Each week, Alt.Latino whips up a curated list of new favorites that emerge from the Latin music world. This week on Alt.Latino, explore Piñata Protest’s new twist on conjunto punk, Los Tigres del Norte’s tribute to legendary mariachi singer Vicente Fernandez and a diasporic folk ballad from La Doña.
As part of a series of NPR Music’s favorite Latin songs, we created a Spotify playlist to compile the songs we love. Listen and read up on this week’s picks below.
Camila Meza, “All Your Colors”
Chilean born musician Camila Meza has been hiding in plain sight — which is to say she has been making some very special music and some of us may have overlooked her amazing talent. That oversight comes to an end as Meza releases the single “All Your Colors” from her upcoming May 2019 album, Ámbar.
“All Your Colors” is a showcase for Meza’s substantial vocal talents as she shows off an approach to singing that reminds me of singers like Joni Mitchell who move easily between jazz and the conventions of pop singing. Her hybrid jazz/string quartet Nectar Orchestra provides the perfect musical backdrop for her singing.
Like a handful of other female vocalists who come from Latin America (Magos Herrera, Luciana Souza, Monica Giraldo and Claudia Acuña), Meza is taking jazz singing to another place where English and Spanish coexist, where folklore has just as much musical heft as the great jazz singing we all know and love, where the trappings of jazz also become tools to blend the genres.
And if that wasn’t enough, Meza is the kind of guitarist who impresses, as she did with Pat Metheny, who asked her to be part of his NEA Jazz Masters induction last year. — Felix Contreras
Piñata Protest, “DUI”
Two words: conjunto punk. Piñata Protest pretty much rules this hybrid because the band sort of invented it, actually. I met lead vocalist and accordionist Alvaro del Norte about six years ago as his band tore through a raucous set at SXSW, showing off the loud and rough edges of accordion driven, tequila drinking rancheras. This track was included on 2018’s Necio Nights, the band’s second full-length album.What’s new about it is the action packed video that displays the band’s energetic performance style, lest you have any question what is so punk about cowboy hats and accordions. — Felix Contreras
Los Tigres del Norte, “Un Consentido de Dios (A Favorite of God)”
“Los jefes de jefes (the bosses of all the bosses)” sing a tribute to “El mas grande entre los grandes (the biggest of all the big timers.)”
Oh man, this release is a superlative holiday! But in this case, it’s actually appropriate. The iconic conjunto band Los Tigres del Norte sing a tribute to Vicente Fernandez, a legendary mariachi singer and composer who is an celebrated ambassador for Mexican music and culture.
The song is classic conjunto story telling (“I’m going to tell you a story, my friends….”) and praises Fernandez’s majestic run of classic performances. The video is full of rancho visuals filmed on Chente’s ranch as well as video of the beloved singer, who has retired from public performances.
The song drives home the point that Fernandez is such a beloved figure in Mexico that the title of the song, “Un Consentido de Dios (A Favorite of God)” is most likely an accurate statement. — Felix Contreras
Gente de Zona & Silvestre Dangond, “El Mentiroso”
In some ways, Gente de Zona’s and Silvestre Dangond’s “El Mentiroso” is the same as Maluma’s “Mala Mia” — a song about untrustworthy men and the excuses they make for themselves. But there’s one crucial difference: “El Mentiroso” is at least self-aware, which isn’t something I can say confidently about Maluma.
Dangond’s yearning chorus of “pensando en ti / pensando en ti” and Delgado’s and Malcom’s solo dormís certainly sound sincere, their characteristic full-hearted delivery landing as almost genuine contrition. It is the oldest trick in the book, and this time it worked, manifesting in a sing-your-heart-out club track over (hopefully) an actual relationship. Yet, per YouTube: “Mentirosos buenísimos cómo los cubanos no hay [applause emoji] [laugh emoji] [Cuban flag emoji],” reads one of the top comments on the music video. Make of that what you will. I cede the floor to Caribbean women to respond. — Stefanie Fernández
La Doña featuring Coto, “Memorias Caramelas”
San Francisco Chicana singer La Doña has only three singles out and each of them has floored us. Her mission: to bring diasporic folk and dance musics together for the internet generation. After doing that on the singsong “Nada Me Pertenece” and R&B-tinged “Algo Nuevo” (“¿Qué bola con La Doña?,“) Cecilia Peña-Govea returns with “Memorias Caramelas,” a lovelorn cumbia-son-reggaeton backed by Juan “Coto” de la Cruz on the three-stringed Cuban tres, an instrument family legend tells me my abuelo played in Artemisa. As for me, this guajira is dancing. — Stefanie Fernández
This playlist is updated weekly.