This Is not A Love Song: Seven Musicians Who Break Cliches: Alt.Latino: NPR

Posted February 19, 2018

Singer of Mexican band Cafe Tacuba, Ruben Albarran. Pierre-Philippe Marcou Hide caption

Pierre-Philippe Marcou

Pierre-Philippe Marcou

Singer of Mexican band Cafe Tacuba, Ruben Albarran

/ AFP / Getty Images

Yesterday afternoon I hopped in a taxi that was blasting Eritrean music. I asked the driver what the song was about, and he said the singer was telling the story of a beautiful woman. She betrayed him, leaving him for another man, and soon came to regret that decision. But, as the singer informs her throughout the chorus, it's too late. The driver and I chuckled about how in every language and every genre songs say the same things.

Faithful listeners of Alt.Latino know Felix and I have a soft spot for romantic ballads : Felix loves his boleros and rancheras, and I have to take my Chavela Vargas in responsible doses because I tear up and become a mushy mess. But our radio friends also know I have a particular admiration for musicians who are able to move past the typical themes of love, lust and betrayal.

This week we have a lineup of fantastic new music by many of our favorite artists, from Mexican rock gods Cafe Tacvba to Colombian electronica stars Bomba Estereo and rising Guatemalan musician Gaby Moreno (you can listen to her upcoming album in her entirety here). In addition to being amazing musicians, they are all artists whose work explores the complexities of life beyond matters of the heart. In a track off their upcoming album, Cafe Tacvba sings about aging and finally loving oneself, Moreno tells an immigrant's tale and Bomba Estereo's upcoming album is the soundtrack to a spiritual journey.

Yesterday afternoon I got into a taxi and the driver was listening to music from Eritrea. I asked him what the song was about, and he told me it was about a beautiful woman whom the singer loved very much. However she betrayed him, leaving him for another man. Before long, the woman regretted that decision, but as the singer tells us in the choir, it is too late. The taxi driver and I laugh about how all languages, all cultures and all musical genres have the same themes: love, sex and betrayal.

At this point, our faithful listeners will know that Felix Contreras and I have a weakness for romantic ballads: Felix loves his boleros and rancheras, and I have to listen to the music of Chavela Vargas in controlled doses, because I become unbearably melancholic. But our listeners also know that I have a particular admiration for artists who are able to go beyond the classic themes of the heart and its misadventures.