Felix Contreras

Earlier this year, I sang the praises of the debut full-length album by the group ÌFÉ, a dramatic meditation on traditional Afro-Cuban rumba and santeria music.

After seeing the band live in Philadelphia, I was even more convinced that its spirit of innovation is just as intense as its dedication to tradition.

I sometimes wake up with my jaw clenched.

The times are tense and we all feel it. I've been waiting for just the right musical statement to reflect my mood, my hopes and my mal humor. I think I've finally heard it in Living Colour's upcoming album Shade.

Cali Rivera, the Puerto Rico-born founder of the highly regarded JCR Percussion in the Bronx, died this past Sunday from complications of a brain tumor at 79 years old, according to his wife and business partner Lily Rivera.

"Summer's here and the time is right for dancing in the street"

Well, maybe not the street but certainly in Central Park in N.Y.C., Addams/Medill Park in Chicago, Fringe Arts in Philadelphia and Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn.

Carlos Santana turns 70 years old Thursday. It's difficult to wrap my head around that: To me, as to so many other fans, he'll forever be the just-turned-22-year-old grimacing and grooving at Woodstock in August 1969.

Note: This piece is better heard than read. To hear this review and the specific musical moments it references, listen at the audio link.

The other day, while listening to NPR's Code Switch podcast, I heard an insightful story about the new sanctuary movement. It's an informal network of churches across the U.S., all offering refuge to folks who face imminent deportation because of their immigration status.

There are a few lines from the oft-covered song "México Americano" that sum up the experience of millions of folks in the U.S. and have always seemed to me to be the ultimate expression of patriotism:

Por mi madre soy Mexicano. (From my mother I am Mexican.)

Por destino soy Americano. (By destiny I am American.)

The artist Helado Negro (Roberto Lange) made a very big impression on me when I first experienced him almost eight years ago. It was a sound I had never quite heard, and I was immediately drawn in; there were layers of synths, percussion that percolated rather than pulsed, vocals that epitomized the world ethereal and lyrics in Spanish and English that floated amidst the music like wisps of smoke.

Danay Suarez is one of Cuba's most underappreciated exports. In March, the vocalist and rapper released a new album, Palabras Manuales, that went criminally under-noticed. It's a strong sophomore effort that showcases Suarez's sophisticated style of rapping and beautiful singing voice, which intertwines itself with her evocative lyrics like a beguiling ocean spray.

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