SXSW Spotlight: Spanish pop star Macaco

Spanish star Macaco performs at SXSW.
Spanish star Macaco performs at SXSW.

International pop sensation Dani Carbonell, better known as Macaco, started his Austin South by Southwest experience by kayaking on the Colorado River. He says squeezing time to be around nature, especially while on tour, helps center him.

Carbonell, whose upcoming album Historias Tattooadas releases on March 24, performed at the Sounds from Spain day party earlier this week and will close out a showcase featuring several artists from Spain on Friday at midnight at Lucille.

Carbonell says fans can expect his new album to match his signature multicultural style. “Being yourself is much easier,” he says. The first single from the album “Hijos De Un Mismo Dios” has already proved to be popular online and weaves in the stories of people in different parts of the world and shows that despite differences, we’re all connected.

Check out an interview with Carbonell, where he discusses his latest music:


Sounds from the World showcase brings global grooves to forefront

Peru's La Inedita brings unique style to SXSW 2015. Photo by Nancy Flores/ American-Statesman
Peru’s La Inedita brings unique style to SXSW 2015. Photo by Nancy Flores/ American-Statesman

For a taste of global sounds, SXSW festgoers headed to the Sounds from the World showcase at the Russian House on Thursday night featuring artists from Pakistan to Peru.

The last two showcases brought together fans hungry for off-the-beaten path dance grooves. One of the festival’s most unique talents, Pedro Canale (aka Chancha Via Circuito) hails from Argentina, where he’s a trailblazer in the country’s electronic music scene. His spacey, ambient beats are inimitable. Masterfully crafted complex layers of everything from electro-Andean folk to atmospheric cumbia turned the dancefloor into a sea of swaying fans.

The night’s musical journey took festgoers from Argentina to Peru. In their U.S. debut, La Inedita attracted a strong ex-pat contingent who waved flags and danced enthusiastically, at one point spurring a female fan to dance on stage.  Inspired by chicha music, La Inedita adds their own twist by incorporating elements of hip-hop, reggae and rock.

Sounds from the World also attracted several other musicians in the crowd. We spotted Calle 13’s Eduardo José Cabra Martínez (aka Visitante) and his wife Diana Fuentes (who had performed at an earlier SXSW showcase), Austin singer/songwriter Gina Chavez (also a SXSW showcasing artist) and members of the band Pommez Internacional of Argentina (who are back performing at SXSW for their second time).

Sounds from the World continues on Friday at the Russian House starting at 8 p.m.

Powerhouse Colombian bands take over SXSW showcase

Colombia's Monophonicos performed at Speakeasy Thursday night during SXSW 2015.
Colombia’s Monophonicos performed at Speakeasy Thursday night during SXSW 2015.

Nothing could stop the party at the Sounds of Colombia showcase at Speakeasy on Thursday night – not even sound issues.

So, what did rock band Monophonicos do when they encountered technical difficulties during their set? Instead of sulking, they gave cumbia lessons! I’ve seen many too many South by Southwest bands completely stop engaging with the audience when something goes wrong. Because of timing, the band went on without a sound check and had to fix things as they went along. But while they were testing and working out the sound kinks during the show, it was impressive to see how that didn’t take away from the audience experience too much. The band’s professionalism and enthusiasm were key. Someone who walked in at that moment probably wouldn’t have noticed anything was wrong judging only by the crowd’s reaction.

Monophonicos kept the party going by improvising songs, giving dance lessons and keeping the crowd pumped and entertained with their high-energy set that fused Colombian folk with contemporary beats.

Following Monophonicos, Colombia’s Zalama Crew took over the Speakeasy with an explosion of musical mash-ups. The three MCs stepped on staged backed with two DJs, drummer, saxophonist and…wait for it…a flautist. A flute in a hip hop/reggae outfit? Absolutely, genius.

They owned the stage and the crowd with their infectious blend of Afro-Colombian sounds, catchy hooks and master showmanship. Zalama Crew is one of my SXSW’s bands to watch.

The Sounds from Colombia full lineup included pop artist Rakel, salsa-funk band La Sabrosura, rock outfit Zionstereo and DJ collective El Freaky.


SXSW Spotlight: Caloncho

Caloncho performs in Austin for the first time. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman
Caloncho performs in Austin for the first time. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman

After the release of his debut EP Fruta, Oscar Castro (aka Caloncho) has experienced a meteoric rise that has come with a lot of firsts lately like attending the Latin Grammys (Caloncho was nominated for two awards), playing big festivals like Vive Latino in Mexico City, performing internationally in places like Colombia and Costa Rica, and now showcasing at South by Southwest.

It’s also the first time Caloncho, who hails from Guadalajara, plays for American audiences. His official U.S. debut at the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York was a media-only performance, and so he didn’t get a sense of how fans would receive his music. Caloncho performed his first SXSW showcase at Icenhauer’s on Wednesday night, where some super fans hung on every word and knew all his lyrics by heart.

Ahead of Caloncho’s second SXSW on Friday at 1 a.m. at the Red Eyed Fly Inside, we sat down with the 28-year-old rising pop star. The following is an edited version of our conversation.

What are your first musical memories?

I remember my grandfather, who played the accordion, waking me up on my birthday when I was little and playing “Las Mañanitas.” I got my musical side from his genes. He also played the organ and acoustic guitar. My father also played the acoustic guitar, and he influenced my songwriting with his stories. I remember a road trip where we didn’t have a radio in the car, and so he made up stories along the way. That’s what my work is – music plus stories.

What’s the Mexican indie pop scene like right now?

We’re starting to realize that there’s a place for everyone instead of competing. We’re sharing knowledge and uniting more. We’re all growing together.

What upcoming projects are you excited about?

The second volume of my EP, called Fruta Volumen 2, will release in May. They’re songs crafted around the same time as the other album, but that I didn’t have the time or money to record. I’m also writing some new songs now.

What are some non-SXSW things you’ll enjoy while in Austin?

I’d like to eat some barbecue and maybe check out Barton Springs.

SXSW Interview with Argentina’s Pommez Internacional

Argentina's Pommez Internacional will perform at SXSW 2015. Band members pictured from left to right: Ignacio Cruz, Hernán Ballotta, Juan Ibarlucía and Nicolás Croci. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman
Argentina’s Pommez Internacional will perform at SXSW 2015. Band members pictured from left to right: Ignacio Cruz, Hernán Ballotta, Juan Ibarlucía and Nicolás Croci. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman

Catch Pommez Internacional at their next show at 9 p.m. Friday at BD Riley’s.

When Argentina’s Pommez Internacional arrived at South by Southwest last year, like many international bands at the festival for the first time, they were testing out the waters. As a band starting to break out in their home country, they were curious how American audiences would take to their genre-bending musical style, which spans atmospheric rock to electronica.

A year later, Pommez Internacional has returned to SXSW – but this time things are different. Over the past year, the group’s visibility has gotten a boost in the Latin alternative scene across the country and in Mexico, where Pommez Internacional continued to tour after SXSW 2014. After experiencing a year of what they call “exponential growth,” they’re building on that momentum by working on new music in the vibrant cultural haven of Buenos Aires.

“We’ve been on a roller coaster ride that hasn’t stopped,” says band member Ignacio Cruz.

Although the group officially formed in 2010, an earlier incarnation of more instrumental and experimental sounds began back when co-founders Juan Ibarlucía, 26, and Hernán Ballotta, 27, were high school classmates.

Argentina has produced a slew of creative musicians over the decades including the late rock legend Gustavo Cerati as the country has traditionally had one of the strongest music scenes in Latin America. But a combination of Argentina’s “economic crisis and a lack of artistic vision” at the turn of the century, Ibarlucía says, led Argentina’s leading role in the Latin American music world to slip. Musicians who are now in their 40s and older had blazed a trail that was stunted a bit with the next generation, he says.

In 2004, a horrific fire swept through a Buenos Aires nightclub killing more than 100 people and leaving the city’s music community wounded. “Bars began to close down, and there were no places for musicians to connect with audiences,” Ballotta says. “Bands disbanded and only bigger bands (could withstand the aftermath).”

But Argentina is in the midst of a period of musical renovation right now, where musicians of their generation are beginning to “rise like a phoenix from the ashes,” Ballotta says.

But challenges remain. For bands in Argentina, the group says, it’s a difficult and slow process to set up a national tour because of the lack of infrastructure. “When you’re from Argentina, the odds of being able to export your music are low,” Ibarlucía says.
The group, among more than 500 international acts scheduled to perform at SXSW, is looking forward to sharing experiences with bands from other parts of the world, forging new friendships and taking advantage of the “opportunity to understand the complexities around the world,” Cruz says.

Pommez Internacional aims to keep pushing their career forward. As SXSW alums this time, they’re armed with a strategy to conquer the fest. The plan? Attending mentor sessions, being more aggressive in their networking approach and incorporating new songs in their showcases.

“It takes awhile to (figure out) how to move around the festival,” Cruz says. “But now we’re going to go for it.”

Danay Suárez enchants SXSW crowd

Danay Suárez will perform at SXSW.
Danay Suárez will perform at SXSW.

With a calming stage presence in the sea of SXSW madness, Cuban songstress Danay Suárez enchanted a crowd of hip-hop heads and fans with her soulful grooves Wednesday night at a showcase of mostly Latin rap at the Half Step.

She’s often compared to female artists like Erykah Badu and Lauren Hill, and although there were times during her set where I felt that, Suárez holds her own with a unique spiritual style that encompasses songs with influences of reggae, hip-hop, soul, and r&b.

A little too much echo and reverb muffled her sultry voice a bit at the beginning of her set, but seemed to improve as the set went on. It didn’t seem to matter to audience members, especially a group of super fans near the front of the stage who were overcome with emotion by seeing Suárez perform. At one point, Suárez brought up a fan to sing along with her. It was beautiful to witness Suárez naturally exude a maternal nature when she held the head of her fan on her shoulders, the woman overwhelmed by singing with her idol.


Suárez’s set included songs like “Individual” and “Wake Up.” Before singing her song “Yo Aprendi,” she talked about going through a mini personal crisis upon recently turning 30, thinking about what she had accomplished in her life and what she still wants to do. The introspective artist’s poetic lyrics that touch on everything from immigrants to personal lessons, make Suárez an artist to watch.


Latin American hip-hop shines at SXSW

Eptos Uno at SXSW 2015. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman
Eptos Uno at SXSW 2015. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman

A growing hip hop movement throughout Latin America has meant the emergence of successful and game-changing rappers over the years. At the Half Step on Wednesday night, several Latin rappers stepped onto the stage proving that hip hop can be a universal language.

I caught two rappers hailing from Mexico, including MC Serko Fu from Gómez Palacio, Durango, who brought hard rhymes over hard, spare beats.

Serko Fu performs at the Half Step during SXSW 2015. Photo by Nancy Flores
Serko Fu performs at the Half Step during SXSW 2015. Photo by Nancy Flores

Freestyle legend Eptos Uno, originally from Sonora and now living in Mexico City, brought his lyrically complex and intricate style to the grimly lit Half Step stage. Along with DJ Tocadiscos Trez, Eptos, who has won freestyle championships, tore through a clean, rugged set. “Whether you speak English or Spanish, hip-hop unites us all,” Eptos Uno said from the stage.

Cuban rapper El B, half of the duo Los Aldeanos and a veteran of several tours through the U.S. and Latin America, kept the energy moving with a set filed with hard beats and a tight flow. As rappers like these are turning heads at the festival, we hope to see the presence of Latin American hip hop continue to strengthen at SXSW.

Sounds from Spain come to SXSW

Rock outfit Rulo y La Contrabanda at SXSW. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman
Rock outfit Rulo y La Contrabanda at SXSW. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman

Sounds from Spain, an organization that fosters and promotes Spanish music internationally, hosted its eighth annual day party at Brush Square Park complete with paella and sangria to get into the Spanish spirit.

This year’s event featured artists included BeGun, Disco las Palmeras!, Hinds, Macaco, Oso Leone, and Rulo y la Contrabanda.


Rulo y la Contrabanda from Reinosa, Spain, electrified crowds with its feisty energy and solid rock tunes. International pop star Macaco later had the audience in the palm of his hands with a mix of some of his classic songs like “Tengo” to new songs like “Hijos de un Mismo Dios.”

His set was only a sneak peek of what’s to come at SXSW, when his full band arrives later. Macaco is already proving to be an early favorite. (Be on the lookout for a Q&A with the artist soon).

Catch all the Spanish acts again at the evening showcase on Friday, March 20th at Lucille (77 Rainey).


SXSW: How Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company defied skeptics

photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman
photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman

Date/time: 5:00 p.m. Sunday
Panelist: Jessica Alba, actress and The Honest Company Founder; Brian Lee, CEO of The Honest Company; Lindsay Blakey, Features Editor at Inc.
The gist:

When actress Jessica Alba was pregnant with her first child, Honor, she got an allergic reaction from a laundry detergent. With a baby on the way, she dove into research about toxic chemicals like never before.

When she shopped for products she thought were better, it turned out that only the packaging was better not the ingredients, she says.

So she set out to create The Honest Company, which would offer people safe, non-toxic products. But people didn’t get it at first, she says.

“It took three years of people not getting it,” Alba says. “It was too big of an idea…My pitch was long and confusing.”

Hollywood’s reaction? “Why not make a perfume instead?”

Frustrated but not defeated, Alba kept refining her idea and condensing the pitch. She reached out to CEO Brian Lee of LegalZoom and ShoeDazzle, but he rejected her idea at first too.

“The first time she approached me I didn’t have children,” Lee says. “Once I did, I saw the way my wife changed her behavior, making organic purees for the baby…” He began thinking about all the other women doing the same thing. “The first time you hold a child, you realize that you are responsible for this being for the rest of your life. That was the epiphany for me. It’s not that I wanted to (help start the company), it was that I needed to.”

In 2011, The Honest Company launched and is now valued at nearly a billon dollars. It’s expected to expand internationally later this year.

Branding the company became more than a just a name, but a lifestyle. Alba says the original name was Love & Honor, inspired by her daughter. “But that just sounded too bridal,” she says. With a name like Honest, the company seems to be held at a higher standard, Lee says. “We’re not a perfect company,” he says. “We’re an honest company, and we want to be as open as possible.”

Part of the The Honest Company’s business strategy is to put employees first. When hiring one of the factors they consider is the “airport test,” where they try to gage whether that employee would be pleasant to be with if you were stuck with them at an airport for six hours. The likeability test has been important to the company’s growth.

The company made many mistakes at its inception from not testing the website until 20 minutes before its launch to faulty laundry pods that kept breaking in freezing temperatures. Customers complained about the first baby wipes the company made, which weren’t thick or big enough. It was a freak out moment, Alba says. They took what customers said to heart and fixed the issues quickly, a key to keeping the customer’s trust.

When asked to give advice to other businesswomen, Alba said to be prepared with answers for everyone’s questions because everyone will poke holes at your idea. “Think about how you are going to be different. Really know your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with people who can support your weakness.”
Fun Fact: Alba was stumped when a festgoer asked her, “What’s your spirit animal?”  “Whoa, I’m in Austin,” she said with a laugh. Lee answered that Alba would be a unicorn. Alba said their company’s spirit animal would be a butterfly.

Hashtags: #sxsw #honestco

Can’t miss Latin alternative bands at SXSW

Danay Suárez will perform at SXSW.
Danay Suárez will perform at SXSW 2015.

Our Austin360 music team has poured over the intense South by Southwest music schedule and picked out our favorite SXSW showcases to check out each day of the fest, hour by hour. For music lovers who enjoy listening to Latin alternative music or want to check out some international bands, here are my critic’s picks.

Tuesday, March 17

8 p.m. Gina Chavez (Parish): Embracing the space between cultural lines, this Austin-based songstress offers a glimpse into the path she’s been on to connect with her Latina roots with inimitable bilingual folk-pop songs.

9 p.m. Dos Santos: Anti-Beat Orquesta (The Main): Get ready to groove with this Chicago-based band spreading musical love one cumbia at a time.

10 p.m. Chancha Via Circuito (Elysium): When South American folklore takes a journey into the future, you get the atmospheric rhythms of this avant-garde project.

11 p.m. Pommez Internacional (Elysium): Experimental sounds that flirt with everything from rock to electronica. Don’t bother trying to define it; just let the global grooves from one of Argentina’s most interesting bands move you.

Midnight Rashid (Elysium): A rap battle master, this Brazilian rapper rhymes in Portuguese about everything from politics to love.

1 a.m. Buraka Som Sistema (Elysium): Portugual’s innovative electronic dance music project offers upbeat musical fusions that find inspiration in everything from African beats to techno and hip-hop.

Wednesday, March 18

8 p.m. Sain Tanveer Brothers (Victorian Room at The Driskill): Pakistani percussion masters kick off the night with trance-inducing beats to get your heart pumping.

9 p.m. Caloncho (Icenhauer’s): Get transported to a tropical paradise with the upbeat and sophisticated pop songs that are making this Mexican artist one to watch.

10:20 p.m. Eptos Uno (Half Step): Emerging from the graffiti world, rapper Eptos Uno won Red Bull’s 2007 freestyle rap battle “Batalla de Gallos” and quickly rose to the top of Latin America’s hip hop world.

11:45 p.m. Morenito de Fuego (Half Step): Quirky lyrics plus hip-shaking digital cumbia/hip-hop tracks promise to make this show an offbeat but sprited dance party.

12:40 p.m. Danay Suárez (Half Step): Often described as Latin America’s Lauren Hill, the Cuban songstress takes audiences on a poetic musical journey through hip-hop, jazz, reggae and beyond.

Thursday, March 19

9 p.m. Irene Diaz (Departure Lounge): A modern day torch singer, the rising Los Angeles singer/songwriter pours every drop of emotion into her heartfelt music.

10 p.m. Diana Fuentes (Departure Lounge): We’re hoping that the sweet Cuban singer/songwriter brings her husband Eduardo Cabra of Calle 13 to perform with her.

11 p.m. Huichol Musical (Russian House): The fusion of Mexican regional music and Huichol rhythms result in an innovative cutural soundscape that’s sung in Spanish and Huichol.

Midnight La Sabrosura Dura (Speakeasy): With a salsa-heavy musical foundation, this Colombian band also blends rock, funk and hip-hop into their party mixes.

1 a.m. Centavrvs (Palm Door on Sixth Patio): It’s what you get when Mexican corridos marry electronic rhythms.

Friday, March 20

8:45 p.m. Bituaya (Flamingo Cantina): An electro-Caribbean experience from Venezuela.

9:45 p.m. Celso Piña (Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center): Watch this Mexican accordion master nicknamed “Accordion Rebel” bring down the house with his cumbia hits.

11 p.m. Raquel Sofia (Half Step): The Puerto Rican indie rocker spent time as a backup singer for Latin greats like Juanes and Shakira before breaking out on her own.

Midnight. Macaco (Lucille) Barcelona-based pop fusion band blends languages and musical styles to its popular global hits.

1 a.m. El General Paz & La Triple Frontera (Russian House) Afro-Latin rhythms get a funk-rock twist.

Saturday, March 21

6 p.m. Compass: Mexican Institute of Sound + Toy Selectah (Auditorium Shores Stage Lady Bird Lake): Mexican musical veterans join forces to showcase an epic collaboration that resulted in an album featuring over 80 musicians across the globe.

7 p.m. Bomba Estéreo (Auditorium Shores Stage Lady Bird Lake): Colombian electro-cumbia group masterfully blends hip-hop, dub and folk rhythms into an infectious, danceable sound.

8:30 p.m. The Recycled Instrument Orchestra of Cateura (Victorian Room at the Driskill): Students in one of Paraguay’s poorest communities formed a youth orchesta and play instruments made out of recycled materials found in the landfill that provides most of the jobs in the town.

9:45 p.m. Kinky (Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center): It’s a guaranteed good time whenever the Monterrey electro-rockers and party instigators take the stage.

11 p.m. Tunacola (Maggie Mae’s): Chile has been on the forefront of the Latin alternative scene producing popular artists such as Gepe and Javiera Mena. This electronic hip-hop project offers dancefloor ready tunes with a playful spirit.

12:30 a.m. World Hood (Speakeasy Kabaret): California-based group weaves together everything from hip-hop to traditional Latin rhythms to create moving soundtrack that speaks to new generations of bicultural listeners.

More Latin alternative at SXSW

Quitapenas, a Californian quintet, recently released its self-titled debut album that adds a modern twist to Afro-Latin rhythms of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Their funky psychedelic tropical influences are sure to keep your hips shaking. (11:45 p.m. Saturday, March 21, Speakeasy)

Third Root, a San Antonio hip-hop group, rhymes about everything from social accountability to education. The group, which is made up of Charles Peters (Easy Lee), Marco Cervantes (MexStep), and DJ Chicken George, emphasizes black/brown unity in both its lyrics and sound. Third Root’s latest album is “Revolutionary Theme Music.” (10:30 p.m. Friday, March 19, Soho Lounge)

Master Blaster Sound System’s cultural mashups result in cumbia electronica that pushes musical boundaries. Don’t miss the chance to catch these Austin party instigators live. (8:15 p.m. Friday, March 20, Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center)