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New Music For Fall From Alt.Latino

Fall is in the air and that means two things: sweater weather and a big push by record companies to get lots of CDs into the hands of hungry music lovers. We're premiering some of it on the show today — a diverse selection of well-known artists and rising stars. The music is playful, serious, fun and even celebratory. There's at least one bona fide anthem and a couple of discoveries that we just can't get out of our heads.

One of the key concepts for music this fall seems to be merengue, that fast, hip-moving dance groove from that Caribbean jewel known as the Dominican Republic. It's running a close second to Colombia's cumbia as the rhythm of the moment, and artists like Shakira and Calle 13 are using it in interesting ways.

We also dive deep into indie rock territory to find young artists who we think are worth watching. All we'll say is four words: Girl In A Coma. OK, twist my arm, two more words: Maneja Beto. So we're weak. Here's two more: Carla Morrsion.

As always we weren't able to include every artist with an upcoming release; so, listeners, we're counting on you to complete this list: What are you most excited to hear this fall?

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Flores de Fuego

"Flores de Fuego" (Flowers of Fire) is a brand new cut from Dominican artist Rita Indiana's upcoming album, El Juidero (The Flee). Distinct for her eccentric androgynous style, her insanely fast merengue techno beats and her amazing story-telling, Rita is a musician we believe is on her way to becoming a household name. Previously on this show we've mentioned that Rita is already an acclaimed author, and on this track she once again tells a beautiful story while inducing us to dance. Sample some of the gorgeous lyrics: "My heart spread its roots, its trunk and its branches in your earth, give me your hand, it's the shadow of a sun that tastes like peanuts/I am not the best character in the story, but I need nothing more than to share my home with you, with the knowledge that in you my boat has found a port."

El Juidero will be released October 12.


Rita is not the only artist doing this very fast-paced Dominican merengue style. We're seeing a lot of big artists adopt this style, among them Shakira, who has an album coming out called Sale El Sol (The Sun Comes Out). "Loca" (Crazy) is a merengue song. Recorded in the Dominican Republic, it's a cover of Dominican artist El Cata's "Loca Con Su Tiguere" ("Crazy For Her Tiger" or "Crazy for her Man"). Whenever we shine a light on artists like Shakira or Juanes, we get a handful of people complaining that they're "too pop". Say what you will, but Shakira is responsible for some of the most influential Latin music in the last few decades. A lot of people got to know her as a blonde pop star singing sexy tunes in English, but to those of us who knew Shakira back in the day, singing "Ojos Asi" and "Donde Estan Los Ladrones", she rocked and she rocked hard. She lost a lot of us on some of her recent work, but she's promised to return to her roots on Sale El Sol.

Vamo' A Portarnos Mal

Puerto Rican reggaeton group Calle 13 is a band that tends to create a lot of controversy because their lyrics are some of the raunchiest but wittiest we've ever heard. Very nasty but hilarious. "Vamo' a Portarnos Mal" (Let's Misbehave) is an interesting mix of merengue and reggaeton -- a different style for the group.

Calma Pueblo

Calle 13's lead rapper René Pérez, a.k.a. Residente, is a brilliant lyricist effortlessly raunchy and deep, political and pornographic, childish and wise. "Calma Pueblo" is aggressive, political, taunting. The group is sticking it to the government, the record industry and other rappers.


To us this band was love at first listen. We chose to premiere "Panteon" because it feels like an exhilarating run in the park. It's so anthemic and ethereal, we can't help but compare Maneja Beto to a Spanish band called Delorean. This Texan band is really taking things in a different direction on Escante Calling, which sounds like an autumn love affair. The entire record feels like the soundtrack to a movie, with every track telling a different part of the story.

Hear and read more at Maneja Beto's Myspace Page.

Hide The Knives

Escante Calling really is an eclectic record, as you can see when comparing "Panteon" to "Hide the Knives". Sung in a kind of shaky, almost lunatic falsetto, this romantic serenade is a little off kilter. Add to that the eyebrow-raising title of the song and we can almost see this as part of a soundtrack to a Tim Burton movie, or a David Lynch film.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Here's another band from Texas whose upcoming album is a collection of singles they released in the spring, and includes several new tracks. It's an album of cover songs, from The Beatles to Tejano goddess Selena. Lead singer Nina Diaz's voice is rich, secure, and really monumental for such a young woman. It has an almost rock and roll cabaret quality which gives a different flavor to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". We were blown away by this band, and we're not the only ones -- the band was discovered by rock and roll legend Joan Jett, who immediately signed them to her label and has been singing their accolades for some time now.

Si Una Vez

We just had to play another Girl In A Coma song. Here the ladies fearlessly cover Tejano icon Selena's "Si Una Vez", a sort of love song in which she reprimands herself for so foolishly falling in love with someone. Nina Diaz's voice rises up as a distinctly recognizable and powerful instrument. Bravo.


After listening to Mexican musician and singer Carla Morrison's Mientras Tu Dormias (While You Slept), we ended up with a serious case of goosebumps. Carla's voice is has an Eartha Kitt quality to it. But the fact that her music is playful doesn't mean she's not an incredibly poignant lyricist. Like Rita Indiana, her songs read like short stories. In "Suciedad" (Filth) she sings: "My heart is broken/because of all the things I want to say/so many things I want to explain/and they don't come out of my mouth/and they break my soul/it is so hard to make these words come out." If Carla ever did let herself say exactly what's on her mind, what unearthly sounds would she make?

Hear and read more at Carla Morrison's Myspace Page.

Disculpe Babe

Brazilian rock fans everywhere rejoice. El Justiciero Cha Cha Cha: Tribute To Os Mutantes comes out November 9. For those who don't know, Os Mutantes is a Brazilian psychedelic rock group involved in the Tropicália movement of the late '60s. This album includes cover songs by artists from throughout Latin America and Spain, from Colombia's Aterciopelados to Mexico's Café Tacvba. It's interesting to see some of these Spanish-speaking artists do cover songs in Portuguese, when most of the time you see it the other way around. Silvia Perez sings "Disculpe Babe" in a lovely mellow tone that does justice to the legendary group.


Colombian group Systema Solar is a new band that will keep your blood warm as the weather cools down. Systema’s artistic pedigree is deep considering the band was created to perform at a biennial of contemporary art in Medeliin 2006. The band is actually a collective of visual artists and musicians from throughout Colombia who set their groove to traditional Colombian music as well as hip hop, house, techno and other dance club beats. The track "Chico" samples Argentine singer Tormenta's '70s hit "Chico De Mi Barrio" (Kid From My Neighborhood)”.

Systema Solar will be available through onerpm.com Oct. 14.


Although Chilean artist Javiera Mena's album debuted a few weeks ago, it's one we'll be listening to throughout fall and well into winter. It is so infectiously groovy, so danceable, so well-produced that it has critics everywhere calling it a pop masterpiece. "Sufrir" (To Suffer) is an ode to drama on the dance floor and sexual teasing. She sings, "When I think that you don't understand/The desire that could be/I detect that you are made of platinum."

You can download Mena from Amazon mp3.

Jasmine Garsd
Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.
Felix Contreras
Felix Contreras is co-creator and co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.