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Alt Latino's Latest Tiny Desk Takeover Features Female Performers

A MARTÍNEZ, BYLINE: It's National Hispanic Heritage Month. And here at NPR, we're marking the occasion with music. NPR's Latin music podcast Alt.Latino is showcasing 10 Latin music performances from eight different cultures and countries, concerts you can watch on NPR Music's website. We're calling it the Alt.Latino Tiny Desk takeover.

And here with another preview is Alt.Latino host Felix Contreras. Felix, welcome back.


MARTÍNEZ: All right. Now, last week you featured two artists from Colombia. Who will we see at El Tiny in Week 2?

CONTRERAS: OK. First up is Maye. She was born in Venezuela but raised in Miami, which of course, is the northernmost city of Latin America. She comes from a musical family. Her dad is a Latin Grammy-winning bandleader in his own right. But what's fascinating to me is how her earliest influences of listening to music in Venezuela with her dad - and that's everything from Juanes to Shakira to Pink Floyd to Tribe Called Quest - how all of that has influenced her own very mellow, passionate songwriting. In fact, her first big notice came from what I think is a 21st century bolero called "Tu."


MAYE: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTÍNEZ: When you said mellow, you weren't kidding. That is about as relaxed as I've been, Felix, in a...


MARTÍNEZ: ...Long, long, long time.

CONTRERAS: She's got a very, very nice sound. And we're very excited to present her.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, Felix. Who's next?

CONTRERAS: Silvana Estrada is from Mexico. And she's best described as an acoustic folk singer with some jazz influences. But that really doesn't do her justice 'cause there are so many influences in her voice. Her video, that you will see, is a visual and musical treat. It reflects her roots in Mexican folk music.

In fact, her dad was a luthier of Mexican folk instruments. And the video was recorded in his workshop. The music is a mix of very passionate folk and jazz. We can't play the music from the video yet. So this is the studio version of one of the songs that she did. It's called "Te Guardo."


SILVANA ESTRADA: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTÍNEZ: That was nice. All right - and finally this week, Cuba.

CONTRERAS: You know, A, I'm of Mexican American background from California, but somehow I ended up with a Cuban musical soul.

MARTÍNEZ: Hey, nothing wrong with that. (Speaking Spanish.)

CONTRERAS: Because of this...

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

CONTRERAS: ...I wanted to bring Eme Alfonso into the mix. Eme Alfonso is also a favorite of mine. She's a vocalist from Havana. She mixes Afro-Cuban spiritual music, that some know as Santeria, with soul and jazz. And she also comes from a musical family. Her parents started a pioneering Afro-Cuban fusion band called Sintesis. And she and her brother X grew up singing in that band.

Her own music - again, it's part of a new generation of musicians from throughout Latin America who blur the lines between genres and influences. That's what we're doing on the El Tiny takeover of the Tiny Desk concerts for Hispanic Heritage Month. Check this out. This is one of the songs she does on her video.


EME ALFONSO: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTÍNEZ: I got to say, Felix, from someone whose first name is a letter, I appreciate someone else who has a first name...

CONTRERAS: (Laughter).

MARTÍNEZ: ...That sounds just like one letter only. You can find those videos on the NPR Music website, or you can subscribe to the NPR Music channel on YouTube.

Felix Contreras is the host of Alt.Latino and one of the coordinators of the takeover. Felix, thanks for coming on. We'll check back in with you next week.

CONTRERAS: I'm looking forward to it, bro.


ALFONSO: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.