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Carin León: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

Having played the music myself, I have always lovingly referred to Mexican Regional music as "cowboy hats and accordions." But this is not your grandparents' Mexican Regional. Younger musicians today are rejecting the restrictions of that industry-imposed title and adding contemporary sounds like hip-hop and trap while still maintaining the emotional spirit and rough edges of the genre.

Then there's Carin León — a game changer if there was one. His Tiny Desk (home) concert is a deep dive into this moment in time as the genre actually changes. He starts with a traditional bolero "El Amor De Tu Vida" but the second song, "Alguien Mejor," is an example of how he and his amazing group are changing things. It starts with a traditional bajo sexto guitar as he raps and sings the lyrics, but when the mournful strains of a pedal steel guitar popular with trad country music enters the arrangement, the cross cultural reality of life along the border where this music comes from springs to life with the passion of both genres and cultures.

It's an exciting moment from a four song performance that beautifully represents how a culture changes and develops as outside influences become part of its aesthetic. The music's rustic roots are on display in the barroom set, complete with strategically placed bleached-out cattle skulls. You still see accordions and cowboy hats in this video but you hear so much more — you can actually hear a society in transition.


  • "El Amor De Tu Vida" 
  • "Alguien Mejor"
  • "No Es Por Acá"
  • "La Primera Cita"

  • Carin León: vocals
  • Orlando Aispuro: guitars, bajo sexto, keys
  • Abraham Noe Reyes: guitars
  • Luis Carlos Perez: drums, percussion
  • Martin Caro: percussion, octapad
  • Antonio Z. Rivera: bass, tuba
  • Leonardo Barahona: tololoche
  • Luis Araujo: accordion
  • Cheché Ávila: trumpet
  • Abel Anguiano: trombone
  • Alan Ortega: pedal steel, dobro, lapsteel

  • Video: Orlando Aispuro, Kran Rosas, Kevin Rosas, Yerick Johnsson
  • Audio: Alberto Medina, Baruc Llamas, Salatiel Granillo
  • Diego Valenzuela: photographer
  • Emilio Moreira: gaffer
  • Angel Moreno: gaffer
  • Diego Hernandez: gaffer
  • Jesus Eden Camacho: engineer
  • Jesus Valdez: stage manager
  • Israel Aispuro: stage tech, guitar tech, recording assistant
  • Manuel Valverde: guitar tech
  • Ramon Herrera: rhythm tech
  • Uzziel Hernandez: video tech
  • Ivan Villa: lightning tech

  • Producer: Anamaria Sayre, Felix Contreras 
  • Video Editor: Kara Frame
  • Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
  • Tiny Production Team: Bob Boilen, Bobby Carter, Joshua Bryant, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Maia Stern, Ashley Pointer
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.
    Anamaria Artemisa Sayre
    Anamaria Sayre is a multimedia producer for NPR Music with a focus on elevating Latinx stories and music. She's the producer for Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture, and the curator of Latin artists at the Tiny Desk.