilean vocalist Mon Laferte, and it's called "Asilo" or asylum. And it could be a love song between two people, but is it really? - because it could also be a love for something familiar, something secure, something that makes us feel whole. Again, partial lyrics say, give me a night of asylum in your lap. Tonight, for example, let's leave the world outside. Open your arms and close them with me inside. Listener Jordan Reeves (ph) sent this one in, and he wrote, the irony is that we're in physical asylum, but I still need emotional asylum from the world's current insanity. This song provides it no matter how many times I hear it. Thanks for sending this in, Jordan. This is "Asilo" with Jorge Drexler and Mon Laferte.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ASILO")

JORGE DREXLER AND MON LAFERTE: (Singing) Dame una noche de asilo, en tu regazo, esta noche por ejemplo. Dejemos al mundo fuera. Abre tus brazos, ciérralos conmigo dentro, solo unas horas y luego, cuando amanezca, yo pondré una cafetera, y habré llevado esta nube hacia otro cielo de nubes pasajeras. Si el sueño pierde pie, resbala, queda colgando de un hilo. Prefiero una noche entera en vela, a tener el alma en vilo. Dame una noche de asilo. Dame una noche de asilo. Dame un remanso, yo te daré lo que tengo, este amor que no me explico. Pasan lo años, y sigue a espaldas del tiempo. Quiero que me hables del tiempo, que te desnudes como si fuera algo corriente. Como si verte desnuda no me aturdiera tan sistemáticamente. Tu piel me sea desconocida, me deje siempre intranquilo. Prefiero lamer después mis heridas a que tu amor pierda filo. Dame una noche de asilo. Dame una noche de asilo. Dame una noche de asilo. Dame una noche de asilo. Dame una noche de asilo. Dame una noche de asilo. Dame una noche de asilo. Dame una noche de asilo.

CONTRERAS: You're listening to ALT.LATINO, and we are playing songs about comfort and reassurance. And as I said, our listeners have a wide range of musical taste. Nancy Edwards (ph) in Chevy Chase, Md., is also thinking about comfort and security in these uncertain times, and she suggested the song "Summertime." It was written by George Gershwin, a prolific songwriter of what's called the Great American Songbook. It's from a popular opera he wrote called "Porgy And Bess" in 1935. This version is by Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company. It was recorded in 1969. Some of the lyrics do make a reference to safety, to security. And they say, one of these mornings, you're going to rise up singing. Then you'll spread your wings, and you'll take to the sky. But till that morning, there's nothing that can harm you with daddy and mama standing by. Again, this is Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, "Summertime."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUMMERTIME")

JANIS JOPLIN: (Singing) Summertime, time, time. Child, the living's easy. Fish are jumping out. And the cotton, Lord, cotton's high. Lord, so high. Your daddy's rich, and your ma is so good-looking, baby. She's looking good now. Hush, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby. No, no, no, no, don't you cry. Don't you cry. One of these mornings, you're going to rise, rise up singing. You're going to spread your wings, child, and take, take to the sky, Lord, the sky. Until that morning, honey, nothing's going to harm you, now. (Vocalizing). Don't you cry.

CONTRERAS: Yes. That was Janis Joplin, and you are listening to ALT.LATINO. We are playing songs that give you, our ALT.LATINO familia, comfort, reassurance and hope this week. And while we are in the classic rock frame of mind, let's hear some classic rock from Argentina. This is by Charly García and Luis Alberto Spinetta, and it's called "Rezo Por Vos," or "I Pray For You." Again, some of the lyrics - I pray, and I heal my wounds, and I lit up with love and burn the curtains. And I lit up with love, of sacred love, and so I pray. It's a song of hope and devotion sent to us by Lalita Garciatagliani, who lives in Milwaukee, Wis. This is "Rezo Por Vos."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REZO POR VOS")

LUIS ALBERTO SPINETTA: (Singing) La indómita luz se hizo carne en mí, y lo dejé todo por esta soledad. Y leo revistas en la tempestad. Hice el sacrificio, abracé la cruz al amanecer y rezo. Rezo por vos. Morí sin morir y me abracé al dolor. Y lo dejé todo por esta soledad. Ya se hizo de noche y ahora estoy aquí, estoy aquí. Mi cuerpo se cae, solo veo la cruz al amanecer y rezo. Rezo por vos. Y curé mis heridas y me encendí de amor y quemé las cortinas y me encendí de amor, de amor sagrado. Sagrado. Rezo por vos. Y entonces, y entonces, y entonces rezo. Rezo por vos. Y curé mis heridas y me encendí de amor, y quemé las cortinas y me encendí de amor, de amor sagrado. Sagrado. Rezo, rezo por vos. Estaba en llamas cuando me acosté. Rezo por vos. Yo rezo.

CONTRERAS: "Rezo Por Vos" - classic rock from Argentina. You're listening to ALT.LATINO. I'm Felix Contreras. And as we listen in on songs that offer calm reassurance this week, some listeners reminded us that it isn't always about the words. We're going to hear some instrumentals now - music that can take us deep within and draw up the presence of mind needed to get through this. And we start with Santana from 1970. It's one of his signature ballads and a favorite of Annette Vieda (ph), who sent this in from Houston, Texas. This is called "Samba Pa Ti."

(SOUNDBITE OF CARLOS SANTANA'S "SAMBA PA TI")

CONTRERAS: From Santana, we go to another instrumental. This one was sent in by Mark Morella (ph) from Takoma Park, Md. This is called "He's Gone" (ph), and it's from a beautiful album called "Beyond The Missouri Sky" by guitarist Pat Metheny and the late bassist and composer Charlie Haden. Mark says the whole album is sublime, and it's been getting a lot of play around the house lately. Thanks for suggesting it, bro. This is called "He's Gone."

(SOUNDBITE OF CHARLIE HADEN AND PAT METHENY'S "HE'S GONE AWAY")

KAREN DEVINSKY: I'm Karen Devinsky (ph). I'm in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The music that I choose is "Adagio (after W.A. Mozart)." It's by Paquito D'Rivera. It's from the album "Grandes Momentos De Chucho Valdes E Irakere" from 2002. This is important to me because I learned about this from one of Havana's best music experts, Joaquín Borges-Triana, who's one of my teachers. And it reminds me of the beauty of Cuban music in general, but also of the beauty of being in Havana listening to music, which I hope to get to do again soon. Love your show. Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAQUITO D'RIVERA'S "ADAGIO (AFTER W.A. MOZART)")

CONTRERAS: You're listening to ALT.LATINO. And this week - music that helps calm and reassure and reminds us to believe in hope. Sean Boyd (ph) from Fresno, Calif., sent in a familiar song performed by an artist that's new to me. The great soul singer Sam Cooke wrote his signature song, "Change Is Gonna Come" (ph) in 1964, and it became one of the musical backdrops to the civil rights movement here in the U.S. It's a song of hope and has particular resonance at this moment. This is Sista Monica Parker singing "Change Is Gonna Come."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A CHANGE IS GONNA COME")

SISTA MONICA PARKER: (Singing) Change, change, change, change. Oh, my life - change. I was born by the river in a little tent. And, oh, just like the river, I've been running ever since. It's been a long, long time coming. And I know change gonna come. Oh, yes, it will. It's been too hard living. But I'm afraid to die 'cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky. It's been a long, long time coming. And I know my change gonna come. Oh, yes, it will. And then I call, call my brother. And I say, brother, why don't you help me, please? And he just wind up - he wind up, oh, knocking me. I fell back. I fell down on my knees. Oh, there been times when I fall. Oh, have mercy. I couldn't last for long. But now I thank God I'm able to carry on. It's been a long, long, long time coming. And I know change gonna come. Oh, yes, it will. Change. Oh, I know, I know, it's going to change. Oh, change. It's going to change, yes. Change, just like a river. Oh, change. Brother, won't you help me, please? Change, oh, change. Thought I wasn't going to make it. Change. I've been down on my knees. And I thank God 'cause I'm going to carry on. Yeah. Change. Change. Change. Change. Oh, my life. Change.

CONTRERAS: The very sad and horrific fact of this virus is the number of lives that have been lost and will be lost - the famous and our family members. The lyrics of these next songs, the last of this week's show, address loss in a way that offer comfort and solace for the people who sent them in. This next song came from Royal Calkins (ph) from Monterey, Calif. He suggested one of my own favorite songs that has a gorgeous reference to going home, following our light into the eternal. It's called "Ripple." And it was written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia. It was included on the album "American Beauty" by the Grateful Dead, which was released in 1970. This version we're going to hear is from a Jerry Garcia acoustic performance that he did with bassist John Kahn. This is "Ripple."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIPPLE")

JERRY GARCIA: (Singing) If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine, and my tunes were played on the harp unstrung, would you hear my voice come through the music? Would you hold it near as it were your own? It's a hand-me-down. The thoughts are broken. Perhaps they're better left unsung. I don't know, don't really care. Let there be songs to fill the air. Ripple in still water when there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow. Reach out your hand if your cup is empty. If your cup is full, may it be again. Let it be known there is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men. There is a road - no simple highway - between the dawn and the dark of night. And if you go, no one may follow. That path is for your steps alone. Ripple in still water when there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow. You who choose to lead must follow. But if you fall, you fall alone. If you should stand, then who's to guide you? If I knew the way, I would take you home. (Vocalizing).

CONTRERAS: We're coming into the homestretch of this week's show. I don't know about you, but I was touched by the variety of genres and styles of songs sent in this week. And they all have one thing in common, they're all used by the people who sent them in to inspire and console. And these last two songs celebrate love in ways that speak to the eternal. First up is a track called "Hasta La Raíz" - or "To The Root" - from Natalia Lafourcade. It was sent in by Edward Giovanni Singleton (ph) from Los Angeles. And the lyrics are beautiful. Part of them say, I take you inside to the root - hasta la raíz, as much as it grows, you will be here. Even though I hide behind a mountain and find a field full of cane, there will be no way, my moon beam, that you will leave. "Hasta La Raíz" from Natalia Lafourcade.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HASTA LA RAÍZ")

NATALIA LAFOURCADE: (Singing) Sigo cruzando ríos, andando selvas, amando el sol, cada día sigo sacando espinas de lo profundo del corazón. En la noche sigo encendiendo sueños para limpiar con el humo sagrado cada recuerdo. Cuando escriba tu nombre en la arena blanca con fondo azul. Cuando mire el cielo en la forma cruel de una nube gris, aparezcas tú, y una tarde suba una alta loma, mire el pasado, sabrás que no te he olvidado. Yo te llevo dentro, hasta la raíz, y por más que crezca, vas a estar aquí. Aunque yo me oculte tras la montaña y encuentre un campo lleno de caña, no habrá manera, mi rayo de luna, que tú te vayas. (Vocalizing). Pienso que cada instante sobrevivido al caminar, y cada segundo de incertidumbre, cada momento de no saber, son la clave exacta de este tejido, que ando cargando bajo la piel, así te protejo, aquí sigue dentro. Yo te llevo dentro, hasta la raíz, y por más que crezca, vas a estar aquí. Aunque yo me oculte tras la montaña y encuentre un campo lleno de caña, no habrá manera, mi rayo de luna, que tú te vayas, que tú te vayas. Yo te llevo dentro, hasta la raíz, y por más que crezca, vas a estar aquí. Aunque yo me oculte tras la montaña y encuentre un campo lleno de caña, no habrá manera, mi rayo de luna, que tú te vayas, que tú te vayas. (Vocalizing). Yo te llevo dentro, hasta la raíz, y por más que crezca, vas a estar aquí. Aunque yo me oculte tras la montaña y encuentre un campo lleno de caña, no habrá manera, mi rayo de luna, que tú te vayas. hasta la raíz, y por más que crezca vas a estar aquí. Aunque yo me oculte tras la montaña y encuentre un campo lleno de caña, no habrá manera, mi rayo de luna, que tú te vayas, que tú te vayas. Yo te llevo dentro hasta la raíz, y por más que crezca vas a estar aquí. Aunque yo me oculte tras la montaña y encuentre un campo lleno de caña, no habrá manera, mi rayo de luna, que tú te vayas, que tú te vayas. (Vocalizing). Yo te llevo dentro hasta la raíz, y por más que crezca vas a estar aquí. Aunque yo me oculte tras la montaña y encuentre un campo lleno de caña, no habrá manera, mi rayo de luna, que tú te vayas.

CONTRERAS: Before we play our last track, I want to thank all of you who sent in music suggestions. This will not be the last time we play music like this, and if I didn't get to your suggestion this week, I will in the future. I promise. This music helps. It certainly helps me, and I'm sure it helps you. And what better reassurance we can get in a moment of loss, in a moment of insecurity than a familiar voice speaking eternal truth.

At this time in our lives, Mercedes Sosa is as close as we can get to a collective mother figure for us all. In 1985, she recorded this beautiful ballad written by the Argentine songwriter Fito Páez. It's called "Yo Vengo A Ofrecer Mi Corazón," "I Come To Offer My Heart." And part of the lyrics say, I will unite the ends of the same bow, and I will go easy. I will go slowly, and I will give you everything. And you will give me something, something that will relieve me a little more. Our thanks to Alba Barreto (ph) from San Francisco for sending this in. You've been listening to ALT.LATINO from NPR Music. Thanks to everyone for sending in your musical suggestions. As always, thank you for listening. I'm Felix Contreras. Please, everyone, be safe out there.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YO VENGO A OFRECER MI CORAZÓN")

MERCEDES SOSA: (Singing) ¿Quién dijo que todo está perdido? Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón. Tanta sangre que se llevó el río, yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón. No será tan fácil. Ya sé que pasa. No será tan simple como pensaba - como abrir el pecho y sacar el alma, una cuchillada de amor. Luna de los pobres, siempre abierta, yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón. Como un documento inalterable yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón. Y uniré las puntas de un mismo lazo. Y me iré tranquila. Me iré despacio. Y te daré todo, y me darás algo, algo que me alivie un poco más. Cuando no haya nadie cerca o lejos, yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón. Cuando los satélites no alcancen, yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón. Y hablo de países y de esperanzas. Hablo por la vida. Hablo por la nada. Hablo de cambiar ésta, nuestra casa, de cambiarla por cambiar nomás. ¿Quién dijo que todo está perdido? Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón. No será tan fácil. Ya sé que pasa. No será tan simple como pensaba - como abrir el pecho y sacar el alma, una cuchillada de amor. Luna de los pobres, siempre abierta, yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón. Como un documento inalterable, yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón. Y uniré las puntas de un mismo lazo. Y me iré tranquila. Me iré despacio. Y te daré todo, y me darás algo, algo que me alivie un poco más. Cuando no haya nadie cerca o lejos, yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón. Cuando los satélites no alcancen, yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón. Y hablo de países y de esperanzas. Hablo por la vida. Hablo por la nada. Hablo de cambiar ésta, nuestra casa, de cambiarla por cambiar nomás. ¿Quién dijo que todo está perdido? Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón.

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