The Year Ahead In Latin Music

Jan 1, 2012
Originally published on January 1, 2012 11:19 am

You may have noticed that in 2011, Weekend Edition Sunday featured a lot more Latin music. That's because all year, the show has been visited by Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd, hosts of the NPR Music podcast Alt.Latino.

To ring in 2012, Jasmine and Felix chat with host Audie Cornish about their predictions for the coming year in Latin alternative music — as well as some of the artists they'll have their eyes on as the months unfold.

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You might have noticed that this year we brought you a whole lot more Latin music. That's because throughout the year, we've been hanging out with our friends Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd. They host the online music show called Alt.Latino on NPR Music. Today, they're going to look us up with the artists they're most excited about for 2012.

Jasmine and Felix, welcome back to the program.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Thank you very much.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Thank you for having us.

CORNISH: So what are the trend predictions for 2012?

GARSD: I'm going to give you three predictions. My first is that it's going to be a really interesting year for Latin rappers. My second prediction is that it's also going to be a great year, as you'll see from the artists we brought for you today, for songstresses. And I also bet that it's going to be a very politically-charged musical year. A lot of the records I'm getting in the mail to review already, which are records that are going to come out in 2012, very politically-strong records.

CORNISH: And I understand you brought actually an album to premiere.

GARSD: Yes, we have Carla Morrison, which is one of our favorites songstresses that really powerful ballads.

CONTRERAS: You know, a few years ago I was at South by Southwest and Carla Morrison's manager gave me this CD. And I didn't know her at all. And I remember going back to my hotel room and putting it in my laptop. And the sound just floated out like a mist.

GARSD: She generally had a very kind of a mix of doo-wop and kind of wall of sound girl groups. This is a song called "Dejenme Llorar" or "Let Me Cry."


CORNISH: All right. Well, next it looks like it's going to be a very good year for women based on the next group you're bringing us.


CORNISH: Right? We've got a band.

CONTRERAS: It's the band called Y La Bamba. They're from Portland, Oregon. And they're interesting. They put an Indie rock background but a strong - another strong vocalist in Luz Elena Mendoza.


CONTRERAS: She knocked me out again. Maybe it's these voices. If voice stands out to me, I'm just a sucker for it, you know?


CONTRERAS: You know? Luz Elena is from - really from San Francisco, from a traditional Mexican-American family in the Bay Area. And she lives up in Portland, Oregon. And she's part of the Indie rock seen there. But what she's doing with this stuff is kind of going back to her Mexican root. This is a new album - we're sort of cheating - it doesn't come out till the end of February. But I think its very strongest work yet.

CORNISH: All right. And, Jasmine, you promised me some rap. Right?


CORNISH: You said that was going to be another trend. So, what have you brought in that genre?

GARSD: We've talked about the Panamanian, by way of Oakland, rap duo Los Rakas. And one of their members, Raka Dun, is going to be releasing his first solo album called "Afro Latino." This is the song "Sueno Americano" or "American Dream."


CORNISH: This is a little bit harder than what we heard from them before?

GARSD: Yes. Traditionally, in that duo, Raka Dun kind of brings the harder voice. And the other half, Raka Rich, kind of softens it. Raka Dun has this very - I always call it like a machine gun style of rapping. He just goes fast, fast, fast, fast. What I've heard so far sounds wonderful. And I think - I don't know if it'll be a big year for Latin rap, but it'll be an interesting year for Latin rap.

You have (unintelligible) Treces from Puerto Rico. They're starting to work on some of their first English language rap songs, which I'm interested. I'm holding my breath for that.


GARSD: And then you're going to have this release. Los Rakas has been poised to really re-invent Latin rap for some time now. Hopefully, 2012 will be their year.

CORNISH: All right. So, how do you two want to wrap it up? What's the last recommendation going into 2012?

CONTRERAS: More rap up with Ana Tijoux from Chile.



CORNISH: So, it's not so easy for women rappers in the States. So talk a little bit about this artist and sort of what the prospects are for her breaking through.

GARSD: As far as Ana Tijoux goes, she's been incredibly successful in the Latin alternative market. She's been very well received here in the United States. I mentioned that it's going to be a very political year for Latin music. This is, I think, even more political than her last album, "1977." She's talking a lot about social inequalities, about the education protests that have really been ripping her native Chile apart.

And I think this is an album, again, that's poised to re-establish what Latin rap is.

CONTRERAS: And this new album that she has coming out, from what I've heard so far, there's a lot more to it than just hip-hop beats and sampled music. There's orchestration. There's all these different elements. And I think that that's really going to push this album to the next level for her.

CORNISH: All right. Well, we're looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to seeing if these predictions are going to come true.



GARSD: Oh, no. Uh-oh.


CORNISH: Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd host the online music show Alt. Latino at Thank you both.

CONTRERAS: Thank you.

GARSD: Thanks for having us.


CORNISH: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Happy New Year, I'm Audie Cornish. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.