[1] Amidst the tumbling barrage of high-crest and low-dipping pitches, unconventional chords plucked in unperfected syntax and an uneven bar arrangement poured over an unrecognizable language, a large niche core is swelling around the Latin Alternative music scene. The niche, marked with a burgeoning young fan base,owes its very soul to the cohesive catalyst of Internet socialism.
Crafted meticulously from the esquina de la calles (corner of the streets) of Monterrey, the patios traseros(back patios) of Tijuana and the estudios of El Salvador, Latin Alternative or simply \”Alternativa,\” is a musical genre slowly blossoming from its Latin roots into American headphones by culminating in epicenters like El Paso, Seattle, New Mexico, New York and L.A.
Alternativa is, at its core, a creatively unique aural blend of hip-hop, progressive rock, electronica, salsa and Spanish syllables, all with certain shades of traditional Latin influence thrown into the mix. In other words, the genre is a veritable potpourri of differing styles without a musically centralized base. While it has been spreading northward, the new genre of music has yet to spread through MSU. But as the alternative styles continue to expand, you may soon hear some new sounds echoing from speakers and headphones across campus.
[quote1]Born from the snare drums of suburban youth and the beat machines of the inner-city, it’s hard for many to put a specific label on the all-encompassing genre of alternativa. In fact, “Latin Alternative” is merely a phrase coined by media aficionados and slapped on the brand during the mainstream Latin pop boom of the 1990s; Ricky Martin’s unmarketable kid sister.
Creeping delicately under mainstream channels for the past 10 to 15 years, “unmarketable” is a word that generally corresponds with the often avant-garde scene.
However, thanks to the steep incline of Latino-American citizenship and the end of the pop era a few years back, the alternative music scene finally began to culminate with its own unique and ever-expanding fan base. Glue these aspects to the limitless stimulation of the Internet music community, and you have a genre that is now beginning to skyrocket in U.S. popularity at a blistering pace. Listen for it.
Catalizador/Catalyst
More significantly, the genre owes its newfound livelihood to the electronic networking of the Internet.
The voice thrives with blogging, message forums and informative Web sites. The music soars with live podcasts and profile venues such as MySpace. The business succeeds through open Web site samples and electronic promotions. Latin Alternative is a brand that owes its roots to the Internet just as much as it does to its various native wombs.
In a music industry that is increasingly succumbing to cold record sales, Latin Alternative is a brand that is beginning to heat up significantly. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, in 2005 the genre cashed in a reported $650 million in sales.
Experts of the industry only expect business to get better, stating that the number could explode to over $1 billion within the next five years.
You would be hard pressed to find someone with more industry knowledge than Josh Norek, the VP of Nacional Records. Nacional is one of the leading Indie-Latin labels in the nation, producing and fusing some of the hottest music in the entire alternative wavelength from its Hollywood haven. They produce acts such as the up-and-coming Nortec Collective and award winning Colombian singer Andrea Echeverri.[2.5]
“Business is really good right now,” Norek said. “We’re starting to branch out to places we’ve never been before; we’re starting to get play on stations and mediums we didn’t think were possible. It feels really good.”
Norek recognized that a part of this success is largely thanks to the waves of continuity the Web has been making, a Web that has synced the genre to an audience that would never have known even where to look for music of this caliber.
“I absolutely think a medium, like MySpace for instance, is doing a great deal to get our voice out there,” said Norek. “You know, by and large, the term ‘Latin Alternative’ is just a way to get above being labeled ‘español-rock’ or ‘spanish rap.’ That’s not who we are. And when our music is as undefineable as it is, yes… it’s incredible to have something like MySpace. How else is the public going to find our voice? The radio? We need these sorts of mediums to spread, to survive.”
Sombra Del Dilema/Shadow of the Dilemma
The irony of the alternativa scene is incredibly complex and sickeningly immaculate. If you need an example, try describing Latin Alternative to someone: a mixture of rap, electronica and various types of rock… sometimes… It’s nearly impossible to explain.
The great irony is that this is what fans revel in. In fact, you can almost attribute part of the success of Latin Alternative up to this point to its level of indefinable depth. The growing cult following actually adores the genre for not really being a genre at all.
Unfortunately, major record executives and mainstream radio stations don’t find this amusing, and neither does much of the American public.
Spanish junior, in major and heritage, junior Aubrey Devine was partly raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, one of the proverbial centers of Latin Alternative. She recalls hearing the sounds of her upbringing and provides insight into why the genre falls short of the popular consciousness, including the ears of a majority of MSU students.
“I don\’t think alternative music is mainstream on campus because there is such a small minority of Chicano/Latino students on campus to begin with,” Devine said. “And alternative Latin music just isn\’t very popular.” [quote2]
The fact is that Latin Alternative as a whole enjoys its underground position. If the business wanted to become more marketable, people like Norek wouldn’t waste time signing legitimate acts to cater to its Indie fan base. But the un-genre resides happily raw, uncategorized and loyal to its educated listeners.
“Mediums like print media and public radio seem to be more educated,” said Norek. “They have been very supportive of us. We don’t get too much radio business. In the States we have to deal with a language barrier, and in Latin communities the music is often too complex. It’s a tough thing to manage.”
Devine expressed her perspective on the industry: “That music just isn\’t my style,” she said. “I think Reggaeton is becoming so popular because it embraces a side of American culture since it has a hip-hop vibe, but it also celebrates Latin culture which is beginning to sweep the nation, since the Latino population in the U.S. is skyrocketing.”
Devine is right. It seems that whenever the industry begins to gain any sort of ground, the shadow of another Latin boom robs its deserved thunder. In this case, it’s the hip-hop infused “Reggaeton,” a genre that fuses the mainstream rap bravado with catchy Latin-based soul.
It’s the next fusion trend, and with artists like Daddy Yankee, Pitbull and Don Omar, the alternativa industry might have to come to grips with its place in the shadow of the more popular medium—not that it isn’t happy there.
Calidad/Quality
[mars]The future of Latin Alternative is shrouded in more mystery than the nature of its very essence. It’s a genre that is moving at a rapid pace, but without any lofty goals. Indie artists like Echeverri, Candela Soul and Maldita Vencidad y los Hijos del Quinto Patio have set out to create music with resounding quality while crossover artists like The Mars Volta and Shakira try to bridge the gap and create a more popular persona among the masses.
No matter how many units the industry manages to move or how many fans it picks up along the way, the music is decidedly profound, vivid and imaginative.
“I think people will start to appreciate all forms of Latin music more in the future since Latinos are becoming the U.S.\’s largest minority,” said Devine. “Hopefully people will accept it with open arms.”

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