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When Electronica Meets Folk ... A Dance Craze

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As Hispanic Heritage Month ends Saturday, Tell Me More is wrapping up its series celebrating the music of Latin America.

NPR's Alt. Latino podcast hosts, Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras, share an interesting and unexpected pairing: electronica and folk.

Contreras says the mix is coming out of the DJ culture, and it's part of a trend happening across Latin America.

"A lot of these guys are going old-fashioned crate diving, going to record stores, looking for obscure stuff. They're finding elements within that music and mixing it up with electronica — that's just making fascinating music," he says.

Garsd says ruidoson, literally "noise music," is a new genre coming out of northern Mexico. It's a fusion of regional Mexican music, folk, pre-Colombian beats and electronica. She gives the example of "Ritmo De Amor" by Los Macuanos.

"You hear a lot in the news about what's happening in the border area with Mexico — the violence. Music is also being deeply affected by that. And in this case, it's a really dark, almost apocalyptic sound."

But on a lighter note, Garsd says that with the ruidoson movement, youth in northern Mexico are wearing boots with points extending 2 to 3 feet.

She also mentions a DJ who fits well into this category: Geko Jones, an American with Colombian and Puerto Rican roots. He mixes obscure music from Colombia and describes himself as a chef — one who makes sure not to "overcook a tune." She gives the example of his song "Las Cuatro Palomas," a remix featuring DJ Reaganomics. Contreras adds that Geko Jones is using his own music to discover things about himself.

When it comes to mixing folk with electronica, Garsd recommends that listeners check out two labels: ZZK and Waxploitation.

Addressing A Listener's Criticism Of The Series

Listeners also submitted comments about our series on Latin American music. One listener said she was "shocked and outraged" that NPR would feature the music of Brazil on a show called Alt. Latino. Her argument is that Brazilians are Hispanic but not Latino because Portuguese is their primary language.

In response, Contreras says, "The only thing certain about whether someone is Latino or Hispanic is that it's uncertain. It just depends on a self-identification. And whether or not you want to consider Brazil part of Latin America, it is part of the continent of America. They do speak Portuguese, which makes them different from the rest of the continent that speaks Spanish. But some do, some don't. She [the listener] could be right; we could be right. It just depends on who you talk to."

Garsd also makes the point that the Latin Grammys include many categories for Brazil.

"I know many Brazilians who would be offended by that assertion. Look, at the end of the day, these terms are so ambiguous. And in the worst of cases, they're used to discriminate. And in the best of cases, they're used to encourage an understanding and sharing of culture, and that's really what we're trying to do," she says.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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