Felix Contreras

Felix Contreras is co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's web-based program about Latin Alternative music and Latino culture. It features music as well as interviews with many of the most well-known Latino musicians, actors, film makers and writers.

Previously, Contreras was a producer and reporter for NPR's Arts Desk and covered, among other stories and projects: a series reported from Mexico introducing the then-new musical movement called Latin Alternative; a series of stories on the financial challenges facing aging jazz musicians; and helped produce NPR's award winning series 50 Great Voices.

He once stood on the stage of the legendary jazz club The Village Vanguard after interviewing the club's owner and swears he felt the spirits of Coltrane and Monk walking through the room.

Contreras is a recovering television journalist who has worked for both NBC and Univision. He's also a part-time musician who plays Afro-Cuban percussion with various jazz and Latin bands.

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First Listen
9:03 pm
Sun May 17, 2015

First Listen: Los Hijos De La Montaña, 'Los Hijos De La Montaña'

Los Hijos De La Montaña.
Jeff Elbel Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 27, 2015 4:56 am

Although they share the same last name, it's hard to imagine a less likely pairing than Luz Elena Mendoza and Sergio Mendoza.

While both have roots in Mexico, Luz Elena makes her home in the Pacific Northwest and has fronted a band called Y La Bamba. That group sets Luz Elena's deep, evocative voice against backing vocals so rich, I once described Y La Bamba's other singing members as bearded choirboys. There were direct Mexican influences in the music, but not many.

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First Listen
10:05 pm
Sun April 26, 2015

Review: Rana Santacruz, 'Por Ahí'

Rana Santacruz's new album, Por Ahí, comes out May 5.
Erin Patrice O'Brien Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 2:02 pm

Rana Santacruz waited five years to release his second album.

In today's instantaneous digital age, that's a dangerous career move. Waiting that long risks a budding fan base moving on to next new thing. Musical trends change fast, risking diminished interest in a particular sound. A club owner or booking agent can delete old contact info with the push of a button.

In the case of Santacruz's new album Por Ahí, hanging back was exactly the right thing to do.

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Songs We Love
10:43 am
Mon April 20, 2015

Chris Washburne And The SYOTOS Band, 'Stairway To Heaven'

Chris Washburne and his band superimposes Duke Ellington's "Heaven" over Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven."
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 11:37 am

This crazy, clever cover medley spans an entire musical universe, as it superimposes one of Duke Ellington's sacred works (1968's "Heaven") over Led Zeppelin's 1971 rock classic "Stairway To Heaven." Trombonist Chris Washburne and his mighty See You On The Other Side miniature big band have released an album of inspired Latin jazz instrumental covers; titled Low Ridin', it touches on '70s-era rock songs by the likes of Neil Young, The Doors, Lou Reed and Jimi Hendrix.

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A Blog Supreme
10:24 am
Sun February 22, 2015

Clark Terry, Ebullient Jazz Trumpeter, Has Died

Clark Terry wasn't just a trumpeter with flawless technique; he was also, according to one peer, a "natural-born educator" who devoted much of his later career to passing on his immense musical knowledge.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun February 22, 2015 5:22 pm

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Music News
12:03 am
Wed January 7, 2015

How Santería Seeped Into Latin Music

Percussionist and bandleader John Santos performs with Afro Cuban batá drums in California's Bay Area.
Tom Ehrlich John Santos

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 10:35 am

All this week, Morning Edition is talking about drums and drummers. The third installment in "Beat Week" explores the beats used in Afro-Cuban Santería ceremonies. Our guide is Felix Contreras, co-host of NPR's Alt.Latino podcast and an Afro-Cuban drummer himself.

Note: This piece is better heard than read. For examples of the music and a drumming demonstration, listen at the audio link.

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Music News
3:05 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Moreno's 'El Burrito Sabanero', Welcomed Update To A Holiday Song

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 5:28 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Holiday Music
11:04 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Festivo Alt.Latino: Cantigas In Concert

Cantigas performs live in NPR's Studio 1.
Colin Marshall NPR

For this edition of our holiday special we turn to the healing and uplifting power of the human voice with the Washington, D.C.-based group, Cantigas. The group's 25 members assembled in NPR's Studio 1 in front of a live audience to present an eclectic mix of songs and rhythms from Mexico, Spain, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Cuba and Puerto Rico–the home country of its artistic director, Diana Sáez.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
6:03 am
Sat November 15, 2014

Davíd Garza: Tiny Desk Concert

Maggie Starbard NPR

Davíd Garza was already a favorite son for folks in Austin when I discovered a collection of his past works, filled with stunning songwriting and a voice that seemed familiar yet new. Once I heard his music, I knew I'd always look forward to whatever he produced.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
6:03 am
Sat November 8, 2014

Making Movies: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

When Los Lobos' Steve Berlin sent me an audio file of a band he was producing, I stopped what I was doing and listened closely. There was something about the energy coming from Enrique Chi's vocals as the rest of Making Movies enveloped him in sound.

The band has been making fans across the country one gig at a time, one song at a time — whether singing in English or Spanish, whether playing guitars or stringed instruments that come directly from Making Movies' ancestral Panama, whether playing drums or dancing a Mexican zapateado.

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Alt.Latino
2:08 pm
Tue November 4, 2014

In Music, Carlos Santana Seeks The Divine

Carlos Santana uses music to reflect on his career in this week's episode of Alt.Latino.
Frank Micelotta Getty Images

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