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Alt.Latino: Old-School Disco And Brand-New Styles

I'll admit that disco is not, and has never been, my thing. In any language. I lived through the disco era and came out of it jaded. I thought disco was superficial, coke-fueled dance music. How could it also be profound?

Well, guess what time has done to my prejudices? Now I think the Saturday night Fever soundtrack kills. This week, we explore the profundities of 1980s post-disco from Spain. But the groove doesn't end there: A Colombian group is taking over New York with a unique style it calls glampeta, while a Chilean MC takes us down memory lane.

When you see the photo on this page, you might think, "Oh, wow, '80s hair! Too much makeup! Glitter!" But take it from me, there is some deep music in this week's show. We dare you to sit still while listening.

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"Arriquitaun," sung by Lain, comes from a mixtape made by Spanish DJ Kigo called Espanish Boogie Vol. 2. It's a compilation of Spanish post-disco songs from the '80s -- some rescued from obscurity, some anthems. The first volume was so successful, this is kind of an encore.

You can hear all of Espanish Boogie Vol. 2 at Mixcloud.

A Quién le Importa

Speaking of the '80s, Carlos Berlanga is a Spanish musician who back in that decade was part of a popular pop group called Alaska y Dinarama. They were akin to Culture Club with Boy George. Many of their songs became gay anthems, notably the song "A quien le importa" (Who cares). Underneath the cheesy synth and the glitter, there's a deeper meaning to this music. The whole movement, called La Movida Madrileña, was an exuberant, gay-friendly and gaudy style that came on the heels of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco's death. After years of brutal repression, it was like an explosion of sexuality and expression. Keep that in mind when you're listening to the lyrics: "Who cares what I do, who cares what I say, this is who I am, this is how I will be, I will never change."

You can watch the video for "A Quien Le Importa" on YouTube.

A Quien Le Importa

Alaska y Dinarama's "A Quien Le Importa" was recently remade for a tribute album called Viaje Satélite Alrededor de Carlos Berlanga (A Satellite Trip Around Carlos Berlanga) by one of Alt.Latino's favorite artists, Spanish singer Bebe. A tango version of an '80s pop anthem is risky, but we think it works well. Women who sing tango are traditionally very strong, urban, insolent and sexy ladies who manage to survive in a male-dominated genre (much like female rappers). That's why we feel that Bebe's tango rendition of this particular song is essentially a middle finger to the world.

You can hear Bebe's version of "A Quien Le Importa" on YouTube.

Shake That Chocolate

Plastic Caramelo, based in New York by way of Colombia, calls its style glampeta, which is a mix of glam, cumbia, dancehall and champeta. For those who don't know, champeta originated on Colombia's Caribbean coast and mixes funk and salsa with African folk styles. The group's new single and video, "Shake That Chocolate," will help you understand why champeta is slowly taking over New York.

You can watch the video for "Shake That Chocolate" at YouTube and learn more about the band at its MySpace page.

Photo Flashback Ft. Vitami

Regular NPR Music listeners will remember that we recently featured one of Chile's finest MCs, Ana Tijoux. Tijoux used to be in a hip-hop group called Makiza, and one of her former bandmates, rapper Seo2, recently released a new album called Por Puro Amor Al Rap (For Pure Love of Rap). This is our favorite track, called "Photo Flashback," featuring MC Vitami.

You can learn more about Seo2 at his website.


Sambada is a group with one foot in Santa Cruz, Calif., and one in Brazil. The new album strikes a perfect balance between surf-rock and Brazilian samba.


We are anxiously awaiting Lê Almeida's new album, Mono Maçã, which comes out in November. In the meantime, we got our hands on "Transporpirações." Lê Almeida is a promising band out of Rio de Janeiro that revels in a pure, unabashed '90s rock sound. For some time now, we've been hearing whispers in the Brazilian indie-music halls that this group is the next big thing. Let's hope this year the band fulfills that prophecy.

You can learn more about Lê Almeida at its MySpace page.

Sabado E Domingo

Like its title, this song feels just like a perfect Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Silvia Machete is a bright star rising out of Rio de Janeiro, and her music is as quirky as she is. Believe it or not, her roots are in the circus: She started out as a trapeze artist and juggler, and has traveled the world doing her circus acts, so the carnival feeling of this music is no coincidence.

You can learn more about Silvia Machete at her website.


We here at Alt.Latino have been viewing the immigration debate from a musical angle. This includes a look at Soundstrike, a diverse group of artists boycotting Arizona's immigration law and penning songs in protest. Bright Eyes is in the ranks of Soundstrike, and recently wrote "Coyote Song" for the movement. It's a beautifully written song with a newly unveiled video featuring singer Conor Oberst playing piano in front of the border separating Mexico and Texas.

You can watch the video for "Coyote" at YouTube.

Chacarera Del Engaño

We often save our favorites for last, and Argentina's Tremor is a band that certainly shocked us. In last week's show, we featured a producer named Chancha Via Circuito, who works in a style known as "folklore digital." Tremor is a little more of a head trip than Chancha -- the band delves deeper into indigenous instruments, which it pegs down with minimalist but strong industrial beats. "Chacarera Del Engaño" is a mix of digital music and a traditional Argentine folk called chacarera. The song uses an instrument called the sachaguitarra, which sounds like a mix of a guitar, a violin and a charango. It's built with a hollowed-out gourd or pumpkin and four strings, and named the sachaguitarra because in the indigenous language, Quichua, which is still spoken in northwestern Argentina, sacha means "from the mounts."

You can learn more about Tremor at its label's website.

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.