For Black History Month, Celebrate Afro-Latino Music With Smithsonian Folkways

-images-uploads-gallery-sfw40574_cover_1500_wide-6da431eed4aef700e0da33a5441d4fc1185839e2-s800-c85.jpgvia NPR’s Alt.Latino‘s Felix Contreras:

As part of our celebration of Black History Month and Afro-Latino culture, we turn this week to how the influence of Africa has been interpreted in various Latin and Caribbean cultures. The music of West Africa, where a majority of those enslaved in the Americas came from, was diffused through both an indigenous and Spanish filter to become the distinct sounds and rhythms that we know today.

Cumbia, bachata, mambo and son jarocho are all quite distinct from each other and are still very vibrant expressions of tradition. But, more importantly, they also inform and influence a tidal wave of new expression, mixing with hip-hop, electronic, rock and jazz to form the musical bedrock of Alt.Latino.

In this week’s show, we dive into the vaults of Smithsonian Folkways, the non-profit record label dedicated to American folk traditions of all kinds. Our guide is Folkways curator emeritus Dan Sheehy, who knows a thing or two about Afro-Latino music and culture: He has traveled extensively to produce many of the great recordings in the archive.


PRI’s ‘The World’ covers controversial court ruling in the Dominican Republic

Image via Amy Bracken/
Image via Amy Bracken/

You may be familiar with a controversial court ruling in the Dominican Republic that retroactively stripped citizenship from anyone born in the country to undocumented parents dating back to 1929. Not surprisingly, it mostly affects Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Public Radio International‘s “The World sent reporter Amy Bracken to the Dominican Republic to interview folks on the island, and much like the immigration debate here in the United States, opinions were mixed.

Take Mario Matos Cuevos, for instance. An 81-year-old retired soldier, he told The World “the Dominican president has made it clear that ‘everyone must get their papers in order,’ just like anywhere else in the world.”

When Bracken asked Cuevos if he thinks it’s unfair to make people who have lived in this country for generations go back and apply for papers all over again, he said “no,” since most of those affected have ties to Haiti.

“According to the Haitian Constitution, anyone of Haitian descent, whether legal or illegal, living in any country, is Haitian. That’s what their Constitution says,” Cuevos said.

On the other hand, high school student Yahisse Cuevas saw things a different way.

“Dominicans are very racist,” she told Bracken, “the way we abuse Haitians, always asking for their papers and mistreating them.”

It is no secret that many Latin American countries have attitudes against those with darker skin. One has to wonder how much that plays a factor in this debate.

Listen to the interesting audio here. And catch their other segments via their archives. The World is a great show to keep more in-depth tabs on news from around the world.


VIDEO: Vicente Garcia’s ‘Te Soñe’ on 123UnoDosTres

I handled publicity for Dominican singer-songwriter Vicente Garcia in February and what a pleasure it was. He is a consummate professional. Not surprising since he’s been doing his thing since he was a tween.

Garcia was taken under Juan Luis Guerra’s wing when he was just 13-years-old and fronting his own band, “Calor Urbano.”

A self-taught musician and vocalist, Vicente released his debut album “Melodrama” in 2011. Since then, he has come to symbolize the future of Latin artists who are challenging labels and redefining musical genres.

Garcia has opened for, or performed with, major Grammy award-winning artists such as Juan Luis Guerra, Mana, Juanes, Shakira and Cultura Profetica. He has also recorded with Grammy nominated, LAMC darling, Ximena Sariñana.

Check out this acoustic performance of “Te Soñe” shot by the folks over at 123UnoDosTres, a YouTube channel focused on Latino entertainers.

And more press here:

Interviewed on CNN en Español (along with a mini-acoustic performance!)

Interviewed on NY1 Noticias.

Named part of a list of Dominican performers on the rise in MSN’s Latinzine.