Felix Contreras

There must be something in the water down in Austin, Texas, because as soon as Brownout started playing behind the Tiny Desk, it was pretty obvious that a deep musicality is just a fact of life for Austin bands.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify or Apple Music.

Let it be known: Alt.Latino turns ten years old on June 15! We'll have a bunch of cool things to help us celebrate into June and beyond. But first, here's a batch of new music to kicks things off.


When the crew that is Spanglish Fly pulled in behind the Tiny Desk, the group's vibrant version of boogaloo raised the temperature in the NPR Music offices quite a bit. Whether displaying their party spirit or even the slow burn of social consciousness on the song "Los Niños En La Frontera," this band plays from the heart and engages both the mind and body.

It's impossible to not be drawn in by the visual specter of Balún. The band has refined their electronic roots with their turn toward self-discovery on beautifully crafted studio albums, and this set behind the Tiny Desk shows how expertly they deliver the same meticulous, artful music live.

Their mix of traditional instruments with electronics creates not just a sonic treat but also a visual feast, as our eyes dart from one instrument to the other, drawn in by a Puerto Rican cuatro and a makeshift drum set.

When Los Lobos gathered behind the Tiny Desk, it felt like they were cramped in the back room of a family Christmas party. "The only thing missing today are the tamales!" I told my office mates while introducing the band, a reference to a Mexican-American Christmas meal staple. The vibe in the room was definitely familia, with the presence of many longtime fans as well as folks who came for the holiday cheer, Lobos style.

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There may East Coast/West Coast beefs in other forms of music, but jazz is all-embracing. This year's edition of A Jazz Piano Christmas features artists from both coasts, and the audience shows no signs of preferring one over the other.

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Bundle up! We're getting ready for cold weather with new songs by Lido Pimienta, Dimelo Flow, Tiger Army and David Lawrence.


Ozuna has been teasing his third album Nibiru since November... of 2018.

It's almost always impossible to pinpoint an exact moment in music history when the plates shift. But looking back at the last decade in Latin music, it's easy, now, to see that the release of "Despacito" by Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi in early 2017 was just such a moment.

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Every week, NPR Music's Alt.Latino publishes a playlist of new music that you can stream. And every month, Alt.Latino's Felix Contreras joins us here on WEEKEND EDITION. So let's take an opportunity now to enjoy some of the music on those playlists.

Hi, Felix.

It was the face of a six-year-old boy that reminded me to honor those who have passed this year. He was the youngest victim of a mass shooting in Gilroy, Calif., this past July. His face has stayed with me; he looked like one of my sons looking back at me with his innocent smile.

Just when you think you know a lot about Cuban music, along comes a pair of musicians who tell me one that of the major influences on their pioneering jazz/rock/santeria band was Queen.

Yes, that Queen.

La Santa Cecilia is one of those bands that makes interviews feel like just hanging out and catching up. The group's new, self-titled album is their first all-English record. They are not only bilingual and bicultural, but like so many of us, they are also multi-musical. There are a ton of different grooves on this record.

For just about fifteen minutes, the members of Rio Mira created a living and very melodic connection to Africa. Set behind a large marimba — and drums that are unique to their corner of the world — the members of the band performed music that is the legacy of enslaved people who were in both Ecuador and Colombia. Rio Mira takes its name from a river that separates Ecuador and Colombia and empties into the Pacific Ocean.

Something happens for me when I hear jazz mixing it up with Brazilian rhythms. In the right hands it falls into the realm of magic.

Pianist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Jovino Santos Neto certainly cast a spell over those who gathered for this joyful turn behind the Tiny Desk.

His trio rushed right out of the gate with the samba-influenced "Pantopé" that introduces the concept of the trio: seamless interaction between the musicians that make the band sound like one big, melodic rhythm machine.

When country music legend Johnny Cash heard the heavy steel doors at Folsom Prison shut behind him on a cloudy January morning in 1968, he reportedly said, "That has the sound of permanence."

Listen to this playlist on Spotify or Apple Music.

As we hit fall, we here at NPR Music are starting to look back at the year that was. But before we get there, we still have at least 12 weeks of new music to enjoy.

Gaby Moreno's ¡Spangled! is a collaboration with Van Dyke Parks, a music arranger who has worked from everyone from The Beach Boys to U2 to

It's no coincidence that the Tiny Desk concerts I've selected here all happened within a year of each other: There was a stretch when a huge rush of A-list Latinx artists passed through the D.C. area, allowing them an opportunity to stop off at Alt.Latino World Headquarters for a turn behind Bob Boilen's nearby desk.

Obviously, there's no way for this list to account for the dozens of performances by musicians working under the gigantic umbrella known as "Latin music" — that's why we'll explore more in future volumes.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Once a month, we invite Felix Contreras to come in and share some music with us. And he usually has an artist or a group of songs to explore.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TROUBLE")

OMAR APOLLO: (Singing) Costly, I tell you...

Saxophonist, flautist and bandleader Jane Bunnett has been traveling back and forth between her home in Toronto and Cuba for over 30 years because, well, she can.

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