Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Mexican Cruz

Cuba's proximity to Mexico has long been overshadowed by its closeness to the US, but this rousing compilation from Fania Records by the late Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz, builds an ecstatic case for how Cuba's and Mexico's musical traditions intertwine. Celia Cruz: Viva Mexico: La Reina le Canta a Mexico offers 13 pop melodies by Mexican tunesmiths given a salsa face-lift. These gems from the '60s and '70s reveal a pan-Latin fusion, as if some Mexican trumpeters, weary of executing bullfighting fanfares, wandered happily into a recording studio to meet the ultimate Caribbean diva.

Talent show

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

HBO's latest installment of its successful The Black List: Vol. 2 airs Feb. 26, 8 p.m. The filmmakers have compiled an eclectic and compelling list of artists, activists, musicians, religious leaders, academics, and more in a straightforward lineup of interviews. From Angela Davis (left) to Maya Rudolph, Laurence Fishburne, and Pastor T.D. Jakes, this is a rich mosaic of black America's experience.

Life Staples

During the run-up to last year's historic presidential election, 69-year-old Mavis Staples was crisscrossing America, singing her soulful, stirring songs as if the world depended on them. Mavis Staples Live: Hope at the Hideout was released on Election Day, and you will not hear a more dignified, inspiring collection of America's civil rights anthems than on this rousing disc. The opener, Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" and familiar titles like "Eyes on the Prize" and "We Shall Not Be Moved" are reenergized by her magnificent delivery, her down-home band, and an audience filled with hope.

Oscar Pick

Cast your own vote for Best Picture this Sunday by watching all five nominees at AMC theaters' marathon screening on Saturday, Feb. 21 for $30 (includes a bottomless bucket of popcorn). For more info: www.amctheatres.com/promos/showcase/

Makin' it

NEWBOs: The Rise of America's New Black Overclass, airing on CNBC, Feb. 26 at 9 p.m., is an inadvertently compelling look at the impact of great wealth on a group largely defined by its lack of education and opportunity during formative years. Interviewees include such high-profile athletes and entertainers as NBA star LeBron James, entrepreneur Sean "Diddy" Combs, and gospel superstar Kirk Franklin. CNBC reporter Lee Hawkins focuses on the attitudes these individuals have about social responsibility (or lack thereof) and the accumulation of wealth after growing up in the underclass.

Lost your tongue?

The scientist-adventurer team of David Harrison and Greg Anderson are racing time and history to save one of the planet's most ephemeral assets – human language. The duo, who between them speak several dozen languages, burrow deep into the Siberian hinterland, the Bolivian Andes, and a remote Indian village to catalogue and preserve some of the world's roughly 7,000 vanishing native tongues. Poignant, occasionally funny, and even weird – with one graphic blood ritual – The Linguists airs on PBS Feb. 26 at 10 p.m.

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