Bohemian Betyars: Hungarian folk-punk rockers are representing their country for the first time at the festival. This dynamic six-piece outfit injects audiences with adrenaline as soon as they hit the stage and maintain their super-charged performance throughout their set. You’ll burn some serious calories at one of their shows. Catch them again at 1 a.m. Friday at Palm Door on Sabine.
La Banda Morisca: There’s nothing like walking into a showcase not knowing what to expect and immediately being blown away. That was the case for me at the Russian House’s Sounds of the World showcase on Wednesday night, where flamenco dancer Juan Tomas de la Molia electrified the venue with his rhythmic gymnastics-like moves accompanied by Spain’s blend of Andalusian rock. Their fusion of old world sounds with a unique modern style had festivalgoers getting a cardio workout.
Mokoomba: You have no choice but to dance when this Zimbabwe-based group performs their innovative mix of traditional Tonga and pan-African music with hints of rap, ska and Afro-Cuban music. Their infectious good vibes have long-lasting effects.
With the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA, tied up in the court system and a murky outlook for a legislative fix, the lives of more than 120,000 young immigrants in Texas hangs in limbo.
Since President Donald Trump cancelled DACA in September, it’s been a tumultuous time for an estimated 800,000 youths across the country. Often called “Dreamers,” these young immigrants were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and have work permits that protect them from deportation.
At South by Southwest on Thursday, the nonprofit organization Voto Latino brought together activist musicians for a free “Dream Out Loud” concert at the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake hosted by actor and activist Wilmer Valderrama. Voto Latino announced at the concert that law firm King & Spalding will provide free legal counsel and cover filing fees for those facing deportation. They encouraged DACA recipients and people with temporary protected status to text DREAM to 73179 for more information.
The evening dedicated to Dreamers featured performers including Mexican electro-corrido band Centavrvs, Colombian DJ collective El Freaky, Tex-Mex greats Los Super Seven featuring artists such as Flaco Jimenez, Rick Treviño, Steve Berlin and Max Baca. Legendary musicians Los Lobos, minus David Hidalgo, headlined the show.
Latin American icon Rúben Blades stood alongside a group of DACA recipients who took the stage and shared their stories.
For 21-year-old student Berenice Gonzalez, who majors in biology at Texas A&M International University, the uncertainty over DACA’s future means having to be ready for anything. She lost a semester at school during a period when her DACA permit expired and she couldn’t renew.
Gonzalez said she began saving money at the time in order to move to Nuevo Laredo, where she says she doesn’t know anyone or have any relatives. “At first it was scary,” she said on Thursday. “Now I just try to prepare as much as possible for whatever may come.”
Austin-based singer-songwriter Gina Chavez led a flash mob dance party on the corner of Sixth Street and Red River during South by Southwest in honor of her upcoming single, “Let it Out.”
Chavez released video dance tutorials earlier this week so that fans could learn her moves and join the festivities, which were recorded for the “Let it Out” music video.
After she led the choreographed dance, the artist started a conga line to the Flamingo Cantina, where she performed on Wednesday night. The first 40 people who joined her flash mob dance party got to check out the SXSW show for free.
Latin American icon Rúben Blades, who helped revolutionize the New York salsa music movement in the 1970s, has managed to lead a prolific decades-long career while keeping many parts of his life private or under the radar.
Some, for example, might not realize that aside from penning the Latin American classic song “Pedro Navaja,” Blades has also had acting roles in more than 30 films, worked alongside greats such as Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro and now portrays Daniel Salazar in AMC’s “Fear The Walking Dead.” Others might not know that he’s earned two law degrees, created a political party in his native Panama and ran for president of the Central American country.
That’s why with the South by Southwest premiere of Ruben Blades Is Not My Name,” the documentary about his life, Blades said he hopes to finally set the record straight.
“I wasn’t keen on cameras following me for a documentary,” he said at a featured session on Wednesday afternoon, where he was interviewed by NPR Alt.Latino‘s Felix Contreras. But “when you have more of a past than a future,” you need to share your own story, the 69-year-old star said.
Blades pushed the salsa music boundaries when he wrote songs about social issues instead of the escapist songs that dominated the genre at the time. “I didn’t write to get famous,” he said. “I wrote to tell meaningful stories.” Even though his songs weren’t commercial and often weren’t played on the radio, people still connected with his music. “Not everything needed to be escape music,” he said. “I wrote because I was upset (at current events) even though it wasn’t considered healthy for a musical career.”
He said Gabriel García Márquez called him a “cronista.” Blades agrees. He said he always thought of himself as a “newspaper man” chronicling life through his songs. He credits his grandmother who taught him how to read at an early age for being a voracious reader. It’s what he said helped him develop his own songwriting and editing style. He also credits law school for learning how to see both sides of a story and writing based on facts. “Never think that the audience doesn’t get it,” he said.
The ability to relate to his lyrics, he said, has helped new generations embrace his music. In the next chapter of his career, Blades plans to focus on recording music and has several projects in progress such as a son Cubano album, as well as a rock/pop/reggae album. He’s co-written a screenplay with Cuban writer Leonardo Padura and hopes to team up with René Pérez Joglar, also known as Residente for a album about social commentary.
Although his career might have taken a different path, Blades said he’ll keep moving forward.
You don’t need a badge, wristband or even cash to check out some of Tejano music’s biggest stars like Little Joe y La Familia and AJ Castillo during South by Southwest this year. Just head to the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center from March 14-17 for free music with a lakeside view.
For years the Mexican American Experience and Pan Americana Festivals, which take place during the week of South by Southwest but are not part of that festival, have offered music lovers the opportunity to check out diverse Latin music of all kinds. For the first time this year, the two back-to-back festivals are offering four days of Tejano music programming.
Aside from free admission, both festivals offer free parking at Sanchez Elementary, Martin Middle School and Fiesta Gardens. Free shuttles run from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. when the concerts end.
Tejano music legend Jay Perez will headline the Mexican American Experience, which is presented by the MACC and Crossroads Events, on March 14. Other performers include Grammy-nominated vocalist Stefani Montiel and rising artist Devin Banda.
Tejano music star A.J. Castillo returns to the Mexican American Experience festival this year to headline the March 15 showcase. Other performers include San Antonio-based group Jaime DeAnda Los Chamacos and Yayo Castillo y Rumores.
At the Pan Americana Festival, musical heavyweights Ricardo Castillon y La Diferenzia headline the March 16 concert. The Jorge Amayo Band, Angie Gonzalez and a mariachi group to be announced will round out the performers that evening.
Tejano music icon Little Joe y La Familia will headline the festivities on March 17. Veteran performer David Marez, past Tejano Idol winner Ashley Borrero and former Los Texas Wranglers vocalist Nikki Lopez will wrap up the festival.
Want to be in a music video? Austin Music Hall of Famers Conjunto Los Pinkys will be shooting a video for their single “Mira Luisa” at 4 p.m. on Feb. 10 at Slow Pokes Brisket Shack in Manchaca, Texas, and fans are invited to participate.
“We love our fans and it’s very important to us that you be there to be a part of this special project,” the band wrote on its Facebook page. “We don’t want a music video that’s all about us. It’s important to include you, our family — the dancers and listeners that have been a part of our 25 year experience!”
Conjunto Los Pinkys has new residencies in 2018. Follow the squeezebox-heavy grooves to Cisco’s Restaurant and Bakery every first Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. On the second Saturday of every month, check them out at Slow Pokes Brisket Shack during the restaurant’s monthly hot rod night with conjunto music from 6-9 p.m. Head to Little Mexico Restaurant on South First Street every third Sunday from 2-6 p.m. and to Sam’s Town Point every last Sunday of the month from 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
Ensuring that this Texas-based music tradition continues to flourish has been the mission of various arts groups across the state, including Austin’s Rancho Alegre Radio, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting both conjunto and Tejano music. Don’t miss Rancho Alegre Radio’s afternoon conjunto dance parties every first Sunday of the month at One-2-One Bar on South Lamar. While the tardeadas are on hiatus in February, mark your calendar for the next show on March 4.
The raw passion and profound suffering that came through in the songs she sang could easily cleanse the soul. Those who attended the performances of Mexican music legend Chavela Vargas often described her concerts like a therapy session. So it’s no wonder that the documentary “Chavela” chronicling her life has the same power as she once did.
Vargas, a world renowned, Grammy-winning icon, tore down barriers for women in the late 1940s with her gut-wrenching ranchera music. By the 1950s, she was a staple in Mexico City’s bohemian club scene romancing the likes of Frida Kahlo. Vargas challenged the mainstream by wearing pants instead of dresses and refused to change the pronouns in songs intended for men to woo women.
“Chavela,” which screens at the AFS Cinema through Dec. 28, brings to life never-before-seen footage shot by co-director Catherine Gund in the 1990s. “For me, Chavela’s life is not a cautionary tale, but rather, a rich subterranean dimension of our own living,” Gund wrote in her director’s statement. “She is not a role model, but a muse. Not only an elder, but a frame for our contemporary desires.”
Chavela spent more than a decade outside of the limelight as she struggled with a drinking addiction, then had a remarkable comeback late in life. Renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who helped relaunch her career, is also featured in the moving documentary.
Don’t miss the opportunity to watch the film. Cine Las Americas members receive $2 off admission of tickets purchased at the AFS box office. On Jan. 2, the film will be available on DVD and digital. To pre-order, visit bit.ly/ChavelaAmazon.
With just $7,000, filmmaker Robert Rodríguez shot the 1992 indie classic film “El Mariachi,” which launched his career and set him on a trailblazing path.
With films such as “Sin City” and the “Spy Kids” series, Rodríguez has helped boost the visibility of diverse characters on the big screen and opened the doors for Latinos in television with his channel “El Rey.”
The Austin Film Society on Dec. 2 will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of “El Mariachi” with a rare marathon screening of what’s called the full Mexico trilogy — “El Mariachi,” “Desperado” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.” A Q&A with Rodríguez will follow the final film. The evening at the AFS Cinema will be capped with a special after party featuring a live performance by Rodríguez and his band, Chingón.
Rodríguez has lots to celebrate. The AFS advisory board member also wrapped up the filming of his reality show “Rebel Without a Crew.” The show challenges five emerging filmmakers to shoot a movie with the same money and time constraints that Rodríguez had 25 years ago with “El Mariachi.”
Tickets for the entire event cost $75 and $65 for Austin Film Society members. Individual movie or party tickets are also available at austinfilm.org. Catch “El Mariachi” at 2 p.m.; “Desperado” at 4:15 p.m. and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” at 6:30 p.m. After party begins at 8 p.m.
Rising Austin-based artist Lesly Reynaga gained recognition in the Live Music Capital of the World as a featured soloist of the University of Texas Mariachi Paredes de Tejastitlán. Her skills were also showcased in the 2012 ZACH Theatre/Teatro Vivo musical “Mariachi Girl.” Now, Reynaga’s bilingual pop-rock grooves represent a new phase of her musical career.
The singer-songwriter on Nov. 2 debuted her five-song EP “Fool’s Paradise,” with a Day of the Dead album release party at 11 p.m at Barracuda (611 E. Seventh St.). The EP, which is available on Spotify, includes original songs as well as a cover of “Spanish Words” by Austin musician Charlie Sexton.
“Everyone goes through different stages in life that make you question your choices, and “Fool’s Paradise” is my take on facing such a challenge through my own individual experience,” Reynaga said. “I hope that my songs are able to convey the idea that to every moment of obscurity there is also light, and that no single individual is ever alone in the struggle of finding one’s self-identity. ”
“Fool’s Paradise” was produced by musician, composer and producer Michael Ramos at his Brown Recluse Studio. Ramos, of Charanga Cakewalk fame, has toured and recorded with artists such as Paul Simon and Shawn Colvin. In 2014, he teamed up with award-winning musician Gina Chavez for her Latin folk-pop album “Up.rooted.”
Following her album release, Reynaga – who is also the editor of TODO Austin – plans to perform in New York City.
Theirs was a tumultuous relationship, filled with melodramatic scandals mixed with post-revolutionary Mexican politics. But what artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo gifted the world has been a legacy of work that continues to influence artistic movements, educate, and inspire.
Walking into their shared home studio in the Mexico City neighborhood of San Ángel years ago, I remember seeing the separate buildings where they each resided and the bridge that connected them. Although each artist shaped the art world in their own unique ways, it’s hard to deny how together they influenced more than just muralism and surrealism but Mexican culture.
Celebrate the famous couple at the special photo exhibit “Diego y Frida: A Smile in the Middle of the Wa
y” at Austin’s Mexic-Arte Museum (419 Congress Ave.). The exhibition, which runs through Nov. 26, is part of the 110th anniversary celebration of Kahlo and also features an altar and silkscreens of the artist.
Photographs of the art giants were made by Kahlo’s father Guillermo, Hungarian-American photographer Nickolas Muray (who had a love affair with Kahlo that lasted about a decade), and one of the founders of modern photography Manuel Álvarez Bravo.
Admission is free every Sunday. All other days, tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and students, and $1 for children 12 and under. Visit mexic-artemuseum.org for more details.