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A preview of 'El Tiny' Concerts: Camila Cabello, Yendry and Nicki Nicole


Let's continue our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with the latest from the Alt.Latino Tiny Desk Takeover. That's the name of a special music series NPR Music is doing, with performances from some of the biggest acts in Latin music. You can watch them on the NPR Music website. Felix Contreras is the host of our Latin music podcast Alt.Latino. He's part of the team that put all of this together. Felix, welcome back.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: What's happening, A?

MARTÍNEZ: Remind us what it's all about.

CONTRERAS: OK, there are a total of 10 artists from eight different countries and cultures. And we went for as wide a range of musical styles as possible. Some are global superstars, as you mentioned; others are more personal favorites that could be considered discoveries. And that is the goal - to showcase the incredible diversity within what is collectively referred to as Latino culture.

MARTÍNEZ: Two weeks left in the series. What are you looking forward to?

CONTRERAS: First up, a singer named Yendry. She was born in the Dominican Republic. Then her mother moved to Italy to find work. Yendry joined her and spent her formative years soaking up European popular culture, along with lots of Latin music from the D.R. and beyond. Her sultry vocal style floats over a fascinating mix of reggaeton, pop from the U.S. and Europe and her own creative mind. Well, we can't play her music from the performance just yet, so this is a studio version of one of the songs she's going to play. It's called "Nena."


YENDRY: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTÍNEZ: Now, Felix, this is definitely a silkier, smoother version of reggaeton. But make a note - things were still moving on my body.

CONTRERAS: Wait till you see how she pulls it off on the video, man. It's way cool.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, where to next?

CONTRERAS: OK, next we go to Argentina. Nicki Nicole is a hip-hop artist who has gained notoriety for challenging the patriarchy, not just of the Argentine music business but of society as a whole. Hip-hop from Latin America is interesting to me for a lot of reasons, one of which is the musicality of Spanish mixed with hip-hop beats. It has a different flow than English in terms of things like syntax, and you hear that in Nicki Nicole's music. And it also includes bits of reggaeton but so much more. Here is a studio version of one of the songs she performs. It's called "Parte De Mi."


NICKI NICOLE: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTÍNEZ: You know, one of the best parts of this whole thing, Felix, is to hear how music that's a uniquely American invention like hip-hop and how it just filters to the rest of the world and how artists take it and mold it into something brand new.

CONTRERAS: It's lingua franca all over the world, man. It's just - it's the new language.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, it's really cool. All right, one more artist you wanted to tell us about.

CONTRERAS: This artist is about as big as they come. Maybe you've heard this song.


CAMILA CABELLO: (Singing) Havana, ooh, na-na (ph). Half of my heart is in Havana, ooh, na-na.

CONTRERAS: That's Camila Cabello, and she's having a moment, as they say. She's starring in the new Disney remake of "Cinderella," and she also seems to be parlaying the success she had with that massive hit, "Havana," into new material with a pop sheen over a musical self-discovery - at least that's what I'm hearing - as she works on her new record. Her performance will be a fab end to an unprecedented run of Latin music from your pals at NPR Music.

MARTÍNEZ: El Tiny is what they're calling Latin music Tiny Desk Concerts. They run for another two weeks for Hispanic Heritage Month. Alt.Latino podcast host Felix Contreras has been our guide through the series. Felix, thank you very much.

CONTRERAS: Thanks for having me, man.


YENDRY: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Felix Contreras
Felix Contreras is co-creator and co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.