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Yasser Tejeda brings the Afro-Dominican quijombo to the LatiNxt Festival

The Dominican Republic is famous for merengue and bachata, but Yasser Tejeda prefers to focus on lesser-known varieties of Dominican roots music. He reimagines centuries-old Afro-Dominican styles, especially palo, a form of music traditionally played in the countryside that involves complex call-and-response rhythms created by drums called palos and voices. His elegantly polished compositions contain […]

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Gustavo Cortiñas explores Latin American history, culture, and resilience on Desafío Candente

The third release by Gustavo Cortiñas, Desafío Candente (“Incandescent Defiance”), is an epic set of jazz and spoken word inspired by Las Venas Abiertas de Latinoamérica (“The Open Veins of Latin America”), an iconic series of historical essays by Uruguayan author and poet Eduardo Galeano. The Chicago-based drummer and composer invited more than 30 musicians […]

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Gabriel Garzón-Montano concocts a soulful pop melange with Spanglish flair

The first time I saw Gabriel Garzón-Montano in concert was at South by Southwest in 2017. His appearance had generated a lot of buzz; a song from his 2014 EP, Bishoune: Alma del Huila, had been sampled for Drake’s 2015 track “Jungle,” and the multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter had recently released his debut full-length, Jardin. Partway […]

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Ghetto Kumbé create pulsing Afrofuturistic grooves that build on the beats of Colombia’s Pacific coast

Few styles of music lift my spirits more than the drum- and marimba-driven chants born along Colombia’s Pacific coast. These ancestral grooves survived the travails of 16th-century colonization to become the musical heritage of the region’s enslaved persons who’d escaped captivity—and to my ears, they distill freedom and joy in every note. The members of […]

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El Shirota bare their postpunk soul for our weird times on Tiempos Raros

The debut album of Mexico’s El Shirota, Tiempos Raros (“Weird Times”), resonates mightily as the world convulses from the effects of America’s racist violence in the midst of a global pandemic. Founded by lead singer and guitarist Ignacio Gomez in 2013, the band went through several lineup changes before settling on their current configuration in […]

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Buscabulla’s tropical soul vignettes distill the mixed blessings of returning home

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, at least 130,000 people left Puerto Rico to live elsewhere. Yet in February 2018, Puerto Rican musicians Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo del Valle, aka experimental dream-pop duo Buscabulla (“Troublemaker” in English), returned to the island after nearly a decade in New York City. During those years, they’d become […]

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Orkesta Mendoza blends vintage sounds to create a groovy boogie-woogie border scene

The first time I saw Orkesta Mendoza was at SXSW about five years ago, and the group had already perfected an enormous, vintage Latin big-band sound and intense, punk-like sensibility unparalleled in the Latin scene. Led by bandleader, singer, and guitarist Sergio Mendoza (a longtime member of Calexico and Devotchka), the Tucson indie mambo group […]

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Lido Pimienta’s Miss Colombia is a luminous anthem to resilience

Contemporary music informed by cultural traditions that have withstood the test of centuries uplifts my spirits like nothing else; in these times, it seems to hold a magic that can help us all withstand adversity. Lido Pimienta’s new third album, Miss Colombia, is the highly anticipated follow-up to her Polaris Prize–winning La Papessa. The Barranquilla-born, […]

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The Sor Juana Festival shares vintage vibes for cruising in hot rods, warm summer nights, and nonstop dancing

Rockabilly probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when somebody says “Latin roots music,” but several generations of artists on both sides of the southern U.S. border have taken doo-wop, boogie-woogie, and early rock ’n’ roll to heart. The music—and its associated hot-rod imagery—has long connections to the Mexican American community (particularly on […]

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Roberto Fonseca blends the sounds of past and present into dynamic Afro-Cuban jazz

I had a chance to see Roberto Fonseca play at the 2015 Fes Festival of World Sacred Music in Morocco, in a duo collaboration with Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara. In his thrilling, visceral performance, the Havana-born musician, composer, and bandleader embodied the multifarious musicality of Cuba’s best jazz pianists. Blessed with access to the island’s […]

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The Chicago Flamenco Festival 2020 showcases the allure of a quintessentially Spanish art form

Few forms of music and dance embody raw emotion as exquisitely as flamenco. This formidable and quintessentially Spanish art form fuses elements from Jewish, Arab, and Roma cultures and distills the essence of grief, tragedy, fear, and joy into every note, gesture, and stomp. Hosted principally by the Instituto Cervantes, the first half of the […]

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Ana Gabriel lives up to the title ‘La Diva de América’

Ana Gabriel, nicknamed “La Diva de América,” has influenced generations of music fans since she launched her career in the 1970s. With her no-holds-barred approach to every tune and her signature vocal quality—a husky rasp that evokes long nights of crying and drinking—the Mexican singer-songwriter has mastered torch songs in a wide range of genres. […]