Felix Contreras

Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering program about Latin Alternative music and Latino culture. It features music as well as interviews with many of the most well-known Latinx musicians, actors, filmmakers, and writers. He has hosted and produced Alt.Latino episodes from Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, and throughout the U.S. since the show started in 2010.

Previously, Contreras was a reporter and producer NPR's Arts Desk and, among other stories and projects, covered a series reported from Mexico on the musical movement called Latin Alternative; helped produce NPR's award-winning series 50 Great Voices; and reported a series of stories on the financial challenges aging jazz musicians face.

Contreras is a recovering television journalist who has worked for both NBC and Univision in Miami and California. He's a part-time musician who plays Afro-Cuban percussion with various jazz and Latin bands in the Washington, DC, area. He is also NPR Music's resident Deadhead.

The lines seem to be blurring between Latin Alternative and the pop mainstream, judging by the Latin Grammy nominations announced this morning in Los Angeles.

Reflecting that alternative/pop duality were former Calle 13 frontman Residente and Colombian pop/urban vocalist Maluma, who both earned 7 nominations.

If the Tiny Desk offers one lesson, it's that greatness doesn't diminish with less volume. The lesson doubly applies here.

During their performance, Bomba Estereo's Simon Mejia (bass and keyboards) observed that it was the quietist the band has ever played; they rose to the occasion with an intense performance that reflects their earliest days working smaller venues in Colombia.

As we have shown in so many previous episodes of Alt.Latino, the cultural interchange between the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean has been going on practically since there were people in these parts of the world.

The Parisian-Cuban duo Ibeyi is about to break the silence since their debut album in 2015 with a new album, Ash, expected on September 29.

They entice us with a new single/video, Me Voy, that also features the Grammy Award winning rapper from Spain, Mala Rodriguez.

The other worldly vocals are there, the flirting with electronics is intact, the stunning visuals do not disappoint.

The Mexican Institute of Sound's (MIS) name conjures images of white lab coats and clip boards, well-trained scientists primed to collate information and disseminate it unto the Mexican Republic.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


It's impossible to overstate the importance of both Bébo Valdés and Chico O'Farrill to 20th century Afro-Cuban music and jazz.

Their rich and multi layered influence is evident in iconic compositions, big band arrangements written 60 years ago that still sound cutting edge, and piano playing that echo Cuban classical music and jazz pianist Bill Evans.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF MANUEL GARCIA-OROZCO AND MAYTE MONTERO SONG, "OYE MI MAMA (AFROBEAT) [FEAT. AIFF])

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Power Of Peace is a new release from the great Carlos Santana in collaboration with the iconic soul band The Isley Brothers. The album also features Cindy Blackman Santana, Carlos' wife and his band's drummer.

I sometimes wake up with my jaw clenched.

The times are tense and we all feel it. I've been waiting for just the right musical statement to reflect my mood, my hopes and my mal humor. I think I've finally heard it in Living Colour's upcoming album Shade.

Cali Rivera, the Puerto Rico-born founder of the highly regarded JCR Percussion in the Bronx, died this past Sunday from complications of a brain tumor at 79 years old, according to his wife and business partner Lily Rivera.

Carlos Santana turns 70 years old Thursday. It's difficult to wrap my head around that: To me, as to so many other fans, he'll forever be the just-turned-22-year-old grimacing and grooving at Woodstock in August 1969.

Editor's note: On June 4, the Trump administration made changes to U.S. policies that make it harder for Americans to visit Cuba. It was another decision that rolled back some of the more liberal visitation policies of the Obama administration.

Note: This piece is better heard than read. To hear this review and the specific musical moments it references, listen at the audio link.

There are a few lines from the oft-covered song "México Americano" that sum up the experience of millions of folks in the U.S. and have always seemed to me to be the ultimate expression of patriotism:

Por mi madre soy Mexicano. (From my mother I am Mexican.)

Por destino soy Americano. (By destiny I am American.)

The artist Helado Negro (Roberto Lange) made a very big impression on me when I first experienced him almost eight years ago. It was a sound I had never quite heard, and I was immediately drawn in; there were layers of synths, percussion that percolated rather than pulsed, vocals that epitomized the world ethereal and lyrics in Spanish and English that floated amidst the music like wisps of smoke.

Mexico is not known as one of the international jazz capitals of the world. New York, Tokyo — even Havana.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

In 2009 PBS aired a documentary series with the ambitious goal of chronicling the various styles of music made by Latino musicians here in the U.S.

It was a daunting task for sure and they largely pulled it off. I mean, they had four hours to cover everything from accordions along the Texas-Mexican border to Afro Caribbean drums in New York. It was a fascinating experience watching it back then, even inspiring because of the music and the stories behind the music.

In many ways, the traditions of flamenco and jazz could not be further apart, but in the hands of a few Spanish jazz musicians, these two worlds commingle and find common ground. Antonio Lizana is one such musician, both a saxophonist and vocalist with one foot firmly planted in each tradition. As a vocalist he has mastered the Moorish, note-bending improvisations that make flamenco singing so beguiling, while the fluidity of ideas he expresses as a saxophonist place him in the time-honored tradition of composing while playing.

These guys had me at their name.

Ever since I heard the first EP back in 2009 I've watched Chicano Batman grow, with a sound that perfectly captures dark lounges, quinceañera dances, car shows and backyard parties.

Lots of other folks have heard something in this music — since that debut the band has played some of the biggest outdoor music festivals for diverse crowds around the country.

Now and then, Alt.Latino offers programs that feature a single artist in conversation about life, art and anything else on their mind. But if we waited to speak with all of the artists who catch our attention one week at a time, it would take ... well, a long time.

So this week, we offer three shorter profiles of artists — some DJs, a musician and a pair of filmmakers — who are capturing Latino culture in three very distinct forms.

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