Felix Contreras

For two glorious weeks this month, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. exploded with the vibrant sound, color and culture of the historic festival Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World.

The presence of accordion-powered European dance music along the Texas/Mexico border is a phenomenon only about a hundred years old, forged as twists of historical fate made Tejanos and Polish farmers neighbors in the region's rural communities. One thing led to another, and soon Mexican-Americans were singing Spanish lyrics over the oompah of polkas and Bavarian waltzes. But despite its short history, Tex-Mex conjunto has made a profound cultural impact and become an identifying characteristic of an entire subculture of the Latino community here in the U.S.

When someone once asked Nando Chang if he was into Tupac, the Peruvian American hip-hop fan thought the reference was to Tupac Amaru, a legendary Incan warrior.

Mexico's musical output cuts such a wide swath across contemporary music on both sides of the border, it's often difficult to keep up. While pop music dominates, everything from mariachi to corridos to cumbia to mashups of any of the above make the country one of the most musically influential in Latin America.

Cumbia has become the lingua franca of Latin American music. A 2/4 beat that started in colonial Colombia, it has spread throughout Latin America, varying funkily throughout the continent.

So it makes sense that the artist who calls himself El Hijo de la Cumbia ("The Son of the Cumbia") lives in... Malmö, Sweden?

The U.S./Mexico border is the source of intense political discourse and heartbreaking stories of people caught in between a multi-sided immigration debate. For quite a while now, very strident music has been coming out that reflects all of the above.

Fifty years ago, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom State Prison in Folsom, Calif. The January 1968 concert and live album it produced, At Folsom Prison, helped revitalize Cash's career, inspiring him to testify for prison reform and cementing his reputation as a voice for the downtrodden.

It's not often that Rosicrucianism and a salsa-playing robot come up in the same conversation — chatting with Peruvian-born, New York-based musician, composer, robotics and software developer Efraín Rozas is a heady whirlwind.

This week's show is another one of those that makes me want to climb the nearest (kinda-) tall building and shout about the variety of genres and styles continuously being released under the rubric of "Latin music." Increasingly, that identifier is getting stretched thinner and thinner, becoming inadequate to the point of being nearly useless.

Vocalist Eleanor Dubinsky is slowly, but steadily, building a body of work that consists of elegant and thoughtful songwriting that slides easily between genres and geography through top-notch musicianship, all in service to a voice that stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it. Her new album, Soft Spot Of My Heart, is her strongest work yet.

Amara La Negra is a force of nature.

I don't think you could find two acts with sounds as different as the dreamy rock grooves of The Marias and the explosive Afro-Latina expression of Amara La Negra. But there they were, sharing the stage for two hours right in the middle of the week at SXSW 2018.

There's plenty to hear on stages across Austin during SXSW, and what you can hear on this page is just a taste — a recording of a pair of live shows from Alt.Latino's showcase at the Radio Day Stage on Wednesday.

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