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New Latin Music: Three Albums Not To Miss

The Latin influence in mainstream Western music extends way back.

Very early New Orleans jazz incorporated Caribbean rhythms. The tango, rumba and mambo influenced the dance styles of the 1930s and '40s. In the '60s, Carlos Santana put the Latin sound upfront and center.

And now, there's Latin hip-hop and pop and electronica — a collection of styles that all come together under the label of Latin alternative.

"It's more of a catchall phrase — it's a collection of genres," NPR arts producer and reporter Felix Contreras says. He and Scott Simon recently discussed three recent notable Latin alternative releases.

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

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

The band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs recently released its first album in 10 years. "Los Fabulosos Cadillacs were part of a pioneering wave of musicians and bands that came out of Mexico City and Argentina in the early '80s," Contreras says. "They were some of the first bands to include ska and punk and some of that other stuff. And they were really some of the first groups to put a cultural and sometimes national stamp on it."


The group Novalima is known for blending a specific Peruvian musical tradition with modern electronica. "Afro-Peruvian music was considered lower-class for a long time," Contreras says. "It was quite different from the Spanish-influenced mainstream music. So what groups like Novalima and some other singers and performers -- what they're doing is, they're dusting it off and reclaiming it and playing it in its pure form, or mixing it up like Novalima is doing."

CuCu Diamantes

The New York Latin funk collective Yerba Buena is fronted by a singer who calls herself CuCu Diamantes. She recently released her solo debut, which Contreras says draws in part from the Dominican dance music and hip-hop coursing through New York City. "This is what the group itself calls 'urban tropical,' " Contreras says. "They labeled it themselves. And it's more of a combination -- not so much other influences from other cultures, but a reflection of life in New York."