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At SXSW, Colombian masters forge bold musical directions

Nancy Flores
Mabiland, Colombian singer, songwriter and rapper, performs at the Sounds from Colombia Showcase at Speakeasy during South by Southwest, on Thursday, March 14h, 2019. 

[Erika Rich for American-Statesman]

For the past decade, Colombia’s strong presence at South by Southwest has elevated the richness of the musical showcases and, in many cases, introduced festival goers to talented artists who went on to become international stars.

Bands such as Bomba Estéreo and Choc Quib Town are among the artists who have helped keep the annual Sounds from Colombia showcase at SXSW vibrant over the years. The showcase this year celebrated its 10th anniversary at Speakeasy Friday night with artists representing diverse sounds from tropical electronica to Colombian folk.

Among the night’s highlights was Medellín-based rapper and singer Mabiland whose passion and soul seeps through every beat. Her music has an urgency and it doesn’t matter if audiences don’t understand her Spanish-language rhymes. They can be felt. She’s the goosebump-inducing artist whose poetic songs about love and life are therapeutic and cleansing for the spirit. Catch her again at 11:05 p.m. Friday at the Half Step.

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Mixing sounds from across Colombia, the duo Moügli brought electro-tropical beats to the stage. Meshing old world sounds with electronic trends helped shine a light Friday on the wide-ranging scope that music from South America offers.

Packing the dancefloor and bringing out the local ex-pat community was Colombian cumbia folk masters Los Gaiteros de Ovejas, who play the traditional gaita or flute that’s been moving peoples for centuries. While in Austin, Los Gaiteros also gave a workshop, as they usually do, about the music and instruments that have kept traditions alive. Los Gaiteros de Ovejas were featured in the remix “Everything Now” by Arcade Fire and were invited to perform with the band at Arcade Fire’s recent Bogotá concert.

At the Speakeasy, the band donned all-white traditional outfits and Colombian hats and lit up the venue with songs from the heart.

Other featured performers included La Mojarra Electrica, which also plays at 9 p.m. Friday at the Palm Door on Sixth, and alternative fusion band Puerto Arena.

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