Latin Music Takes Center Stage At Coachella

Apr 21, 2019
Originally published on April 21, 2019 10:33 am
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Today the massive Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival wraps up in the desert near Indio, Calif. It's been six days of music spread out over two weekends - band after band on a big main stage and many smaller ones; and more so this year than previously, Latin music on those stages. Felix Contreras of NPR's Alt.Latino is with us this morning to tell us about the change in that dry, desert air.

Good morning, Felix.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So let's start with this music festival, which is huge but not necessarily familiar to the average American.

CONTRERAS: Right. But Coachella is one of the biggest of the outdoor festivals. It attracts over 250,000 people. And there's so many people that the job of the music bookers is to appeal to as many people as possible. So there's always a mix of pop, rock, indie, hip-hop and R&B and, this year, more Latin acts, including many names that we've talked about here on the show before.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MI GENTE")

J BALVIN: (Singing in Spanish).

CONTRERAS: Colombian urban star J Balvin was on the main stage this year. His Puerto Rican compadre Bad Bunny was also on the main stage. And an interesting new artist named Rosalia - she sort of mixes Spanish flamenco with an urban sound. Those are the three biggest names.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MALAMENTE - CAP.1: AUGURIO")

ROSALIA: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And who surprised you the most?

CONTRERAS: I think the fact that they have Rosalia on the main stage because the urban sound is so popular even to the point where this - just this week, Madonna released a song with Colombian star Maluma in sort of a reggaeton light that they pulled off. So reggaeton is the dominant sound right now in the urban thing. But Rosalia has this really fascinating mix of flamenco and just a touch of urban stuff. This is Rosalia with her track "Malamente."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MALAMENTE - CAP.1: AUGURIO")

ROSALIA: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I love it.

CONTRERAS: Right?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what brought Latin artists to the fore this year? - just a change in tastes there at Coachella.

CONTRERAS: You know, I'd like to think that it's the Alt.Latino reporting calling people (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Of course. Take credit for it.

CONTRERAS: But, you know, it's hard to resist. And when you're booking a show like this, it's really hard to resist this huge, massive social change in the acceptance and the popularity of Spanish-language music. It's actually become the mainstream.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. So who else played at Coachella that we may want to hear from right now?

CONTRERAS: OK. So they were really big on Chileans this year for some reason.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Chileans, OK.

CONTRERAS: Yes. Yeah. They had Javiera Mena, Tomasa de Real and Mon Laferte, who we've played on the show. Now let's play Mon Laferte here this morning because I really like her music. But also, if people listening out there really like it, they can go to a really cool Tiny Desk Concert she did with Juanes here at NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PA DONDE SE FUE")

MON LAFERTE: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I saw that Tiny Desk Concert with Juanes. She was fantastic.

CONTRERAS: Right?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, she was great. So J Balvin, Bad Bunny, Rosalia, they all have these distinct kind of contemporary sounds. Who else is out there who maybe played different sounding stuff?

CONTRERAS: OK. Check this out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUENA LA BANDA")

LOS TUCANES DE TIJUANA: (Singing in Spanish).

CONTRERAS: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Takes me right back to the Mexico.

CONTRERAS: This is Los Tucanes De Tijuana, a straight-ahead conjunto norteno band. And I just love the idea of 250,000 people boogieing to accordions and cowboy hats.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUENA LA BANDA")

LOS TUCANES DE TIJUANA: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Me encanta. That's Felix Contreras of NPR Music's Alt.Latino. He hosts a weekly podcast about Latino arts and culture. And he is a big fan of accordions and cowboy hats.

Thanks, Felix.

CONTRERAS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUENA LA BANDA")

LOS TUCANES DE TIJUANA: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.