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A Dictator And The Music He Loved To Hate: Spanish Songs Of Rebellion

Martirio owes an artistic debt to both a dictator and jazz.

She is a living, breathing and performing example of the artistic explosion that greeted the death of Francisco Franco, the despot who ruled Spain from 1939 through 1975. After decades of severely limited creative expression, Martirio and other musicians, filmmakers, writers, poets and artists of every stripe filled Spanish society with work that helped create a new national identity. As Alt.Latino co host Jasmine Garsd says in this week's show, they were like teenagers drunk with new-found creative freedom.

Besides introducing you to new tracks you'll love, we take a time-traveling trip to Spain by way of a great new compilation album that offers insight into what on the surface seems like cheesy pop. We also feature terrific, jazz-influenced tracks by Martirio and her predecessors, Pedro Ituralde and Paco de Lucia.

Just as we can check the rings of a tree to learn something about its history, you can hear the story of Franco's repressive regime in the music we play this week. We'll hear how, in spite of the tin ear of repression, influences from abroad spurred Spanish creativity.

Jasmine brings a lot to the table when we talk about dictators. She grew up in a society that reeled from Argentina's leaders, so her powerful insights into post-dictatorial life help provide musical and social context. Any time we talk about music made under Latin American dictators, she points to a deep-rooted glimmer of hope, determination and even cultural pride in the music that often went right past censors and into basements, bedrooms and clandestine meeting places of those yearning for freedom.

She writes: "Rhythms, melodies and instruments tell us about who we are and where we've been. Newspapers and radios can be censored, and politicians can be bought off, but the music you play in the privacy of your home — the tune you hum in the shower, the song you play back to yourself in your head, the African beat you absentmindedly drum your fingers to, the works passed down from your grandma or your dad — cannot be silenced so easily."

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Felix Contreras
Felix Contreras is co-creator and co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.