Felix Contreras

Felix Contreras is co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's web-based program about Latin Alternative music and Latino culture. It features music as well as interviews with many of the most well-known Latino musicians, actors, film makers and writers.

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

He once stood on the stage of the legendary jazz club The Village Vanguard after interviewing the club's owner and swears he felt the spirits of Coltrane and Monk walking through the room.

Contreras is a recovering television journalist who has worked for both NBC and Univision. He's also a part-time musician who plays Afro-Cuban percussion with various jazz and Latin bands.

At a time when we've seen consecutive natural disasters pummel places such as Texas, Puerto Rico and Mexico, it's sometimes difficult to see beyond the incredible pain and images of destruction.

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.

"'Freedom Is Free' is a move to unravel our minds of fear from the powers that be and replace it with self-empowerment. FREEDOM must be restored to what it has always been: controlled by no person and subject only to the infinite flow of the elements. While we are here on Earth, we should rejoice in its worth."

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.

Activist, hero, rebel, icon; those are just of the few of the adjectives often used in front of Dolores Huerta's name. They are well-deserved — for her part as a co-founder of a '60s labor movement, standing up for the rights of farm workers in this country, Dolores Huerta was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in May of 2012.

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 2017 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.

Earlier this year, I sang the praises of the debut full-length album by the group ÌFÉ, a dramatic meditation on traditional Afro-Cuban rumba and santeria music.

After seeing the band live in Philadelphia, I was even more convinced that its spirit of innovation is just as intense as its dedication to tradition.

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.

"Summer's here and the time is right for dancing in the street"

Well, maybe not the street but certainly in Central Park in N.Y.C., Addams/Medill Park in Chicago, Fringe Arts in Philadelphia and Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn.

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.

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

The other day, while listening to NPR's Code Switch podcast, I heard an insightful story about the new sanctuary movement. It's an informal network of churches across the U.S., all offering refuge to folks who face imminent deportation because of their immigration status.

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