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

This week we feature Quetzal's <em>The Eternal Getdown</em> and other Afro-Latino music from Smithsonian Folkways.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways
This week we feature Quetzal's The Eternal Getdown and other Afro-Latino music from Smithsonian Folkways.

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.

Don't think that this music and these recordings are dusty museum relics. Musicians throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and the U.S. make this a living, breathing document of where we come from and who we are today.

And while the history and musicianship of these songs are certainly worthy of intense scrutiny, don't forget that it is all basically dance music! So you can listen to the songs individually below, or boogie down with this funky mixtape, where the songs flow from one to the other for optimal dancing pleasure.

But I suggest you loosen up a little first: That traditional merengue is quite fast and will definitely challenge your hip-swaying skills.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Hear The Songs

Quetzal

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"Olokun y Yemayá"

From 'The Eternal Getdown'

By Quetzal

Franklyn Hernández y sus Tipican Brothers

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"Homenaje"

From 'Quisqueya on the Hudson'

By Franklyn Hernández y sus Tipican Brothers

Tito Matos and Viento de Agua Unplugged

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"El León"

From 'Viento de Agua Unplugged: Materia Prima'

By Tito Matos and Viento de Agua Unplugged

Los Pleneros de la 21

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courtesy of artist
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"Baila, Julia Loíza"

From 'Para Todos Ustedes'

By Los Pleneros de la 21

Ivo and Band

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"Pedazo de Acordeón"

From '¡Ayombe: The Heart of Colombia's Música Vallenata!'

By Ivo Diaz and Band

Cándido Martínez

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"Idé werere ni'ta Oshún idé werere"

From 'Havana & Matanzas, Cuba 1957: Bata, Bembe and Palo Songs'

By Cándido Martínez

La Sardina de Naiguatá

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"Parranda callejera"

From '¡Parranda! Venezuelan Carnival Music'

By La Sardina de Naiguatá

José Gutiérrez y Los Hermanos Ochoa

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"Siquisirí"

From 'La Bamba: Sones Jarochos from Veracruz'

By José Gutiérrez y Los Hermanos Ochoa

Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.

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