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Marisa Arbona-Ruiz

The musical world is full stories of musical progeny who either embrace or struggle to get out from under their famous parents. Cuban vocalist Haydée Milanés walks around with one of the most famous names in all of Latin America.

At 36, Vicente García is a music legend in the making. The Dominican-born singer-songwriter is decidedly non-conventional, humble yet dynamic — and the higher his star rises, the tighter he grips onto his artistic freedom, aiming to evolve his musicality while staying grounded.

"It hasn't been easy," García says. "Labels and people in the industry just want to make you [follow] formulas, and I'm getting to that point that people know that I'm not doing it. People know who I am."

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Apple playlist at the bottom of the page.


Flor de Toloache stuns at the crossroads of fusion and mariachi girl magic. Whether intimately airy or ice-crackingly powerful, their intricate vocal runs and harmonic alchemy seem to defy logic with equally clever instrumental arrangements by the singers themselves.

At this point, Lila Downs now has the kind of artistic stature among her fans that she has for the women she has celebrated throughout her career. She has always paid tribute to great voices and artist such as Chavela Vargas, Mercedes Sosa and even Joan Baez.

We tried something new this year at the annual SXSW Music Festival. We tracked down a bunch of Latin musicians, put a microphone in front of them wherever we find them and then ask them about their music.

To do this, I needed help so I called in Alt.Latino contributors Marisa Arbona Ruiz and Catalina Maria Johnson.

I struggled to balance the conflicting emotions of enjoying the musical celebration that is the annual SXSW Festival with the pain of the devastating loss of life in Friday's terrorist attack in New Zealand. It was an emotional push and pull that I kept completely to myself.

This year we mark our annual summer Latin music festival show with an accompanying deeper dive into the reason some of these festivals exist: lack of inclusion on the big summer festival stages.

Listen to the podcast and read how the Latinx community is dealing with representation in the music industry.

Funny what the passage of 50 years will do to a controversy.

Pianist, composer and bandleader Arturo O'Farrill was born into Afro-Cuban jazz royalty but growing up he rejected his famous musical heritage. Now, he travels the world sharing his late father Chico O'Farrill's legacy as a principal architect of the mash up of jazz and Afro-Cuban music in the late 1940s.

For two glorious weeks this month, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. exploded with the vibrant sound, color and culture of the historic festival Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World.

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