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New Music Highlights Show Nuances Of Identity

Members of the band Novalima
Vito Mirr
Courtesy of the Artist
Members of the band Novalima

Last week's Midsummer 2018 New Music Roundup didn't even put a dent in the mail bag full of new music that has arrived here at Alt.Latino World Headquarters. So here we are with Part Two.

Again, the theme this week is music that presents an opportunity for us to think about the term "Latin music" and how it applies to the musicians who perform the myriad forms of genre-busting expression that we cover here on Alt.Latino. And to make things a little more interesting, we're premiering three unreleased tracks on this week's episode to give you a first listen.

Raquel Sofiaused to sing back up for Juanes and Shakira. Now, she has stepped into the spotlight with a series of releases that showcase her powerfully emotive voice. "La Persona Que No Eres" is a premiere from a video series with her longtime band that showcases both her considerable writing and performing talents.

Novalima is celebrating 15 years of mixing Afro-Peruvian and electronic music with a single and album of the same name, Ch'usay. The band's video for the song is also an Alt.Latino premiere.

We also heard from artists that often feel pulled between two identities, like Liz Brasher, a Dominican-American R&B vocalist from a small town in North Carolina. Brasher is one of NPR's 2018 Slingshot artists and she shared her thoughts on how growing up Dominican in the South manifests in her music:

I grew up around my huge Dominican family and am still very close with them, so maintaining those roots & being Dominican in the South always went hand in hand. It's hard to say whether it's been confusing because it's all I've ever known, but part of the idea of the Outcast EP was that my entire life was lived between multiple worlds. I was never American enough for my American friends, yet never really embraced by my Hispanic friends either. I've always felt like a bit of an outsider, but I think that perspective has given me a unique opportunity to see things that other may have missed and to write songs from those strange places.

TheMarías is a band from Southern California that calls its music psychedelic soul with Spanish language vocals. The band's lead singer, known simply as Maria, also weighed in on the conversation this week, answering my question about why singing in Spanish is important to her and the band:

It was my first language and it makes up who I am as a person. Growing up, I'd speak Spanish to my parents, but English at school or with friends. Both languages make up who I am.

Check out our third premiere of the band's new song from their upcoming album

We'll also get to the hear flamenco-blues fusion from Spanish guitarist El Twanguero and Puerto Rican bandleader Bobby Sanabria's Afro-Carribbean interpretation of Leonard Bernstein's "Maria" from West Side Story.

These deeper conversations remind us that our own approach to our cultural identity is a distinctly personal decision but very often has something in common others who are very different.

And discussions like these also provide an opportunity for those outside of our communities to hopefully appreciate the nuances and subtleties of our daily existence. Not to mention the width and breadth of how we express ourselves musically.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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