New Summer Songs From Alt.Latino

Aug 9, 2020
Originally published on August 9, 2020 7:55 am

NPR Music contributor Stefanie Fernández shares the latest Latin music releases. Catch all these songs and more in the most recent episode of Alt.Latino.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MULA SONG, "AGUA QUE QUEMA")

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Woohoo - exciting. We have new music from Alt.Latino, NPR's podcast about Latino arts and culture. Stefanie Fernandez is a regular co-host, and she joins us this morning. Hi.

STEFANIE FERNANDEZ, BYLINE: Hi, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What was that? That was good stuff.

FERNANDEZ: Thank you. So this is "Agua Que Quema" by the Dominican trio MULA. MULA makes electronic music that reshapes traditional Caribbean genres in mind-bending ways with an electronic dark way of touch. So this track infuses trap, drum and bass, Dembow and even dubstep in a beautiful, gauzy, tropical, electronic vibe. And it's off their third record, "Mundos," which is set to be released in November.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And "Agua Que Quema," which means water that burns.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AGUA QUE QUEMA")

MULA: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, we normally have Felix Contreras on. And you bring a very different musical taste...

FERNANDEZ: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...To your show, which I think is great because between you both, you kind of cover that wide expanse of contemporary Latin music.

FERNANDEZ: (Laughter) Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. What do you have next for us?

FERNANDEZ: You know, it's funny that you mention Latin music. I find that Felix and I are constantly reexamining just what that means and what it includes. So this next artist is Jean Dawson. And I wouldn't say he makes, quote, "Latin music," unquote, per se. But he's one of my favorite new discoveries of the past year or so. And he's a 24-year-old Latinx musician from California who is really good at making music out of the liminal spaces in genre but also in identity.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CLEAR BONES")

JEAN DAWSON: (Singing) I know I'll die. When it's my time, I'll be all smiles, I know. I go outside. I take a knife, and the devil's smile wants more.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This doesn't sound like - yeah, Latin music in the way that we describe it. This sounds very Cali.

FERNANDEZ: Yeah, definitely. But he's Black and Mexican and grew up in Tijuana. And like a lot of kids, he used to cross the border daily to go to school in San Diego. So he always had this feeling of not really being included in what Latinidad means. But his music is certainly influenced by those liminal spaces. It's impossible to define. And this song is similarly elusive. It's a light-as-air meditation on death, and it's from his upcoming album out later this summer, "PIXEL BATH."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CLEAR BONES")

DAWSON: (Singing) Mr. Reaper, you're a guarantee, guarantee.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I like it. All right. What you got next?

FERNANDEZ: Well, Lulu, you know I had to bring in something from a Cuban musician.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You had to. It's actually written into anyone's contract that they have to...

FERNANDEZ: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Bring Cuban music to the show (laughter).

FERNANDEZ: Exactly. Check this one out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SE ME DIO")

EL MICHA: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Andale. Tell me about this.

FERNANDEZ: This is "Se Me Dio" by El Micha. And he's one of the biggest and most prolific artists to come out of this movement in Cuba called Cubaton. Cubaton is reggaeton with a little extra touch of traditional Cuban rhythms like son.

This song is not Cubaton, though. This is trap. This is trap en Espanol. And it has that thing that a lot of great trap en Espanol songs have - and that Cubaton does, for that matter - which is a little simple sample of a traditional string instrument that goes just so well with the beat. And he's got this gravel in his voice that works so well with the flow he's got. And it's very, very Cuban.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SE ME DIO")

EL MICHA: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That accent is making me homesick.

FERNANDEZ: Me, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SE ME DIO")

EL MICHA: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So there's so much going on in the world right now. I mean, we've got the pandemic. We've got the protests for racial justice, political upheaval. How are musicians around Latin America responding to this moment?

FERNANDEZ: You know, we at Alt.Latino have been, of course, longtime fans of the great Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux, who has always been a powerhouse of protest music - not just when we experience these global moments. We're so excited that after six years since her last album, she's got a new one on the horizon. And each song that's been released off of it has made a powerful statement against injustice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PA QUE")

ANA TIJOUX: (Singing in Spanish).

PJ SIN SUELA: (Rapping in Spanish).

FERNANDEZ: For this song, "Pa Que," she enlists Puerto Rican rapper PJ Sin Suela. And it's a protest cumbia that has bars not just about the coronavirus that's rocked the world over but in support of the movement for Black lives and the global protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PA QUE")

TIJOUX: (Singing in Spanish).

FERNANDEZ: The chorus makes use of the iconic Latinx axiom (speaking Spanish), which means, why invite me if you know how I'm going to act?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

FERNANDEZ: And I love that she uses that fun and joyful element of our culture to make a fun and joyful song about a heavy global struggle. And few can nail that tone balance like Tijoux.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PA QUE")

TIJOUX: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Stefanie Fernandez, a fellow Miami Cuban, closing us out there with some great music. She is also the co-host of Alt.Latino from NPR Music. This week, they present a big batch of new music, so check it out.

Stefanie, thank you so much.

FERNANDEZ: Thank you, Lulu.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PA QUE")

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