5 women who rocked SXSW 2017

Liniker Barros performs with the band Liniker e os Caramelows at SXSW 2017. Photo by Reshma Kirpalani/American-Statesman

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.

Luz Elena Mendoza (Portland): In the middle of the madness that can be SXSW, Mendoza, frontwoman for the folk band Y La Bamba, offered an authenticity that pierced through all of the festival noise.

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.

 

 

SXSW Spotlight: Luz Elena Mendoza of Y La Bamba on music, identity

Luz Elena Mendoza at SXSW 2017. Photo by Reshma Kirpalani/American-Statesman

Catch Y La Bamba at 11 p.m. March 18 at the Palm Door on Sixth Patio

For Y La Bamba frontwoman Luz Elena Mendoza, music has been therapeutic. And when she takes the stage, you feel the raw emotion of her journey.

Mendoza, a South by Southwest showcasing artist, has been performing sans her Portland-based band at the festival. It’s something that she says is “really scary and hard, but also inspiring.” A stripped down version of her music means she’s relying on her individual strength while she’s on stage, which results in honest performances that are a refreshing step away from the usual SXSW madness that can sweep up the festival.

Mendoza, 35, has been writing and singing since she was a young girl and remembers penning her first song in elementary school. She didn’t grow up on Bob Dylan or the Beatles. Instead, as a daughter of immigrant parents, her childhood soundtrack included artists like Vicente Fernandez and Ramon Ayala.

Her bilingual folk music has also been an exploration of her Mexican identity. “I’ve never felt Mexican enough for Mexicans or American enough for Americans,” she says. “But also I’ve never felt Mexican American enough for Mexican Americans because of the way I look,” she says.

Mendoza, who is tall with short hair and fair-skin, says she knows what it feels like to be “an outcast among outcasts.” Lately, even at SXSW, she’s been asked about her identity a lot and peppered with questions from why she speaks Spanish so well to why she’s singing in Spanish.

“How do you talk about this with someone in a way that’s productive?” she says. When Mendoza writes, she doesn’t think about what language works best for what song. She writes what she feels and that comes from all the layers that make up her identity.

“People sometimes want to put you in a box,” she says. “But I’ve realized that I just need to take care of my spirit. My body is just a capsule and it doesn’t define everything.”

 

Residente talks Trump, fascism, and baseball at SXSW All Latino Resist Concert

Residente performs at Auditorium Shores during the 2017 SXSW Conference March 16. 03/16/17 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Latinos have been at the center of many contentious issues lately, from raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement across the country to a controversial border wall debate. At South by Southwest on Thursday, the nonprofit organization Voto Latino brought together activist musicians for a free concert at the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake.

Featured performers included Mexican ska-fusion band Panteón Rococó, Los Angeles-based Latin music mashers Ozomatli, and Residente, who headlined the special All Latino Resist Concert. Festivalgoers waved Mexican and Texas flags and at one point chanted, “Latinos! Latinos!”

Former Calle 13 rapper Rene Pérez Joglar aka Residente pumped up the crowd with a memorable, high energy performance that kicked off with his latest single as a solo artist “Somos Anormales.” His new album was inspired by a DNA test the artist took years ago. His journey around the world to retrace his genetic makeup is also the subject of the “Residente” documentary that premiered at SXSW. In it he features musicians from China to Niger.

“My band is made up of immigrants from around the world,” he told the cheering crowd. “F*** Trump.”

Ozomatli performs at Auditorium Shores during the 2017 SXSW Conference March 16. 03/16/17 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

From past Calle 13 hits like “El Aguante” to his new hip-hop/world sound, Pérez Joglar united the crowd at Auditorium Shores by dedicating the goosebump-inducing performance of “Latinoamérica” to all immigrants. At the Drive-In’s Omar Rodríguez-López joined Pérez Joglar on stage for several songs where he played lead guitar. His mad skills are also featured in the new Residente album, set to drop later this month.

At one point Pérez Joglar, a self-professed baseball fanatic, asked the enthusiastic crowd to chant “Puerto Rico! Puerto Rico!” so he could send the video to the Puerto Rican baseball team competing in the World Baseball Classic. He also gave a platform to festivalgoers holding a “Refuse Facism” sign that said, “In the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America.” Pérez Joglar asked for the sign, read it aloud and displayed it on stage for all to see.

 

SXSW 2017: Residente reflects on life after Calle 13, new film and album

Residente at SXSW 2017. Photo by Nancy Flores

After 25 Grammys and more than a decade as rapper and co-founder of the alternative rap duo “Calle 13,” René Pérez Joglar, also known as Residente, has started a new chapter on his own.

“As an artist, I was starting to feel comfortable and that’s the worst feeling,” Pérez Joglar said. “As soon as you start feeling comfortable, you have to quit and do something else. It would have been very easy to do another tour with Calle 13, but I took a risk.”

Over the years, Calle 13 pushed musical boundaries, caused controversy, raised awareness about social justice issues and constantly evolved. Now, Pérez Joglar, who has earned more Grammy awards than any other Latino artist, is carving another path. At South by Southwest this week, he premiered his documentary “Residente,” and will perform with his new band at Thursday’s free Latino Resist Concert at Lady Bird Lake. His solo album drops later this month.

On Wednesday afternoon, Pérez Joglar spoke in the SXSW featured session “Conversation with Residente,” where he let fans in on the past and future of the Puerto Rican rapper who began spitting rhymes at age 11.

Pérez Joglar still remembers the days when he was trying to get the attention of record labels. “I would start rapping in front of the security cameras outside of the (record label’s building),” he said with a laugh.

A Conversation with Residente at SXSW 2017. Photo by Nancy Flores

As a student, Pérez Joglar landed a scholarship to attend art school in Savannah, Georgia. It was there, he said, that he learned to create things that were a reflection of what affected him. It’s a lesson that he’s carried with him throughout all of his creative endeavors. “It’s impossible to be only one thing,” he said. In his music, he can rap about everything from politics to partying. “That’s the balance that I have.”

The master lyricist, known for using phrasing with double or triple meanings, said he likes his lyrics to be poetic but accessible. “I like improvisation because it’s an art, but in my writing every sentence has a meaning.” His creative process nowadays works in different ways. Sometimes music or a concept will spark lyrics or “sometimes I’ll come home drunk and start writing,” he said. “But I love the editing process because I love playing with words.”

For his documentary and new album, Pérez Joglar took inspiration from a DNA test he took years ago. Then, he documented his journey throughout all of the countries and regions that have formed a part of his genetic makeup from Armenia to Africa.

At the height of his career, when he could collaborate with any big name artist he wants, Pérez Joglar chose to instead collaborate with lesser known artists from around the world such as throat singers. Despite some of the language barriers throughout his global trek, Pérez Joglar said “music was our language.”