Cultura en Austin, the Austin 360 team and our Spanish-language partners, ¡Ahora Si! covered every inch of the South by Southwest Interactive and Film festival. Check out video highlights for some of the festival’s Latino-related events.
Mexican singer Gloria Trevi held a conversation with Leila Cobo, executive director for Latin Content & Programming in Billboard, during a session at South by Southwest prior to the premiere of “Gloria,” a movie based on her life.
Sol Collective, a Sacramento-based center dedicated to art, culture and activism, launched their new co-operative record label Sol Life at the Speakeasy on Saturday night. Bringing culturally-rooted music to the dance floor, the diverse line-up included socially conscious artists who performed everything from hip-hop to electronic fusions.
One of my favorite musical discoveries at the festival was World Hood, a husband-and-wife-duo who blend traditional rhythms with contemporary electronic beats. Having only caught the end of their set, I look forward to hearing more from them and hope the California group returns to Austin, especially since vocalist Estella Sanchez (aka Estrella Hood) also serves as Sol Collective’s executive director.
Quitapenas, a Riverside, California-based quartet that plays Afro-Latin music, brought one of the best dance parties I’ve seen at SXSW. The animated crowd constantly broke into chants and cheers, especially when the group invited an LA-based guest trumpet player to join them on stage to deliver an extra horn punch to their funky tropical sounds. After their performance, I overheard someone say, “That’s what I’ve been waiting for all week.”
Music has transformed the lives of an entire community in Paraguay after the launch of a unique project called the Recycled Instruments Orchestra of Cateura. Children who play in the chamber music orchestra, which is a showcasing act at South by Southwest, make music by playing instruments made out of trash.
In 2006, music director Favio Chavez launched the project as a motivational tool for the children of this impoverished community, which is located next to the Cateura landfill. Many of the children’s parents are trash pickers with limited resources, and some of the children have also picked trash themselves.
Landfill Harmonic, the documentary that follows the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, also premiered at SXSW this week. In fact, it was during the filming of the documentary that filmmakers launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign and also posted a movie trailer. After the video went viral, the lives of the orchestra began to change when they suddenly had a global spotlight on them. They began receiving invitations to play internationally, forever changing how the children and community thought about recycled items, music and their future.
Cellist Noelia Rios, 14, comes from a family of trash pickers. “It’s beautiful how these doors have opened for me and my family that I never imagined,” she said in Spanish. Rios’ family used to live in a humble residence, and thanks to the orchestra gigs they’ve been able to move into a comfortable home.
“The most rewarding part for me has been seeing the kids grow, get scholarships and know that it’s worth it to take a risk,” Chavez said in Spanish. “They’ve not only stepped onto a musical stage, but onto the stage of life.”
Director Brad Allgood says the film will screen at upcoming festivals in New York and Washington, DC, and hopes to have a theatrical release as well.
It’s easy for some artists to get drowned out in the noise of more than 2,000 official acts at South by Southwest. So when a singer creates an atmosphere where you can truly be present, music magic happens. That was the case with rising Los Angeles’ singer/songwriter Irene Diaz Friday night at the Flamingo Cantina.
Outside the venue’s doors, a raucous Sixth Street crowd swarmed. But inside, Diaz centered the spirit with her soulful, moving songs that seemed to stop time.
Not too long ago, Diaz, 28, was figuring out her life’s path as a college student, unsure of what direction she should take. “I’ve been playing music all my life, but I never thought I could do it (professionally),” Diaz says. “It just didn’t seem feasible.”
But in 2011, she made a leap of faith that felt right and immersed herself in the music world. She put her studies on hold and has crafted her own path, one that’s already taken her to unexpected places. In 2012, Diaz’ song “I Love You Madly” was featured on NPR’s Alt Latino program, which helped put her music career on an upward trajectory.
Diaz, who is often described as a modern day torch singer, says she taught herself to sing by listening to artists like Ella Fitzgerald. And when she later developed a keen interest in film noir, she says that’s the direction she wanted to take her “I Love You Madly” EP.
Although she’s been embraced by the Latin alternative scene, Diaz says she doesn’t want her music to be “pigeonholed.” Her English-language songs don’t have any strong influences of Latin rhythms, but they are passionate, she says.
When she began getting attention as a Latina artist, she questioned at one point whether she should start singing in Spanish. But Diaz, who is the third generation in her family to be born in the U.S., didn’t grow up speaking Spanish and doesn’t want to “feel pressure to represent Latin roots,” she says. “I’m automatically representing by being who I am…maybe there needs to be a voice for someone like me.”
As Diaz continues to rise in the indie music world, she has her eyes set on growing as an artist. She still struggles with stage fright, (which you wouldn’t know from her stunning performances), and says she’s figuring out how to best deal with that. She’s also eager to learn more about producing, and eventually wants to produce all her own albums. Diaz’s first full-length album is in the works, and music lovers should keep an eye on what the future holds for this promising young artist.
Armed with umbrellas, rain coats and ponchos, enthusiastic festivalgoers didn’t let the wet stuff get in the way of making their South by Southwest experience memorable at the outdoor midnight showcase with Spanish international pop star, Macaco, at Lucille Patio Bar.
Fans spilled outside of a small tent. Crew members covered up speakers and electrical equipment before the closing night Sounds from Spain party, which had also featured five other Spanish bands earlier in the night.
After catching a scaled-down version of his show during a Wednesday day party, Macaco proved to be an early favorite for me, and I knew his full-blown act was not to be missed. Macaco lived up to the hype.
Dani Carbonell, the charismatic Barcelona-based frontman, approaches music with a global perspective that melds popular music with elements of reggae and rumba catalana. His set included hits from large catalog as well as his latest single “Hijos de Un Mismo Dios.” Backed by stellar bandmates, Macaco brings both musicianship and showmanship to performances that included fun moments with Carbonell showing off his mouth trumpet skills and engaging the audience with call and response sing alongs.
Macaco ended the performance with a show highlight – an extended version of his song “Tengo,” which also included some synchronized dance moves with the entire band. Cheers erupted. Unfortunately, Macaco was told he couldn’t perform an encore and audiences left chanting, “Otra! Otra!”
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:
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).
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.
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.