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New Music Recommendations: What Alt.Latino Has Been Listening To


And now we're going to take you into a world of new music with our friends at Alt.Latino, who always bring us the best recommendations. And reporting for duty is, of course, Alt.Latino host Felix Contreras. Hello.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu. How are you?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I am well. Who are we going to start listening to? Who's this?

CONTRERAS: This is Argentine vocalist Sofia Rei. She's got a new album called "Umbral." And it was five years in the making. And she did it after a backpack trip across eastern Chile with her recording gear. She collected folk music from musicians she'd encountered along the way. And she matches that up with her own mix of electronic, ambient and soul. It's an intoxicating album produced with her musical partner JC Maillard. This track is called "La Caida."


SOFIA REI: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Those are deep lyrics. "La Caida" is, of course, the fall. Then she's talking about infinity and, you know, all these kind of big concepts.

CONTRERAS: Yeah, she's basing the record on a lot of poetry, a lot of traditional singer-songwriters from that part of Chile. It's really, really deep in a lot of different ways. And by the way, she performed a Tiny Desk concert in January as part of our collaboration with the globalFEST Music Fest in New York. You can check it out for more of her musical magic.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I will. All right. What's next?

CONTRERAS: OK. I got to bring you Cuban music.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Of course. It's in the contract.

CONTRERAS: (Laughter) This is a new album called "Okute" from a group of the same name. It features the lead singer, Pedro Francisco Almeida Barriel, who, of course, has a nickname, Tata. It's heavily percussive - lots of street rumba and the bata drums of the spiritual practice some know as Santeria. All of that drumming got my attention. The album is a fascinating mix of traditional and contemporary Cuban music - one foot in the past, one in the right now - for example, this track. Check this out. This is "Orakinyongo." It's an Afro-Cuban spin on meditation music. Check it out.


OKUTE: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Interesting. It's very unusual, actually. It's interesting. Our listeners might not know that, actually, you say you're bringing Cuban music for me. But you are a drummer yourself. And so therefore, this is actually for you.


CONTRERAS: I am so busted.


CONTRERAS: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Who are we going to discover next?

CONTRERAS: OK. We're going to change the mood quite a bit. And we're going to go to Spain for a very cool indie pop band with an interesting name. They're called Love of Lesbian. I don't know why. But they have been performing in Spain for about 20 years, and they're quite a big deal. Their new album is called "Viaje Epico Hacia La Nada." And it's a very good introduction to their sound, their writing and just how diverse the music scene of Spain actually is. This track is called "Cosmos (Antisistema Solar)."


LOVE OF LESBIAN: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It sounds very Spanish.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Viaje Epico Hacia La Nada," which means epic voyage into nothing - interesting. All right. We're on a journey here. Where are we going next?

CONTRERAS: OK. So I'm going to cheat a little bit. OK. This was supposed to be about discovery. I'm going to play Juanes.


CONTRERAS: Everybody knows Juanes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We can discover Juanes again.

CONTRERAS: OK. Yeah. But listen to this and see if you recognize this tune, Lulu.


JUANES: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. That's a really interesting sort of remix of The Boss.

JUANES: Right. Exactly. His new album is called "Origen." And it's a collection of cover songs of artists that have influenced him. And the discovery is how vast his influences are, from Bob Marley to Carlos Gardel, the legendary tango artist from Argentina, Juan Luis Guerra from the Dominican Republic, the Mexican diva Juan Gabriel and, yes, Bruce Springsteen. There's a great documentary on Amazon Prime on the making of the album, talking about all those influences. It's not exactly a discovery, but, you know, I bent the rules a little bit.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Well, it's a journey I definitely want to take. Felix Contreras is the host of NPR Music's Alt.Latino, a weekly podcast of Latino arts and culture and discovery. Thank you so much, Felix.

CONTRERAS: De nada, de nada.


JUANES: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.