Guide To Grupo’s New Album, ‘Problemas

David Greene speaks with Alt.Latino host Felix Contreras about Grupo Fantasma. Its new album, “Problemas,” can be heard in full on our website this week, as part of NPR Music’s “First Listen” feature.


If you’re a fan of ’60s-’70s classic rock, you might recognize this song.


GRUPO FANTASMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GREENE: No, I’m serious. I know it sounds a little different. But listen closely. You might recognize it.


GRUPO FANTASMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GREENE: Got it? Yes? No? OK. Well, this is actually bicultural arrangement of the classic Beatles track “Because.” It comes from the Austin-based band, Grupo Fantasma from their new album called “Problemas.” And this album is currently playing on First Listen at NPR Music. This is the feature where you can hear the entire album just before it’s released. It’s going to be at our website through Thursday. And if you do stream it and you want some guidance for what you’re hearing, we have just the man for that job. Felix Contreras is host of the Alt. Latino podcast. And he’s with me in the studio. Hey, Felix.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Hey. What’s happening?

GREENE: OK. So. Beatles song – beyond taking a Beatles song and putting it in Spanish, what else is happening here?

CONTRERAS: They played it as a bolero. OK. And a bolero is originally from Cuba. But it’s, like, universal all over Latin America. Now imagine, like, a slow blues – right? – the passion, the energy, the intensity of a slow blues. That’s a bolero.



GRUPO FANTASMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GREENE: Well – and you’ve been following this band for a while. This is their fifth album. Are you hearing something different and new here?

CONTRERAS: I’m feeling them becoming a lot more comfortable with who they are. They’re genre busting or genre bending, right? They’re doing Latin and funk and mixing it altogether. It was sort of new. It was experimental. But now, as they’ve been going along, they’re really settled into this whole thing. And it’s very second nature for them. It’s very organic.


GRUPO FANTASMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GREENE: Well, for people who it’s not second nature to, who are just hearing them for the first time, what is the mix of styles that they’re really bringing here?

CONTRERAS: There’s straight ahead salsa. There’s cumbia, Tex-Mex, accordion music, you know? Basically, dance floor hits, dance floor boogies of different styles and genres.

GREENE: Dance floor boogies. I like that. Is there another track on here we should listen to?

CONTRERAS: Yeah. OK. Now we’re going to hear a thing called “Solo Un Sueno.” And it’s a lot more subdued. But there’s a lot of stuff going on. Check it out.


GRUPO FANTASMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GREENE: Is this like some kind of Latin rap or something?

CONTRERAS: It’s definitely Latin rap. OK. What they’ve done is they’ve played this track in a triplet feel – one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three – which is very common in a lot of Latin folk music. It’s the basis for – like, for example, Cuban sanitaria music. But what they’ve done is they’ve layered the electric guitar, the keyboards. And then they’ve throw in this guy in doing some rap on top in a very syncopated style.


GRUPO FANTASMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GREENE: So this album, I mean, why would you tell people it’s worth giving a listen?

CONTRERAS: This band is part of a generation of Latin musicians that are ignoring boundaries. And they are part of a vanguard. They are part of a group of musicians – young musicians, pretty much all under 30, that are ignoring genres, ignoring boundaries and reflecting their lives and what’s going on all across the country, all across Latin America really.

GREENE: All right. The album is called, “Problemas.” It’s from the group Grupo Fantasma, and it’s one of the featured albums at NPR Music’s First Listen stream. You can stream it before it’s released. Felix, thanks a lot.

CONTRERAS: Hey, my pleasure.

GREENE: Felix Contreras. He’s host of NPR Music’s Alt. Latino, a weekly podcast about Latin alternative music.


Tour Dates
#grupofantasma This year's Dia de los Muertos concert features Austin-based, 9-piece band Grupo Fantasma! Don't miss Grupo Fantasma, Bombasta, Tiarra Girls, James Keith and the Moondogs and DJ King Louie of Peligrosa bring down the house at Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater on November 4. We'll be celebrating a full day of festivities including Texas Wrangler's annual City Wide Hold Up, Disability Awareness Day with a proclamation from Mayor Adler at our fifth annual Dia de los Muertos Concert. All proceeds benefit Easterseals Central Texas's mission to to change the way the world defines and views disability by making profound, positive differences in people’s lives every day.​  HOUSTON! Catch us in action this Friday at the Karbach Brewery! We'll be joined by Houston legends Los Skarnales. All proceeds benefit K9 angels pet rescue/Harvey relief
 We're heading up I 35 this Friday Oct 6th for a show in Waco at Musicfest 2017! The whole event is FREE and we take the stage at 830 PM. Come party with us! #waco #musicfest #freeshow #streetfest #blockparty #grupofantasma #latingroove #cumbiafunk  We're hitting the road again this weekend! Help us spread the word! July 14th at Tricky Falls in El Paso July 15th at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe
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