Felix Contreras

Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering program about Latin Alternative music and Latino culture. It features music as well as interviews with many of the most well-known Latinx musicians, actors, filmmakers, and writers. He has hosted and produced Alt.Latino episodes from Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, and throughout the U.S. since the show started in 2010.

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

Contreras is a recovering television journalist who has worked for both NBC and Univision in Miami and California. He's a part-time musician who plays Afro-Cuban percussion with various jazz and Latin bands in the Washington, DC, area. He is also NPR Music's resident Deadhead.

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Larry Harlow, a pianist, arranger, producer and activist who helped to popularize salsa in the U.S., died early Friday morning of heart failure. His death was confirmed by family members, who said that he had been hospitalized for kidney issues. He was 82.

The popular Dominican merengue musician Johnny Ventura has died. According to Dominican news media, the 81-year-old musician died after a sudden heart attack in his home country on Wednesday. The news was later confirmed by Ventura's son on social media.

Johnny Pacheco, one of the founders of the iconic Latin music label Fania Records, died Monday at age 85.

Pacheco had been hospitalized in New Jersey for undisclosed reasons, according to Alex Masucci, the brother of Fania co-founder Jerry Masucci. No cause of death was provided.

The undercurrent of recent Latin Grammy award presentations has been defined by the push and pull between reggaeton and Latin trap artists, and the Latin Grammy establishment.

The pioneering Cuban percussionist Cándido Camero has died at age 99.

Camero's grandson, Julian, told NPR member station WBGO that the Cuban conguero died peacefully at his home in New York on Saturday morning.

One of the casualties of the COVID-19 shutdown has been live music. When authorities banned large gatherings in March, the music industry as a whole came to a virtual standstill for several weeks.

Things slowly things started to change as artists began offering performances from their homes but venues still remain closed, major festivals have been canceled and tours large and small are on an indefinite hold.

Musician Jorge Santana, guitarist and a pioneer of the Latin rock sound of the early '70s through the Bay Area-based band Malo, has died. The 68-year-old musician died of natural causes on Thu., May 14 at his home in San Rafael, Calif., according to family.

Andy González, a New York bassist who both explored and bridged the worlds of Latin music and jazz, has died. The 69-year-old musician died in New York on Thursday night, from complications of a pre-existing illness, according to family members.

Born and bred in the Bronx, Andy González epitomized the fiercely independent Nuyorican attitude through his music — with one foot in Puerto Rican tradition and the other in the cutting-edge jazz of his native New York.

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For four days in January, Getting Funky In Havana — the title of a musical exchange between Cuba's

Last week, the New Orleans bands Tank and the Bangas and The Soul Rebels traveled to Havana to participate in a cultural exchange; it was meant to acknowledge the past by celebrating the present.

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Every week, NPR Music's Alt.Latino publishes a playlist of new music that you can stream. And every month, Alt.Latino's Felix Contreras joins us here on WEEKEND EDITION. So let's take an opportunity now to enjoy some of the music on those playlists.

Hi, Felix.

It was a big day for Spanish artists today in the nominations for the 20th annual Latin Grammys.

'Santana' At 50

Aug 30, 2019

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Woodstock celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this month, and it's been an amazing excuse to think back to the bands that played there on that grassy field in rural New York state. Some of them were already big names - Jimi Hendrix, CCR, Jefferson Airplane; others were virtual unknowns.

The prolific and celebrated Mexican accordion player Celso Piña died Wednesday of a heart attack in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. He was 66 years old.

His record label, La Tuna Records, announced Piña's death on Thursday.

Piña contributed greatly to the evolution of cumbia. The Colombian folk genre has had an interesting life span since its 17th century origins and very few musicians have added to that colorful history more than Celso Piña.

In April 2018, the iconic Mexican regional band Los Tigres del Norte walked in the footsteps of country music legend Johnny Cash, performing inside of California's Folsom Prison, both as a tribute to Cash's historic 1968 concert and an attempt at raising awareness of its shifting population.

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Amid the most crucial political crisis to hit Puerto Rico in its modern history, three Puerto Rican musicians have released a protest song that is spreading across the island as fast a

Updated at 9:34 p.m. ET Saturday

João Gilberto, one of the principal architects of the Brazilian musical style bossa nova, has died at his home in Rio de Janeiro, according to a Facebook post by his son. João Marcelo Gilberto wrote that his father, who was 88 years old, died following an undisclosed illness.

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Memorial Day signals the start of summer - slower days, vacations and a more laid-back attitude toward life. But for our friends at NPR Music's Alt.Latino podcast, summer heats up literally and figuratively. Host Felix Contreras is here to explain.

Hey, Felix.

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I struggled to balance the conflicting emotions of enjoying the musical celebration that is the annual SXSW Festival with the pain of the devastating loss of life in Friday's terrorist attack in New Zealand. It was an emotional push and pull that I kept completely to myself.

Two South American countries have been in the news a lot lately. Venezuela's economy has collapsed in a political crisis and in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, the country's new far-right president, has made racist comments and been accused of stoking anti-gay violence. For musicians in both those countries, the news is affecting their work.

There is no denying the impact Roma has had on the movie going public on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. The story of a young indigenous woman and her life as a live-in care taker for a middle class Mexican family in the mid-1970's is one of those rare instances that has crossed demographic lines and has people raving about from all quarters.

The early '70s was a watershed era for Marvin Gaye; What's Going On produced three chart-topping singles and became one of the most powerful and revered concept albums of all time, taking a reluctant Motown beyond producing hits; in 1972, Gaye recorded and released the film soundtrack, Trouble Man; between 1971 and 1973 he recorded tracks for what would become the iconic album Diana and Marvin, released in 1973; just two months earlier, he had released the legendary Let's Get It On.

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NPR Music's Alt.Latino podcast recently released its year-end list of 2018's best songs and albums. Along the way, the team has done some reading and deep thinking about a trend that started in 2017 has only gained momentum: In the world of streaming music services, Latin artists have been cleaning up.

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It starts with one of the best known guitar riffs in rock and roll. What follows is a down-home ode to the state that is known as the heart of Dixie: folksy colloquialisms, eternal blue skies, family. Pretty simple, right? Maybe not.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


It starts with one of the best known guitar riffs in rock and roll. What follows is a down-home ode to the state that is known as the heart of Dixie: folksy colloquialisms, eternal blue skies, family. Pretty simple, right? Maybe not.

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