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New Cuban Hip-Hop Meets Old Cuban Soul

La Dame Blanche is a Cuban rapper and jazz vocalist.
Courtesy of the artist
La Dame Blanche is a Cuban rapper and jazz vocalist.

For me, nothing beats falling down a musical rabbit hole, where encountering a single artist or record sets you off on a long path of discovery.

My recent journey into Latin soul started a few months ago. Two things set it off. First, we did a fantastic show about La Lupe, Queen of Latin Soul. I'd heard her, but speaking to biographer Juan A. Moreno-Velázquez, I got a real taste for who she was. If you haven't already, give that episode a listen.

Around the same time, we spoke to Argentine musician Juana Molina. She brought, among other things, a collection of music her parents played in the house when she was growing up. Within that collection was a woman named Graciela and an erotic song called "Ay Jose." Its sensuality — especially for that time period, the 1940s — piqued my interest.

And so I fell down the rabbit hole and started listening to Graciela. My Alt.Latino co-host, Felix Contreras, is one of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to music, so whenever I "discover" artists, it's pretty likely that Felix used to have drinks with them. He'll kill me for insinuating that he's an abuelo, but I love the way he sheds light on my musical questions, and we share that conversation here.

I try to give back to Felix by getting him into my favorite current artists — especially newer Latina singers doing R&B, soul and jazz. On recent episodes of Alt.Latino, I've brought Colombian Kali Uchis and Puerto Rico's Calma Carmona, and this week I bring in La Dame Blanche. The Cuban jazz singer and rapper is brilliant, and her new album, Piratas, is musical heaven.

As always, you're invited into our conversation about the past, the present and the future of Latin music, so please leave your thoughts in the comments.

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

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.
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