This Weekend On Alt.Latino: Three DJs You Should Hear

Originally published on June 6, 2011 10:31 am

If you've been tuning in to Alt.Latino regularly, you might notice that we have a special love affair going on with up-and-coming Latin DJs who are in the business of mixing traditional songs with amazing beats.

So, naturally, when Weekend Edition Sunday host Jacki Lyden invited us to talk about our favorite new music, we chose to discuss some of the DJs rocking our worlds.

We start off with Alt.Latino favorite Geko Jones. This New York-based DJ is like a musical anthropologist who digs deep into his Colombian and Puerto Rican roots, churning out amazing tunes. We then move further south into Argentina, where DJ Chancha Via Circuito flawlessly stitches together indigenous folk songs with electronic beats.

Our final destination is Mexico, where Los Macuanos' members perform ruidoson — a blend of Mexican folk, cumbia, regional Mexican and techno.

Tune in for an extra-special, super-danceable weekend edition of Alt.Latino!

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DJ, Host:

Hola to both of you.



FELIX CONTRERAS: Thanks for having us.


: So, in the past, you two have brought interesting bands from the podcast here to WEEKEND EDITION. And, Jasmine, just remind us of some of these really cool Latin Alternative music elements.

GARSD: Well, I like to think of Latin Alternative of not one specific thing. It's kind of like a mix of all types of different, you know, hip-hop, electronica, rock and roll, Latin folk; more tradition genres like merengue, salsa. It's not what your parents listened to. It's just something completely new and different.

CONTRERAS: It's primarily being made by younger musicians, I guess we can say, for those of us who are of a certain age. You know, it's like a younger crowd listening and experimenting and doing a lot of interesting different things.

: You talk about what Alt Latino is, and today we're going to hear from DJs who make music sampling all of this stuff. Let's listen to some.

GARSD: For our first pick, we brought DJ Geko Jones. He is based in New York; half Puerto Rican, half Colombian. And this is one of my favorite mixes of his. It's called "Pa' La Escuela Nene" or "Go to School Little Boy."


MARIA MULATA A: (Singing in Spanish)

: Okay, I'm already in that, rocking side-to-side.


: All right. Jasmine, you're the one born in Argentina, almost born in Brazil. I want to ask, this sounds African. I really hear that call and response.

GARSD: Absolutely. So Geko is kind of like a musical anthropologist. He goes digging for music in Columbia, sometimes even music that in Colombia itself is kind of obscure. This is a style called Bojarengue(ph). Bojarengue is a regional Caribbean/Colombian and Panamanian style. And it's very much Afro- descendent from areas in Colombia and Panama where, it back in colonial days, runaway slaves would make their home and this type of music developed. And he mixes all this traditional sound with really artful, heavy beats. And he's talked about striking that perfect balance between really praising the traditional and adding something new to it.

: Oh, I love it. I love it. It's really intoxicating.


: Now, who are we hearing sing here? Who singing?

CONTRERAS: We're hearing a vocalist by the name of Maria Mulata and the group is the Itinerario de Tambores, it's a drum group. And, you know, it's like Jasmine said, it's very obscure, it's very specific to a region. I like to think of it - imagine an obscure part of Appalachian singing, mixed in with DJ music and house music. That's what essentially what he's doing, bringing the two cultures and two epics and two different divides together and making this really groovy dance music, as we can you move it around in your chair.


: Yeah. And I want people to know it's like, you know, I don't really have to be in the chair.


: Yeah. Let's listen to some more.

GARSD: Actually, I brought an Argentine DJ who is my absolute favorite musician of the last year. His name is Chancha Via Circuito.

: Chancha.



: (Soundbite of song

CHANCHA VIA CIRCUITO: ((Singing in Spanish)

: You know, I have to say I kind of love this. There's something, it's almost - don't take this the wrong way - there's a little schmaltz in this. There's a little good old-fashioned, you know you know, Dean...

GARSD: Oh, I see.

: Yeah, the gunslinger is wandering into the little village.


GARSD: It's funny that you should say that because what Chancha does is he takes a lot of traditional and folk musicians. And this is a very traditional folk musician Jose Larralde. And he's a traditional Argentine folk musician and he does have that very - oh, I'm going to get into trouble for saying this - but almost like a Burt Reynolds persona.


: Oh, no. He's really, you know, Latino.


: Alt Latino.


CONTRERAS: Burt Reynolds.

: Saying you don't know.


GARSD: But Jose Larralde, in this case, yeah, he has a deep booming voice. And this song is talking about Pewenche, which the Mapuche Tribe in Southwest Argentina and Chile. And the lyrics are just, I mean, they're just - they're goose bump-inducing.

: Ah, you have to tell us.

GARSD: One of the lyrics says: Sun that is wasting away on the rocks, flat stones and dark currents, I kiss the Indian shadow that is returning stronger, awakened from a green dream.

: Hmm, wow. Pulsing, yeah. It's really nice.

CONTRERAS: Yeah, really cool.

: Yeah, he's an hombre sincero.


CONTRERAS: Very good.

: I...

CONTRERAS: We go bilingual. That's awesome.


CONTRERAS: That's cool. What we like about this guy is that he's using, you know, we refer to him loosely as a DJ. But, you know, what he's doing is that he's using computers and the recording technology within the computers, to bring in all these different elements and he makes his own stuff. He'll mix and maybe with some dance beat. But it's always like this sound collage. He's like a sculpture in a lot of ways. He's bringing all these different elements in and they're not all connected. The drum part may be one thing and these other things will bring in. He's just really an interesting guy.

: And I understand this guy came in for a Tiny Desk Concert. This is where at NPR, NPR Music has musicians come in who were in town, invited in to play in the middle of all the cubicles. It's utterly cool, and then posted on the website later so people can see him performing.

GARSD: Yeah, we will be posting that later in the month, Jacki. And like Felix said, he not only works on computers, he brought like this construction work tube. And he was just like doing sounds with it. He's a sound artist.

: Yeah. I love it. Anything left for today?

GARSD: Well, speaking of love, we have Los Macuanos, a group from Mexico doing "Ritmo De Amor," "Rhythm of Love."



: 'Cause that's like from Telenovela to the fun house.


: That's my little name for it.


CONTRERAS: That's awesome. I keep teasing Jasmine that I want to be a DJ when I grow up because, these guys, they're doing such amazing things mixing in all these, again, mixing all these elements. We heard some home cumbia there - some Mexican version cumbia. We heard some polka with the accordion. We heard like the cheesy, little synthesizer stuff. And it may not sound like there's a lot going on, but if you're dancing you don't want it to end; it's just that steady groove.


: Jasmine and Felix, thanks. This has been fantastico.

CONTRERAS: Thanks for having us.

GARSD: Thank you so much.


MACUANOS: (Singing)

: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.