SXSW: Around the world in 6 days
While big names and buzz bands capture most of the South by Southwest Music Festival headlines, some of the most fascinating artists on the roster are part of the festival’s rich world music program. Although the total number of bands performing at SXSW this year has dropped somewhat, from over 2,000 to roughly 1,700, the number of international acts traveling to the festival has held steady. This year, 615 artists are making the journey to Austin from outside the U.S.
Countries such as Australia, Canada and the U.K., which have cultural offices with long-established ties to the festival, have some of the largest rosters at the fest. There are well over 100 British artists and 66 Canadian artists attending the festival this year.
Latin music at the festival also continues to grow. This year, the Mexican contingent has swelled to more than three dozen artists. The fest celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Sounds of Colombia showcase at Speakeasy on March 14, and nearly two dozen Colombian artists are traveling to the festival. Brazil will host a national showcase at Lucille on March 16, Chile hosts a showcase at Javelina on March 12, and a bill of Puerto Rican artists will play Speakeasy on March 15.
African music also will have a much larger presence at the festival this year. There are 15 acts on the bill from Nigeria alone. Public radio’s Afropop Worldwide presents its first showcase at the Palm Door on Sixth on March 15, and a massive three-day Africa to the World showcase at Highland Lounge highlights talent from across the continent.
There are just over a dozen South Korean artists at the fest this year, but the Korea spotlight at ACL Live on March 13, featuring K-pop stars Ikon, is poised to be one of the biggest international music events of the festival.
The good news for Austinites who love international music is that many of these showcases fly under the radar, making it possible for the badgeless masses to pay a cover charge at the door to hear top talent from around the world.
Staff writers Nancy Flores and Deborah Sengupta Stith joined forces with Michael Crockett of KUTX’s program "Horizontes" to take you on a journey around the world in six days.
Combo Chimbita (NYC/Colombia). Describing themselves as “tropical futurists,” this Brooklyn band’s members all are originally from Colombia. Their music is anchored in cumbia and other Afro-Colombian rhythms but also mixed with psychedelic sounds and driven by the soulful vocals of singer Carolina Oliveros. The band plays several times during SXSW, and you can catch them first here. (9 p.m. at Mohawk Indoors) — M.C.
Quebec Night Lights (Canada). Record label/booking company Bonsound presents an evening of music from Montreal. Highlights include DJ, producer and multi-instrumentalist Ouri, who creates abstract dance music and ambient grooves, and Moonshine, a DJ collective known for immersive full moon dance parties that mix Afro-futuristic, bass-heavy and electro-funk sounds. (8 p.m. at Bungalow) — D.S.S.
Kokoko! (Kinshasa, Congo). Known for making their own instruments out of everything from metal cans to engine parts, this collective’s hypnotic electronic beats soak up the chaotically beautiful cacophony of urban sounds. Musicians, dancers and an electronic producer make up this ingenious group. (7:10 p.m. at the Main; 1 a.m. March 14 at Flamingo Cantina) —N.F.
Prateek Kuhad (New Delhi, India). GQ India dubbed the wistful indie-folk artist “the country’s most spectacular singer-songwriter.” Educated at NYU, he roots his sound in collegiate coffee shop culture. He’s emotional but understated and lyrically lovely. (1 a.m. at Townsend; noon March 13 at Waterloo Records day party; 9:45 p.m. March 13 at Palm Door on Sixth) — D.S.S.
El Gallo (Santiago, Chile). “El Gallo” Bottinelli is a Chilean singer and composer whose songs range from South American cumbias to Mexican corridos performed like a street musician, which he was in the beginning of his career as a performer in the famous French street theater group Royal De Luxe. (12:40 a.m. as part of Sounds From Chile showcase at Javelina) — M.C.
Poranguí (U.S.). Poranguí is a one-man world music journey. Aided by live-looping and playing a multitude of traditional instruments, including the Aboriginal didgeridoo, the African kora, the Andean charango, the Peruvian cajón and Tibetan bowls, he plays music both festive and meditative and a lot of fun to watch being made. (8 p.m. as part of Sounds From the World showcase at Russian House) — M.C.
Ezra Collective (London, U.K.). The five-piece ensemble is part of a vibrant new jazz scene bursting out of the London underground. With formidable chops, they nod to classic jazz composition while incorporating hip-hop breakbeats, electronic flourishes and elements of Afrobeat. (10 p.m. at British Music Embassy at Latitude 30; 1 a.m. March 13 at the Main II) — D.S.S.
Also recommended: Natalia Norte (Chile), 10:20 p.m. at Javelina; Spiritual & the Oufah Band (Jamaica), 11 p.m. at Flamingo Cantina; Ehsan Matoori (Iran/USA), 11 p.m. at Russian House - M.C.
Korea Spotlight. Has there ever been a music form more made for YouTube than K-pop? With vigorous choreography and saccharine hooks, boy bands from Korea have precision-danced their way into the hearts of young people around the world. Headliners Ikon make their U.S. debut at the festival. Beyond radio-ready love songs, this showcase explores the deeper Korean music scene, including rockers, Jambinai, rap group XXX and electronic artist Kirara. (Showcase begins at 8 p.m., Ikon plays at 12:10 a.m. at ACL Live) — D.S.S.
Mirella Cesa (Guayaquil, Ecuador). When Andean instruments, Latin American percussion and pop music come together, you get what the artist describes as “Andipop.” Ecuador recently named her a musical ambassador for the Latin fusion music that’s made her an international pop star. (1 a.m. at Victorian Room at the Driskill) — N.F.
Marta Pereira da Costa (Lisbon, Portugal). Marta Pereira da Costa is recognized as the first female virtuoso of the guitarra Portuguesa, a double-stringed, teardrop-shaped guitar used in the accompaniment of fado, the national music of Portugal. With her band, Pereira da Costa has extended the boundaries of the instrument into the realms of world music and jazz as well. (9 p.m. at Victorian Room at the Driskill) — M.C.
Cimafunk (Havana, Cuba). Singer, composer and producer Cimafunk identifies as a Cimarron, a descendant of escaped slaves from Africa who built a free life in the tropical hills of Cuba. His music is a seductive blend of hard funk and Caribbean sounds and Afrobeat with wicked rhythms that will leave no hips untwitched. (5 p.m. at International Day Stage at the Convention Center, midnight at Speakeasy; 11 p.m. March 15 at Flamingo Cantina) — D.S.S.
Ishto Juevez (Guatemala, Guatemala). When the SXSW craziness begins to overwhelm, visit this charismatic singer-songwriter’s show. His bluesy, folk-fueled songs will surely nourish your soul and inspire you to keep on festing. (9 p.m. at Stephen F’s Bar) — N.F.
Fernanda Takai (Belo Horizonte, Brazil). Perhaps known mostly as the lead singer of the popular Brazilian rock band Pato Fu, Takei also has had a successful solo career that includes an album covering songs of bossa nova singer Nara Leão and most recently one dedicated to the songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim. (Midnight at Victorian Room at the Driskill; 5 p.m. March 15 at International Day Stage at the Convention Center) — M.C.
Lolita De Sola (Caracas, Venezuela). She’s one of the few Venezuelan artists at SXSW and brings an alternative pop style to the stage that blends jazz, electronic and pop music. Lolita De Sola, like many Venezuelan artists lately, recently left the South American country in political turmoil and now resides in Mexico. (10 p.m. at CU29) — N.F.
Balún (San Juan, Puerto Rico). There’s more to Puerto Rico than salsa and reggaetón, but these transplants from PR to NYC still have a bit of the rhythm of the island in the electronic mix on their new album, “Prisma Tropical” They call it “dreambow” (dream pop plus dembow). (1 a.m. at Javelina; 1 p.m. at the Radio Stage at the Convention Center) — M.C.
Also recommended: Ximena Sariñana (Mexico), 11 p.m. at Speakeasy; Amor Elefante (Argentina), 11 p.m. at Javelina; Belén Cuturi (Uruguay), 8 p.m. Stephen F’s Bar — M.C.
Los Gaiteros de Ovejas (Ovejas, Colombia). Watch the masters at work. These veteran musicians keep traditional Colombian roots music alive through their songs as well as workshops highlighting the famed flute, called a gaita. (11 p.m. at Speakeasy) — N.F.
Leyla McCalla (U.S.). A cellist and banjo player formerly with the Carolina Chocolate Drops string band, McCalla is the daughter of Haitian immigrants and incorporates the traditional music of that country and other parts of the Caribbean in her repertoire, including the Creole traditions of her adopted home, New Orleans. (9 p.m. as part of WOMEX Showcase, Flamingo Cantina; 11 p.m. March 15 at Victoria Grill at the Driskill) — M.C.
Mojo Juju (Melbourne, Australia). The Filipino-Australian artist has a powerful voice that aches with a longing you feel in your soul. On her latest release, “Native Tongue,” she uses a mixture of funky dance cuts and emotional wringers to explore ideas of otherness and resilient love. (4 p.m. at International Day Stage at the Austin Convention Center; 12:45 a.m. at Parker Jazz Club) — D.S.S.
Pacific Jam at My Apartment PJAMA (Saltillo, Mexico). It’s toss-your-worries aside tropical rock with doses of rumba, blues and funk. It’s hard not to get in a good mood when listening to these Mexican indie rockers. (Midnight at Russian House) — N.F.
Diego Guerrero (Madrid, Spain). A guitar virtuoso and singer in the flamenco tradition, but also an accomplished arranger interested in mixing flamenco with other types of music, Guerrero’s first effort in that direction, an album called “Vengo Caminando,” was nominated for a Latin Grammy as Best Flamenco Album of 2017. (9 p.m. as part of Sounds From Spain showcase, Maggie Mae's Gibson Room) — M.C.
Mabiland (Medellín, Colombia). You don’t need to speak Spanish to feel the power of the Colombian singer and rapper’s work. Her voice drips with lust, breaks with passion and reaches in to seize your heart. The 22-year-old artist dropped her debut release, “1995,” last year and went on to thrill sold-out crowds in her hometown, Medellín, as well as the Colombian capital, Bogotá. (4:30 p.m. at Flatstock Stage at Austin Convention Center; 9 p.m. at Speakeasy; 11:05 p.m. March 15 at Half Step) — D.S.S.
Amaru Tribe (Melbourne, Australia). The world music band weaves ancestral music with contemporary beats for songs inspired by social change. Musicians hail from across the globe, including Chile and Argentina. (11 p.m. at Russian House) — N.F.
La Mojarra Electrica (Bogotá, Colombia). Since forming in 2001, this band has been playing Afro-Colombian music on stages around the world. While their sound is based in the roots music of Colombia’s Pacific coast, it also incorporates elements of salsa, electronica and jazz. (Midnight as part of Sounds From Colombia showcase, Speakeasy; 1 a.m. March 13 at Half Step; 1 p.m. March 14 at International Stage at the Convention Center) — M.C.
Also recommended: Pipo Romero (Spain), 8 p.m. at Maggie Mae's Gibson Room; Jambinai (South Korea), 1 a.m. at Palm Door Sabine; Papachina (Colombia), 1 a.m. at Russian House — M.C.
Karol Conka (Curitiba, Brazil). Her pessimism-squashing songs have blazed a trail for black, female Brazilian rappers and singers. Karol Conka takes on topics such as self-esteem and doing things your own way in her music that mixes hip-hop, R&B and Brazilian pop. (11 p.m. at Palm Door on Sixth; midnight March 15 at Lucille) — N.F.
Eme Alfonso (Havana, Cuba). The daughter of the founders of the legendary Cuban fusion band Síntesis, singer Eme Alfonso, along with her brother, X Alfonso, started in her parents' band before embarking on her own career, and she still carries on the tradition of mixing Afro-Cuban music with the modern sounds of jazz, rock and electronic music. (10:35 p.m. at Parker Jazz Club; noon at Radio Day Stage at the Convention Center) — M.C.
Mr. Eazi (Lagos, Nigeria). One of the hottest artists on the Afrobeat indie scene, the Nigerian native has built a huge following in Africa and in Europe. His 2018 album, “Life Is Eazi, Vol. 2: Lagos to London,” is a fine collection of sunny melodies and club-friendly dance beats, and his festival appearance is part of the North American leg of a world tour that should help cement his status as a global sensation. (12:40 a.m. at the Belmont; March 15 at Highland Lounge) — D.S.S.
47Soul (London, England). 47Soul is a Palestinian band that plays a modern electronic version of dabke (Arabic wedding dance music) they call "shamstep" (re: dubstep). Their mesmerizing melodies and rhythms will have you up on your feet in no time. (10:40 p.m. as part of GlobalFest showcase at Palm Door on Sixth; 12:50 a.m. March 14 at Hotel Vegas Annex; 12:45 a.m. March 16 at Russian House) — M.C.
Monophonicos (Bogotá, Colombia). They electrify your cumbias and revitalize your mambos. These SXSW veterans modernize the sounds of yesteryear and deliver high-energy shows that leave you no choice but to dance. (1 a.m. at Flamingo Cantina) — N.F.
Chai (Nagoya, Japan). Last year, the boppy power pop group formed by a pair of identical twin sisters and two friends signed a distribution deal with U.S. indie label Burger Records, which featured them on their SXSW 2018 showcases. Those shows landed a U.K. deal for the group, and they come into the fest this year as one of the buzzier international acts on the bill. (9:50 p.m. at Native Hostel; 2 p.m. March 14 at Container Bar; 1:05 a.m. March 14 at Cheer Up Charlies; 7:15 p.m. March 16 at Hotel Vegas Patio) — D.S.S.
Luedji Luna (Salvador, Brazil). Her native city, Salvador, Bahia, is the cradle of Afro-Brazilian culture in Brazil, and Luedji Luna reflects that culture in the rhythms and the lyrics of her music. She’s accompanied by DJ Nyack, who remixed her song “Banho De Folhas” and made it a dance-floor hit. (8 p.m. Flamingo Cantina; 8 p.m. March 16 at Lucille) — M.C.
Also recommended: Mahya Veray y Su Trauma (Puerto Rico), 11:45 p.m. at Parker Jazz Club; Azul Trabuco (Colombia), 12:55 a.m at Parker Jazz Club; Sonámbulo Psicotropical (Costa Rica), midnight at Flamingo Cantina — M.C.
Bixiga 70 (São Paulo, Brazil). Fans of the African big band sound of Fela Kuti’s band, Africa ’70, will love the sound of its Brazilian counterpart from the São Paulo neighborhood of Bixiga. (11 p.m. as part of Brasil Music Club showcase at Lucille; midnight March 14 at Flamingo Cantina) — M.C.
Bohemian Betyars (Miskolc, Hungary). Hungarian folk-punk rockers inject crowds with adrenaline as soon as they hit the stage. You’ll burn some serious calories at one of their shows. (10:10 p.m. at Russian House) — N.F.
Jojo Abot (Volta Region, Ghana). In the video for “Alime,” the Ghanaian artist twists her body fiercely to an electronic assault of rhythm that gives way to a dark dance track with a melody that floats over the chaos. She rocks a red frock with an elaborate beaded collar laid on top, then a metallic mesh dress. Her lips are painted blue, and her hands are painted gold. She creates an artistically immersive experience that draws you in. (Part of the Africa to the World Showcase, time TBD, at Highland Lounge; 11 p.m. March 14 at Flamingo Cantina; 10:30 p.m. March 15 at Palm Door on Sixth) — D.S.S.
Monstruos del Mañana (Mexico City, Mexico). Psychedelic rock meets Latin grooves in this musical project that’s on a #MexastoTexas tour making its way to SXSW. (Time TBD at Javelina) — N.F.
International Hip Hop Showcase. If you need evidence that hip-hop has become the international language of youth, look no further than this showcase. Headlined by Japanese rapper JP the Wavy, the roster also features performances from Australia artist Kwame, who’s been selling out shows all over his home continent, and German rapper Ace Tee, who had a breakout hit at home with "Bist Du Down?" (Showcase starts at 8 p.m. at the Main II) — D.S.S.
Neblinna (Maracaibo, Venezuela). At a tough time in Venezuela’s history, young emcees such as Neblinna are taking to the mic to share politically and socially themed rap music. Neblinna has left Venezuela and is making her way to Mexico via Ecuador. (Time TBD at Scratchhouse) —N.F.
Xênia França (Bahia, Brazil). After several years singing with Brazilian alternative band Aláfia, Xênia França released a solo album in late 2017 that was nominated for two Latin Grammys. Originally from Bahia, she includes a lot of elements of Afro-Brazilian music as well as R&B and jazz on her self-titled album. (8:20 p.m. as part of Brasil Music Club showcase at Lucille; 3 p.m. March 14 at International Day Stage at Convention Center) — M.C.
Also recommended: Vanessa Zamora (Mexico), 8 p.m. at Speakeasy; Y La Bamba (USA), 8:40 p.m. at Speakeasy; Tassia Reis (Brazil), 10 p.m. at Lucille — M.C.
'Horizontes' on KUTX
Listen to Michael Crockett, Deborah Sengupta Stith and Nancy Flores talk about international music and SXSW from 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday on KUTX 98.9.
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