SXSW’s first Cuban showcase makes history

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Daymé Arocena performs at SXSW 2016. Photo by Nancy Flores

Twelve Cuban musicians. Five bands. One night.

“You tell me if you think this was easy to put together,” artist Telmary Díaz teased the crowd at Speakeasy on Friday night. “Hell no!”

Díaz kicked off South by Southwest’s first-ever Cuban music showcase by thanking the festival, showcase organizers and fans for helping make history. Over the years Cuban artists like songstress Danay Suárez have been featured at SXSW, but this year’s performances were part of the first Sounds from Cuba showcase, which was presented by Roads & Kingdoms magazine and Cuban artist center Fábrica de Arte Cubano.

Díaz, a soulful rapper, singer and poet, was backed by musicians from the Afro-Latin jazz quintet Yissy & Bandacha, who also performed later in the night. Watching the chill-inducing artist combination and other music masters throughout the night made Speakeasy the perfect place to hunker down for a few hours while severe weather threats loomed outdoors. While the festival urged participants to seek shelter, those already inside Speakeasy couldn’t imagine leaving anyway.

Díaz’ style ranged from delivering spitfire rhymes that had the crowd cheering to danceable grooves that kept the fans swaying. Her blow-your-mind performance set the bar high for the rest of the musicians who all showed the richness in Cuba’s musical diversity.

Adding some modern jazz interpretations to the lineup was Yissy & Bandancha, who fused jazz everything from electronic music to Afro-Cuban rhythms. Yissy, the drummer and bandleader, launched her solo project in 2012.

Rising R&B artist Daymé Arocena, brought inimitable bilingual grooves that easily make her an artist to watch. Her powerful stage presence, charisma and robust vocals kept the crowd asking for more.

Rounding out the showcase were veteran performers X-Alfonso y La Flota and Kelvis Ochoa (who will also perform at 3 p.m. Saturday at the free SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake, which was formerly called the Auditorium Shores stage).

As the presence of Latin music steadily grows at SXSW, let’s hope that these country-specific showcases continue to show people the quality of musicians beyond our borders.

 

SXSW presents first Cuban music showcase

Telmary Diaz
Telmary Diaz is among the featured artists at the Sounds from Cuba showcase.

For the first time in South by Southwest’s 30-year history, the festival will dedicate an entire showcase to Cuban music on March 18 at Speakeasy (412 Congress Ave.).

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.

Sounds from Cuba at SXSW Music 2016

8:30 p.m. Telmary
9:35 p.m. Yissy & Bandancha
10:40 p.m. Daymé Arocena
11:45 p.m. X-Alfonso Y La Flota
12:50 a.m. Kelvis Ochoa