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Alt.Latino is taking over the mic at Tiny Desk concerts for Latinx Heritage Month

(SOUNDBITE OF OMAR APOLLO SONG, "EN EL OLVIDO")

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

We're over a week into National Hispanic Heritage Month. And while our friends at Alt.Latino celebrate Latinx heritage every month, they always set aside a little something special for this month. And this year is no different.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EN EL OLVIDO")

OMAR APOLLO: (Singing in Spanish).

RASCOE: Alt.Latino's Felix Contreras is here to not only introduce us to their plans for the Tiny Desk Concert series but also to a new voice on the podcast. Felix, who are we about to meet? What's new?

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: OK, first of all, we relaunched after nine months of retooling and rethinking. And the biggest change is - you are correct. I now have a new co-host. Please meet Anamaria Sayre.

ANAMARIA SAYRE, BYLINE: What's up, everybody?

RASCOE: Hey. Hello. Welcome. Welcome.

SAYRE: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

CONTRERAS: You know, she's been working on a show for almost two years. And now she's adding her voice, her cultural perspective, and her musical choices to the show. One of the biggest signs of Ana's influence, the Tiny Desk Concerts that we arranged for Heritage Month.

RASCOE: Ana, can you fill us in on what you all have planned?

SAYRE: OK. So last year, we did a complete takeover of the Tiny Desk from September 15 through October 15, the official dates of the National Heritage Month recognition. And so since then, we've decided we want to go bigger, better, more Latino, if that's possible, this year. So affectionately, the Tiny Desk has now become known by a lot of our Latino artists as El Tiny. So we are calling it that. We're calling it an El Tiny takeover. And we're really excited, actually, today to share some exclusive and unreleased audio from a few of our favorite performances from the month. So this first show that I'm going to tell you about has already been released. You can check it out online, but the rest of them are yet to come. So we kicked off El Tiny with Latin music heartthrob Omar Apollo and his special brand of contemporary R&B and a little mariachi mixed in there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

APOLLO: (Singing in Spanish).

RASCOE: That's amazing. Omar Apollo - we interviewed him for a WEEKEND EDITION, and he sang a little for us. So he sounds amazing there, as well. There must be hundreds, if not thousands of bands which you could choose to be a part of this series, in general, and especially around Heritage Month. So how do you decide who to pick?

SAYRE: It's really tough to narrow it down. I think that, you know, Felix and I love to kind of talk about this battle cry of the show being that Latin music isn't just one thing. And there's such a variety of sounds and experiences and people that go into making the, quote, "genre" that it is. And so I think we just try to include as many different countries and cultural experiences as possible, a mix of younger musicians, along with what the industry would call legacy acts but we call pioneers.

RASCOE: So which pioneers do you have lined up this year?

CONTRERAS: OK. We have Susana Baca from Peru. Now, she almost single-handedly rescued Afro-Peruvian music and culture from obscurity, and the history bin within Peru and around the world. She is a trained ethnomusicologist and even served as a minister of culture for her country a few years ago. This is one of those sneak previews we're going to give you. This is a little bit of Susana Baca's upcoming Tiny Desk Concert.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SUSANA BACA: (Singing in Spanish).

RASCOE: Well, that has to have some rhythms right there. I like that. There are so many countries and cultures represented in Latin music. And so it seems like there's going to be a lot of cultural diversity, as always. But tell me about some of the other countries and cultures that are going to be represented.

CONTRERAS: Just this past week, we presented this Mexican vocalist named Carin Leon, and he makes traditional Mexican regional music.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARIN LEON: (Singing in Spanish).

CONTRERAS: His Tiny Desk concert is an amazing mix of traditional Mexican regional - or what we call conjunto music - and country music. And his drummer even plays with brushes like a jazz player. You know, it's exactly the sound of two or three cultures coming together and making a sweet, new sound. Check this out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LEON: (Singing in Spanish).

RASCOE: OK. That made me want to snap my fingers. Just - it just made me - I got the snaps going. So, Ana, I get the feeling that you may have some younger taste than Felix does. Although, you know, I'm - Felix is young at heart. So who was really bringing in it this year?

SAYRE: Oh, man. Well, first of all, I just - I have to note, Carin Leon's voice - every single time, I mean, that is sweet. Those vocals - I just can't get over it. But another artist that I was able to bring in, fresh off her second album ever, "YESSIE," was Jessie Reyez. Oh, my God. If I could tell you guys how incredible that performance was - all I can say - I don't want to spoil it, but I will say that there was some music making with a beer can and a hairbrush involved. So that's all I'm going to say for now. Here's a clip from Jessie.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JESSIE REYEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

RASCOE: That voice is amazing. Anamaria Sayre, welcome to our monthly Alt.Latino chats. Looking forward to hearing more about the show in the future and as always, any new music you can bring our way.

SAYRE: Thank you so much. This is going to be a party every month.

RASCOE: That's what we want. That's what we like. Anamaria Sayre and Felix Contreras are the co-hosts of NPR Music's Alt.Latino podcast. They are also the producers of El Tiny, an annual takeover of the Tiny Desk Concert series during National Hispanic Heritage Month. Thank you both for coming in. And see you next month.

CONTRERAS: Yeah. Thank you. It was fun.

SAYRE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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

Ayesha Rascoe
Ayesha Rascoe is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and the Saturday episodes of Up First. As host of the morning news magazine, she interviews news makers, entertainers, politicians and more about the stories that everyone is talking about or that everyone should be talking about.