SXSW 2018: Latin American icon Rubén Blades ‘sets record straight’ about his life, career

 

NPR AltLatino host Felix Contreras interviewed Rúben Blades during SXSW. Photo by Nancy Flores

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.

En español: Se estrena filme sobre Rubén Blades en festival SXSW

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.

MORE SXSW: See all of Austin360’s SXSW coverage

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.

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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.

Afro-Brazilian R&B band Liniker e os Caramelows break transgender barriers at SXSW

Liniker e os Caramelows at SXSW 2017. Photo by Reshma Kirpalani/American-Statesman

Catch Liniker e os Caramelows at 1 a.m. March 17 at Palm Door on Sixth and midnight March 18 at Flamingo Cantina.

When Afro-Brazilian singer Liniker Barros steps on stage with her popular R&B band Liniker e os Caramelows, she helps break transgender barriers with every soulful note. Through the band’s evocative sound and magnetic stage presence, they’ve been able to perform in Brazilian spaces where black, transgender artists wouldn’t typically go before.

“That in itself is a political statement,” says Pericles Zuanon, the band’s percussionist. In Brazil, their shows bring together mixed LGBT and straight audiences, he says. They’re also pushing boundaries, he says, because the rest of the band is straight and led by a black, transgender woman. “We believe in the dignity of life,” Zuanon says. “At the end of the day we want to spread love and respect.”

The band’s South by Southwest showcases mark the first time they’ve performed abroad and look forward to connecting with new audiences.

Liniker Barros performs at the Russian House during SXSW. Photo by Reshma Kirpalani/American-Statesman

For Barros, who captured Brazil’s attention after a YouTube video of a performance went viral, music has always been close to her heart. Growing up with a musical family, though, also meant that she felt intimidated at first to sing aloud. But soon she found her own voice. At 16, she began writing songs and says she found “her soul in her words.”  “I could translate all my feelings into songs, and now I can’t see myself without my voice,” Barros says. “It was how I found my personality.”

Barros finds solace in the fact that she’s not trailblazing on her own. With other Brazilian bands led by transgender artists, she feels like “we’re fighting together to strengthen our music, our country.”

 

Cuban hip-hop duo Krudas Cubensi to release ‘Highly Addictive’ album

Pioneers in Cuba's rap scene, MCs Las Krudas, Odaymara Cuesta, left, and Olivia Prendes began rapping about a decade ago. They left behind their life in Cuba, and now call Austin their home.
Odaymara Cuesta, left, and Olivia Prendes make up Krudas Cubensi. Photo by Alberto Martinez/American-Statesman

Pioneers in Cuba’s rap scene, MCs Odaymara Cuesta and Olivia Prendes began rapping more than a decade ago. As the hip-hop duo Krudas Cubensi, they’ve captivated fans around the world with their powerful socially-conscious rap that touches on everything from feminism to racism.

Their latest album “Highly Addictive” drops July 23 with an album release party at 9 p.m. at The North Door. The celebration, which is presented by allgo, also features special guests Dj Ang. G, La Vibra, Blakchyl and Gabi Allhues.

Austin360 recently featured Krudas Cubensi in the Emmy-nominated video and story series “Austin Gente,” which focuses on Latino/a identity in the U.S. In an interview for an episode centered on Latinx LGBTQ identity, Krudas Cubensi shared insights on their experiences in Austin.

“We’re Afro-Latin, queer, vegan, hip-hop artists in the U.S.” Prendes told Austin360. “At the end of the day we are by ourselves because no one shares those identities with us.” If they go to queer events, they may be the only Latinas. And if they go to queer events specifically for minorities, they may be the only immigrants speaking Spanish.

“We are queers for real,” Prendes said. “Even in the queer community, we are the queerest of the queer.”

Krudas Cubensi have become a fixture in Austin’s music and social justice scene, breaking new barriers with each song.

 

 

Pakistan showcase returns to SXSW

Wahid Allan Faqir performs at the second annual Pakistan showcase during SXSW.
Wahid Allan Faqir performs at the second annual Pakistan showcase during SXSW. Photo by Nancy Flores

After the success of the first Pakistan showcase at South by Southwest last year, a new slew of artists representing the country performed on Wednesday evening at the Victorian Room at the Driskill Hotel. The showcase, which is a project of the Foundation for Arts, Culture and Education (FACE), aims to highlight the best of Pakistani culture through music.

When energetic folk singer Wahid Allan Faqir took the stage, he animated the crowd with his festive spirit and colorful traditional outfit. The showcase brought together many ex-pats who sat on the carpeted floor in front of the stage while others danced and encouraged Faqir to step off stage and dance among the festgoers.

This year’s performers also included electronic music producer Dynoman, soulful songstress Mai Nimani,  singer/poet Imran Aziz Mian Qawwal and rock band Overload. Some of the musicians have additional shows throughout the festival. Check the SXSW schedule for dates and times.

Organizers said they hope the Pakistan showcase, which has support from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, becomes an annual tradition at SXSW.