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Alt.Latino And Tiny Desk Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

September 15 through October 15 has been designated as National Hispanic Heritage Month - 30 days set aside to consider the contributions of the various Latin communities in this country. NPR Music's Alt.Latino podcast likes to say every month is heritage month. But they do set aside some special programming. And this year is probably their biggest year yet.

Felix Contreras is the host and producer of the podcast. And he's here to tell us more about that. Welcome.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Thank you, man.

MARTINEZ: All right. What are you doing to celebrate this year?

CONTRERAS: OK - first of all, Tiny Desk concerts. And the Latin musicians who have played the Tiny Desk have started calling it El Tiny.

MARTINEZ: (Laughter).

CONTRERAS: So we're doing an El Tiny takeover - all month, all Latin music, ten different artists, different genres and styles and at least eight different countries and cultures. Team Alt.Latino and the Tiny Desk concert team have put together a mix with something for everyone. We have some A-listers. We have some mid-career bands that more people should know about and some new discovery bands.

MARTINEZ: El Tiny takeover - I love it. All right. Can we hear some examples of that through some of the artists that you've lined up for El Tiny?

CONTRERAS: OK. Now, I mentioned a variety of countries and cultures. Well, this week we have two artists from Colombia. But the first artist is more of a global phenomena with Colombian roots. We're going to kick things off today with reggaeton musician J Balvin. He's one of the most popular pop music stars on the planet - billions of YouTube views and streaming service clicks. He's going to be our first artist. This is a track from his new album, "Jose." It's one of the songs he performs on his Tiny Desk home concert.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "QUE LOCURA")

J BALVIN: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTINEZ: Now, for those not familiar with reggaeton - and how could you not be at this point?

CONTRERAS: (Laughter).

MARTINEZ: It's - well, I'm serious - I mean, so what are we hearing?

CONTRERAS: OK - the thumbnail history of reggaeton. It originated in Panama with Afro-Panamanians, incubated a little more in Puerto Rico, where it became the main means of expression of Black Puerto Ricans who had become marginalized in Puerto Rican society. Now, take a giant leap forward on this timeline. Now, much like hip-hop, the beat and the style has become popular all over Latin America and in Colombia in particular. J Balvin represents how that popularity has become pan-Latin.

MARTINEZ: Great way to lead this off - all right. You mentioned another Colombian band.

CONTRERAS: OK. Diamante Electrico has been described as a rock band. They're the winners of three Latin Grammys - twice for best rock album. But their scope is pretty wide. They use rock as a base, but they have influences from funk and other styles. This is their track "Sueltame, Bogota," which is also performed on their Tiny Desk concert.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUELTAME, BOGOTA")

DIAMANTE ELECTRICO: (Singing in Spanish).

CONTRERAS: You know, one of the things we want to do with this series and what we do on Alt.Latino is shatter preconceived ideas people may have about the musical taste of Latinos here in this country and in Latin America. Just like anywhere else, we listen to everything from rock to soul to electronic to experimental to folkloric. It's a very eclectic taste. And there are musicians and bands that reflect that variety. And that's what we try to do on the show. And that's what we're going to do on the El Tiny takeover.

MARTINEZ: And Felix, I've always said that we are the hardest demo to put a finger on, especially musically.

CONTRERAS: Absolutely, man - I mean, in Latin America, of course, they don't call it Latin music.

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

CONTRERAS: They refer to it as - they're genre specific...

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

CONTRERAS: ...Hip-hop, electronic, dance music, etc.

MARTINEZ: Felix Contreras is the host of NPR Music's Alt.Latino podcast. They're celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with a special Tiny Desk takeover - four podcasts, live interviews and musical explainer videos on Instagram and playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. Felix, thank you.

CONTRERAS: De nada.

(SOUNDBITE OF DIAMENTE ELECTRICO SONG, "SUELTAME, BOGOTA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.