Andrea Cruz:She’s only recently released her debut album “Tejido de Laurel,” but already Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Andrea Cruz is a rising artist to watch. At her performance during SXSW’s first Sounds of Puerto Rico showcase, she poured everything into each song creating some goosebump-inducing moments as she took audiences on an emotional musical journey.
Gato Preto: As one half of the German-based Afrofuturistic electronic duo Gato Preto, MC Gata Misteriosa lights up the stage with a super-charged live performance and infectious dance moves. She grew up in Portugal and has roots in Mozambique. Her showmanship, style and high energy makes her on-stage presence hard to beat.
Kayla Briët:At 21, the uber-talented Kayla Briët, of California, is the ultimate one woman band. In her unique performances, she sings as well as plays the keyboard, guitar and traditional Chinese instrument called a guzheng zither. Oh, and she does all this while live looping. Often during the performance, she’ll have one hand playing the guzheng zither and the other playing her keyboard at the same time. Kayla’s talents extend beyond music. She’s also a filmmaker and virtual reality artist whose inspired by her Prairie Band Potawatomi/Neshnabe, Chinese, and Dutch-Indonesian roots.
South by Southwest 2017 has been full of inspiring moments and amazing musical discoveries. I kept finding myself at showcases led by strong, talented women. Here’s a few who caught my eye.
Luna Lee (South Korea): She may be small, but she’s fierce. Not only is the Seoul-based musician a rock star, but Lee has revolutionized the way a traditional Korean gayageum is played. She’s invented techniques to play rock and blues on the zither-like string instrument. And when her government pulled funding for her to attend SXSW, Lee’s fans brought her here anyway.
ILe (Puerto Rico): You may recognize her as the feminine voice of Calle 13, who for nearly a decade toured with her brothers Rene Pérez Joglar aka Residente and Eduardo Cabra aka Visitante. But it’s time to get to know Ileana Cabra’s own music as a solo artist. Cabra pours everything into her moving, theatrical performances that are a nod to yesteryear.
La Dame Blanche (Cuba): Yaite Ramos Rodriguez oozes swag. The hip-hop artist struts on stage wearing a cape and smoking a cigar. She spits rhymes and then turns around and starts playing the flute. She’s uber talented and her live performances can’t be missed.
Liniker e os Caramelows (Brazil): It was her first time performing in the U.S., but hopefully not the last. We want to hear more from Liniker Barros, frontwoman for the popular Brazilian soul/funk band. As a black, transgender singer, she brings an important perspective to music and on stage her charisma and magnetic performances make her an artist to watch.
8 p.m. Gina Chavez (The Sidewinder Outside). 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. Natisú (Friends). Chile keeps making some of the best pop music in Latin America thanks to adventurous musicians like experimental indie artist Natisú. (Also playing at 9 p.m. Thursday at Departure Lounge.)
10 p.m.-1:40 a.m. SXAméricas: Zona Indie showcase (Sledge Hammer). Check out a sampling of Latin American indie music at this showcase. You’ll discover bands like Los Detectives Helados, who come from Ecuador’s burgeoning music scene with their indie rock that flirts with cosmic pop.
8 p.m. The Warning (Karma Lounge). When a YouTube video of these three Mexican sisters playing a cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” went viral, the young girls ages 15, 13 and 10 rose to the spotlight. They appeared on the Ellen De Generes show and raised money to attend a summer program at the Berklee College of Music, where they also created video diaries for the EllenTube Channel.
9 p.m. Jéf (Sledge Hammer). The Brazilian singer-songwriter got his big break in 2014 when he won the reality show music competition “Breakout Brazil” and landed a record deal with Sony Music.
10 p.m. Molina y Los Cósmicos (Sledge Hammer). In recent years, the tiny country of Uruguay has been producing unbelievable music. At previous SXSW festivals, the country has brought a delegation of diverse artists. Although there’s no official Uruguayan showcase this year, there are several standout artists like this folk-pop outfit.
11 p.m. Cabezas Flutuantes (Russian House). Using homemade instruments and everyday objects like pencils, Cabezas Flutantes of Brazil present upbeat, pop experimental songs that showcase tropical soundscapes.
Midnight Oques Grasses (Flamingo Cantina). Rising stars in the Catalan music scene, Oques Grasses of Barcelona deliver reggae-inspired pop music. (Also playing Friday at the Palm Door, time is TBD.)
1 a.m. División Minúscula (Karma Lounge). The SXSW alums’ punk rock sound was discovered by legendary DJ Toy Selectah of Control Machete fame. (División Minúscula also plays at 5 p.m. Saturday at the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake.)
8 p.m. Velo De Oza (Speakeasy). When you mix Colombian folk music with rock and pop, you get an energetic live show from this charasmatic band that’s sure to create a fun vibe. (Also plays at 11 p.m. Friday at Flamingo Cantina)
9:20 p.m. Arianna Puello (Speakeasy Kabaret). Now more than ever fierce women in Latin hip-hop are bringing inventive and politically savvy rhymes to the forefront. Arianna Puello, a Spanish rapper of Dominican descent, has been delivering her spit-fire lyrics since 1993. (Also performs at 9:40 p.m. Friday at North Door.)
10 p.m. Elida Almeida (Flamingo Cantina). Music lovers will be enchanted with the powerful voice and incredible depth that this songstress brings from Cape Verde, an island off the west coast of Africa. Though danceable and uplifting, some of her songs in Portuguese reflect on meloncholy moments from her childhood including the death of her father when she was just a girl. (Also plays at midnight on Wednesday at Russian House.)
11 p.m. Las Delailas (Departure Lounge). The Monterrey-based pop-folk outfit creates melodies composed using a combination of guitar, ukelele, harmonica, tambourine and vocal harmonies.
Midnight. A-Wa (Flamingo Cantina). Yeminite sisters infuse Arab folk songs with modern beats. (Also play 1 a.m. Friday Russian House.)
1 a.m. The Chamanas (The Townsend). Drawing musical influences from 1970s Mexican pop and modern indie music, the Chamanas call the border region of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez home. They recently captured the national spotlight with their cover of Portugal. The Man’s song “Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue.” (Also play at 1 a.m. Saturday at Blackheart)
8 p.m. Lulacruza (Palm Door on Sixth). The Argentine electronic folk duo beautifully melds modern and ancient sounds. It’s the place to be when you’re ready to get away from the SXSW chaos and reenergize with inspiring music. (Also play at noon on Wednesday at the International Day Stage and at 12:05 a.m. on Wednesday at The Townsend.)
9 p.m. Sotomayor (Flamingo Cantina). Siblings Raul and Paulina Sotomayor make up the hip, electronic music project from Mexico City. Their cutting-edge beats also fuse rhythms like Peruvian chicha music. (Also plays at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the International Day Stage and 9 p.m. Thursday at Lucille.)
10 p.m. Julio Piña (Flamingo Cantina). These Chilean party instigators create hip-shaking cumbias sure to keep you dancing all night. (Julio Piña will also perform at 10 p.m. Wednesday at Russian House.)
11 p.m. Jenny and the Mexicats (Continental Club). An English female trumpet player walked into a flamenco club in Spain and met two Mexican musicians that changed her musical journey. They added a Spanish cajón player to the mix, and became rising stars playing bilingual genre-blending grooves that mesh everything from flamenco to rockabilly.
12:05 a.m. Kat Dahlia (Swan Dive). The buzz has been swirling around Miami-bred Cuban-American singer-songwriter Kat Dahlia. The up-and-comer released her debut album in 2015, and it’s inspired by pop, Latin, hip-hop and reggae. (Also performs at noon on Saturday at the Radio Day Stage.)
1 a.m. Locos Por Juana (Half Step). The Grammy-nominated Miami band has been shaking up the Latin music world for more than a decade with their hybrid sound and energetic live shows. Don’t miss the chance to see these party masters. (Also perform at midnight Saturday at Flamingo Cantina.)
6 p.m. Systema Solar (SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake). They’ve risen from the Colombian music underground and stormed the Latin alternative scene with their explosive shows that are an audio visual experience. Systema Solar blends Afro Carribbean and Colombian folk with everything from hip-hop, techno, house, cumbia and electronica. (Also perform at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Radio Day Stage and 1 a.m. Thursday at Flamingo Cantina.)
8 p.m. Laguna Pai (Flamingo Cantina). The Peruvian reggae rockers weave socially conscious lyrics in their music focusing on issues like environmental conservation and equity.
9 p.m. Florencia Núñez (Stephen F’s Bar). Keep your eyes on this Uruguayan singer-songwriter whose impressive first album has been showered with accolades. She’s an exciting new voice in Latin indie music tying together influences from pop, jazz and folk.
10 p.m. Zona Tango (Elephant Room). You’ve never heard tango music like this before. Argentine multi-instrumentalist and composer Pedro Menendez’ ecclectic musical project creates a modern tango sound by fusing it with jazz, electronic and psychedelic rhythms.
11 p.m. Consulado Popular (Flamingo Cantina). Punk rock meets Colombian cumbia. (Also play at 1 a.m. Thursday at Speakeasy.)
12:50 a.m. Buyepongo (Speakeasy). Singer and percussionist Edgar “Meshlee” Modesto once described the Los Angeles band’s sound as music that’ll get you moving and thinking. Buyepongo released its album “Todo Mundo” earlier this year, which is full of pan-Latin rhythms that’ll nourish your soul.
Over the years Cuban artists like songstress Danay Suárez have been featured at SXSW, but these performances mark the first Sounds from Cuba showcase with “an entire night dedicated to bands that currently reside and don’t plan to leave Cuba,” according to SXAméricas organizer Alicia Zertuche.
The showcase, which is presented by Roads & Kingdoms magazine and Cuban artist center Fábrica de Arte Cubano, features performers such as Afro-Latin jazz quintet Yissy & Bandancha and Telmary Díaz, a soulful rapper, singer and poet who is backed by a seven-piece band. Other artists include the young, rising R&B artist Daymé Arocena, who The Guardian described as having “all the makings of being the next major Cuban star.”
Rounding out the showcase are veteran performers X-Alfonso y La Flota and Kelvis Ochoa who will also speak at a SXSW music panel focused on the future of Cuban music as the country’s doors are beginning to open up.
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!”
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.
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.”