Marisa Arbona-Ruiz

Sometimes destiny seems to drop a little hint of goodness you could never imagine coming your way. For Cuban-born Aymée Nuviola and Puerto Rican-born Jeimy Osorio destiny played out to the tune of Celia Cruz.

Aymée Nuviola was a young singer with Pachito Alonso's orchestra when she met the legendary "Queen of Salsa" at a wedding in Mexico. It was a brief encounter that sparked an affinity between the two Afro-Cuban singers who were far from their homeland. Cruz offered up a little career advice and as she was leaving, took off her big, stone earrings and gave them to Nuviola.

Even your dedicated Alt.Latino crew has to take some time off every now and then. As we dispersed to beaches, poolsides or family gatherings, the new music piled up so this week we try to squeeze in as many as we can and we'll probably have to do it again.

And do I really need to say it? The range of stylistic and genre expressions astounds. Prepare to add Latino bluegrass to your list of likes!

The musical world is full stories of musical progeny who either embrace or struggle to get out from under their famous parents. Cuban vocalist Haydée Milanés walks around with one of the most famous names in all of Latin America.

Every summer, Alt.Latino hits the road to attend the three largest Latin music festivals and it gets harder and harder to catch it all.

At 36, Vicente García is a music legend in the making. The Dominican-born singer-songwriter is decidedly non-conventional, humble yet dynamic — and the higher his star rises, the tighter he grips onto his artistic freedom, aiming to evolve his musicality while staying grounded.

"It hasn't been easy," García says. "Labels and people in the industry just want to make you [follow] formulas, and I'm getting to that point that people know that I'm not doing it. People know who I am."

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


Flor de Toloache stuns at the crossroads of fusion and mariachi girl magic. Whether intimately airy or ice-crackingly powerful, their intricate vocal runs and harmonic alchemy seem to defy logic with equally clever instrumental arrangements by the singers themselves.

At this point, Lila Downs now has the kind of artistic stature among her fans that she has for the women she has celebrated throughout her career. She has always paid tribute to great voices and artist such as Chavela Vargas, Mercedes Sosa and even Joan Baez.

I struggled to balance the conflicting emotions of enjoying the musical celebration that is the annual SXSW Festival with the pain of the devastating loss of life in Friday's terrorist attack in New Zealand. It was an emotional push and pull that I kept completely to myself.

I say this to anyone who will listen: Latin music these days is exploding with so much creativity and inspiration that it is simply overwhelming. Once you get past the billions of views on YouTube of the reggaeton- inspired pop music, you'll find myriad artists who consider their cultural backgrounds a blank canvas on which they express their sense of self and identity.

This year we mark our annual summer Latin music festival show with an accompanying deeper dive into the reason some of these festivals exist: lack of inclusion on the big summer festival stages.

Listen to the podcast and read how the Latinx community is dealing with representation in the music industry.

Funny what the passage of 50 years will do to a controversy.

Pianist, composer and bandleader Arturo O'Farrill was born into Afro-Cuban jazz royalty but growing up he rejected his famous musical heritage. Now, he travels the world sharing his late father Chico O'Farrill's legacy as a principal architect of the mash up of jazz and Afro-Cuban music in the late 1940s.

Colombian band Bomba Estéreo has a hit on its hands, and the story behind its success is a testament to fan demand and the power of a great song.

For two glorious weeks this month, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. exploded with the vibrant sound, color and culture of the historic festival Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World.

At 87 years young, the legendary Cuban Diva of the Buena Vista Social Club, Omara Portuondo, brought gasps of delight, then rapturous applause, just by walking out on the stage in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday night. She graciously acknowledged the love in the room then continued with her rendition of beloved classic "Veinte Años," backed by just a pianist.

Colombian vocalist J Balvin is still riding the huge wave created by last year's Latin music explosion.

There is another revolution happening in Cuba these days.

A group of young female musicians — including Daymé Arocena, Danay Suárez and the all-female band Jane Bunnett and Maqueque — are challenging both musical and cultural conventions, creating innovative Afro-Cuban music fused with a variety of genres like R&B, hip-hop, reggae, electronica and jazz.

"¡De...spa ... cito!"

The song of the summer actually became the Song of the Year at the 18th annual Latin Grammy's held in Las Vegas on Thursday evening.

"Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee also picked up Record of the Year, Best Urban Fusion Performance and Best Short Term Video.

The Alt.Latino team is so grateful for the positive feedback to our periodic "Music Magazine" shows — and now, we're happy to present the Fall edition.

This week we put the spotlight on two playwrights, one of whom you probably know, the other someone you should.

Where cultures converge, great music happens. Last Sunday night three of the biggest acts in Latin Alternative music were brought together at the historic Hollywood Bowl amphitheater in a rare and brilliant line-up, as part of the Getty-led Pacific Standard Time LA/LA to create dialogue between Latin American arts and Los Angeles.

If you took a snapshot of Latino demographics here in the U.S., you'd find substantial numbers in places most people wouldn't expect. In particular, the South has become a hotbed of new Latinx culture and artistic expression.

The Grammy-winning Mexican-American roots band La Santa Cecilia journeys into the heart of Mexico for what might be its greatest adventure yet: recording a gorgeous new visual album, Amar Y Vivir. Ditching the studio to record at 12 different locations in and around Mexico City, the band captures the spirit of the music in its natural habitat. Its members pay tribute to Mexican culture with the traditional sounds of boleros and rancheras, while subtly blending their American influences into the songs.