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Alt.Latino 101: Back To The Basics

Since we started Alt.Latino a few months ago, we've been getting emails from Latin Alternative/Rock en Español music lovers who tell us how much they enjoy discovering fresh new music from around the globe.

We're especially proud of the fact that a lot of our listeners are new to the genre. They either stumbled across our show when they were visiting NPR Music and liked what they heard, or they just have a real curiosity to know what Latin Alternative/Rock En Español is all about. Today's show is dedicated to those listeners: the ones who didn't grow up listening to this type of music, but enjoy it anyway. We decided to put together a show to introduce you to some of the classics of the genre, the basics: Latin Alternative 101.

Who better to enlist in this effort than our friend Josh Norek over at WEXT? Josh co-hosts The Latin Alternative and is a VP at Nacional Records, and he's also just a great guy who knows a lot about Latin music. We asked him to put together a list of quintessential Latin Alternative/Rock en Español songs, and he must have gotten really into it, because he ended up creating a list so long, it would take six hours to listen to the whole thing. We've been streaming that list 24 hours a day for more than a week now; you can catch it here.

Never fear: We don't have a six-hour-long show for you today. We asked Josh to narrow his list down to eight songs. The result was a compilation that took us from Argentina to Mexico, through the Caribbean and all the way to Spain.

For those of you who already know and love this music, help us out! If you had to choose eight songs to get a friend started on Latin Alternative, which ones would you pick?

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alt.Latino 101: Back To The Basics


From 'Vasos Vacios'

By Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

Watch the official video for this song.

Sounds Like: A wall of Brazilian batucada percussion sounds like the rushed heartbeat of a rebellious hero in his final moments of life -- a story told in lead singer Vicentico's unparalleled yodeling tones.

Coming At You From: Argentina

Calma Pueblo

Watch the official video for this song.

Sounds Like: The raunch of Eminem, the poetry of Pablo Neruda, the political commitment of Manu Chao and a mean '70s-inspired guitar riff by The Mars Volta.

Coming At You From: Puerto Rico and Texas


From 'Clandestino'

By Manu Chao

Sounds Like: Hopping trains around the world with a guitar on your back, collecting stories from the wonderful and distressed people you meet along the way.

Coming At You From: France/Spain


From 'Cuatro Caminos'

By Café Tacuba

Watch the official video for this song.

Sounds like: Cafe Tacuba has been compared to Beck, but this is a simpler, sweeter melody about uncompromising love.

Coming At You From: Mexico

El Estuche

From 'Caribe Atómico'

By Aterciopelados

Sounds Like: Aterciopelados is kind of a melting pot of every Latin sound. A little bit cumbia, a little folk, a little rock and ska.

Coming At You From: Colombia

De Mis Pasos

From 'Aquí'

By Julieta Venegas

Listen to the song on YouTube.

Sounds Like: Mexico's response to Ani DiFranco, with an electronic twist. Venegas is a strong-willed, poetic singer who's not afraid to make a dance track with an accordion on it.

Coming At You From: Mexico

Colores Colores Colores

From 'Historia De La Luz'

By Furland

Sounds Like: A rock 'n' roll high-school sleepover. These kids are brilliant, they rock, and you should listen.

Coming At You From: Mexico

How To Get It: Buy it on Amazon


From 'Soy Sauce'

By Mexican Institute of Sound

Sounds Like: The best party you've ever attended -- in Mexico. These music execs loosen up their ties and go crazy with the traditional and electronic fusion.

Coming At You From: Mexico

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.