Long road trips and the joy of audio

I took a wee break from blogging last week during our fall break, during which I drove about 2000 miles and logged about 30 hours in the car.  My 92 year young mother lives in Maine and whenever I can I try to get out there to see her.  Sometimes this means flying  (although once the summer is done, the available and inexpensive flights to PWM seem to dry up) and most of the time this means driving.  It is, as indicated on the odometer above, 800+ miles OW and about 12.5 hours to Grandma’s house we go  (why yes that would be the sound of screaming hamstrings).

I have, like many others, relied upon audio to keep mind engaged while the highway rolls on and on.  I had XM radio for a while but it was expensive and dull: it was sort of like cable tv..100s of channels and yet nothing is on.

So when I know in advance that I am doing a long road trip, I download a bunch of podcasts with the hopes that something in there will be entertaining enough to keep me from driving into the median anywhere on Rte 90 in upstate New York.  This was how I became a huge fan of Radio Ambulante… I listened to all of their available shows on one trip and even had one of those “driveway moments” when, after driving all day, I stayed in the car to hear the very end of a story.

This most recent treat I discovered the wonders of Alt Latino. (@AltLatino) “Latin Alternative Music and Rock en Español” an NPR show and podcast. I am now a huge fan. The music they share is amazing and the stories they tell about the music, or the artists, or the history of the time when the music was produced is fascinating. There is a great chemistry between the hosts Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd, especially when they disagree about a specific song or a genre of music.  (cumbia, heavy metaland anything heavily synthesized performed in glittery spandex from the ’80s are a few of the hot button topics)

There are lots of ways to access the shows, the lists of songs for each episode, Youtube videos of the artists performing the songs, “first listens” of some artists albums (where you can listen to the whole album before it comes out) and even a 24/7 stream of some of the songs (in random order) that they have featured in their shows.  For me the best way to access the shows is to go here, click on a the link for the show title, click on “play the show to listen” and then click on “hear the songs” to access the videos and extra materials that are featured in the show.  (the listen button opens up a flash player  in the background which is, well, cumbersome.)

You can also download the 35 minute show file as an mp3 and avoid all of this craziness. I plan to download a few and put them on my underwater iPod for when I swim: I am looking forward to listening to afrocolombian rap and narcocorridos while doing flipturns 🙂

Some of the themes they cover in their shows would blend perfectly with some of the topics I want to cover in class (immigration, indigenous peoples and languages, race, LGTBQ issues…). To be able to do this AND listen to a wide variety of music could be amazing.  My only regret? there is no one big list or database of the songs, genres, artists, themes  and the countries they are from…which would be awesome for planning my class. Maybe there is one…somewhere. I intend to ask…  The search function for the webpage seems to allow you to search All Songs Considered but not AltLatino specifically… insert a long hmmm.

But in the meantime I am just loving what I hear. And if it has Ana Tijoux or La Mala Rodriquez or Choquibtown and yes even Gael García Bernal… aún mejor.

Here is one of my favorite shows.  Enjoy! And do let me know if you use AltLatino in your classes and if so how…I would love to hear about it!


Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!

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