Andrea Cruz:She’s only recently released her debut album “Tejido de Laurel,” but already Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Andrea Cruz is a rising artist to watch. At her performance during SXSW’s first Sounds of Puerto Rico showcase, she poured everything into each song creating some goosebump-inducing moments as she took audiences on an emotional musical journey.
Gato Preto: As one half of the German-based Afrofuturistic electronic duo Gato Preto, MC Gata Misteriosa lights up the stage with a super-charged live performance and infectious dance moves. She grew up in Portugal and has roots in Mozambique. Her showmanship, style and high energy makes her on-stage presence hard to beat.
Kayla Briët:At 21, the uber-talented Kayla Briët, of California, is the ultimate one woman band. In her unique performances, she sings as well as plays the keyboard, guitar and traditional Chinese instrument called a guzheng zither. Oh, and she does all this while live looping. Often during the performance, she’ll have one hand playing the guzheng zither and the other playing her keyboard at the same time. Kayla’s talents extend beyond music. She’s also a filmmaker and virtual reality artist whose inspired by her Prairie Band Potawatomi/Neshnabe, Chinese, and Dutch-Indonesian roots.
It’s not every day that you can check out a musical living legend for free, but tonight Little Joe y La Familia will headline the Pan Americana Festival at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (600 River St.).
Saturday’s concert, which starts at 5 p.m., will wrap up four days of free Tejano music at the cultural center presented by the Mexican American Experience Wednesday and Thursday and the Pan Americana Festival Friday and Saturday during South by Southwest week.
Bohemian Betyars: Hungarian folk-punk rockers are representing their country for the first time at the festival. This dynamic six-piece outfit injects audiences with adrenaline as soon as they hit the stage and maintain their super-charged performance throughout their set. You’ll burn some serious calories at one of their shows. Catch them again at 1 a.m. Friday at Palm Door on Sabine.
La Banda Morisca: There’s nothing like walking into a showcase not knowing what to expect and immediately being blown away. That was the case for me at the Russian House’s Sounds of the World showcase on Wednesday night, where flamenco dancer Juan Tomas de la Molia electrified the venue with his rhythmic gymnastics-like moves accompanied by Spain’s blend of Andalusian rock. Their fusion of old world sounds with a unique modern style had festivalgoers getting a cardio workout.
Mokoomba: You have no choice but to dance when this Zimbabwe-based group performs their innovative mix of traditional Tonga and pan-African music with hints of rap, ska and Afro-Cuban music. Their infectious good vibes have long-lasting effects.
With the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA, tied up in the court system and a murky outlook for a legislative fix, the lives of more than 120,000 young immigrants in Texas hangs in limbo.
Since President Donald Trump cancelled DACA in September, it’s been a tumultuous time for an estimated 800,000 youths across the country. Often called “Dreamers,” these young immigrants were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and have work permits that protect them from deportation.
At South by Southwest on Thursday, the nonprofit organization Voto Latino brought together activist musicians for a free “Dream Out Loud” concert at the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake hosted by actor and activist Wilmer Valderrama. Voto Latino announced at the concert that law firm King & Spalding will provide free legal counsel and cover filing fees for those facing deportation. They encouraged DACA recipients and people with temporary protected status to text DREAM to 73179 for more information.
The evening dedicated to Dreamers featured performers including Mexican electro-corrido band Centavrvs, Colombian DJ collective El Freaky, Tex-Mex greats Los Super Seven featuring artists such as Flaco Jimenez, Rick Treviño, Steve Berlin and Max Baca. Legendary musicians Los Lobos, minus David Hidalgo, headlined the show.
Latin American icon Rúben Blades stood alongside a group of DACA recipients who took the stage and shared their stories.
For 21-year-old student Berenice Gonzalez, who majors in biology at Texas A&M International University, the uncertainty over DACA’s future means having to be ready for anything. She lost a semester at school during a period when her DACA permit expired and she couldn’t renew.
Gonzalez said she began saving money at the time in order to move to Nuevo Laredo, where she says she doesn’t know anyone or have any relatives. “At first it was scary,” she said on Thursday. “Now I just try to prepare as much as possible for whatever may come.”
Austin-based singer-songwriter Gina Chavez led a flash mob dance party on the corner of Sixth Street and Red River during South by Southwest in honor of her upcoming single, “Let it Out.”
Chavez released video dance tutorials earlier this week so that fans could learn her moves and join the festivities, which were recorded for the “Let it Out” music video.
After she led the choreographed dance, the artist started a conga line to the Flamingo Cantina, where she performed on Wednesday night. The first 40 people who joined her flash mob dance party got to check out the SXSW show for free.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You don’t need a badge, wristband or even cash to check out some of Tejano music’s biggest stars like Little Joe y La Familia and AJ Castillo during South by Southwest this year. Just head to the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center from March 14-17 for free music with a lakeside view.
For years the Mexican American Experience and Pan Americana Festivals, which take place during the week of South by Southwest but are not part of that festival, have offered music lovers the opportunity to check out diverse Latin music of all kinds. For the first time this year, the two back-to-back festivals are offering four days of Tejano music programming.
Aside from free admission, both festivals offer free parking at Sanchez Elementary, Martin Middle School and Fiesta Gardens. Free shuttles run from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. when the concerts end.
Tejano music legend Jay Perez will headline the Mexican American Experience, which is presented by the MACC and Crossroads Events, on March 14. Other performers include Grammy-nominated vocalist Stefani Montiel and rising artist Devin Banda.
Tejano music star A.J. Castillo returns to the Mexican American Experience festival this year to headline the March 15 showcase. Other performers include San Antonio-based group Jaime DeAnda Los Chamacos and Yayo Castillo y Rumores.
At the Pan Americana Festival, musical heavyweights Ricardo Castillon y La Diferenzia headline the March 16 concert. The Jorge Amayo Band, Angie Gonzalez and a mariachi group to be announced will round out the performers that evening.
Tejano music icon Little Joe y La Familia will headline the festivities on March 17. Veteran performer David Marez, past Tejano Idol winner Ashley Borrero and former Los Texas Wranglers vocalist Nikki Lopez will wrap up the festival.
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.
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.”
Catch iLe at SXSW at 11 p.m. at The Townsend Thursday; 10:20 p.m. at Half Step Friday
At 16 years old, Ileana Cabra stepped into the huge spotlight that her brothers created when they formed the alternative rap duo Calle 13 about a decade ago. As the female backing vocalist, Cabra or PG-13 (as she was known back then) grew up on stage, touring extensively as the group’s fame exploded.
“It was unexpected for us,” she says. “It got very intense, very quickly.” Calle 13 is the name of the street where the family lived, and they moved there because of her, she says. When she was born, the family needed a house with more space. “Our house was always full of art and music,” Cabra says.
But after more than a decade of Grammy winning-albums that catapulted the group to new heights, Calle 13 recently dissolved. Cabra and her brothers Rene Pérez Joglar “Residente” and Eduardo Cabra “Visitante” are now all pursuing their own creative paths.
“We’re still working together in the background, though,” Cabra says. “We still need each other, and I love working with my family.”
This new chapter has meant a solo career for Cabra, whose debut album “iLevitable” recently earned her a Grammy of her own. At South by Southwest this week, Cabra will bring her own vintage, nostalgic sound at several showcases Friday and Saturday.
Cabra says she feels a closeness to the music of yesteryear. Her latest album includes two songs written by her grandmother that had never been recorded. “I feel that’s music from the heart, it’s a more personal.” Since going solo, Cabra has also been writing more. It’s something that she says helps her let go of baggage she accumulates and hopes it helps other women who may struggle with expressing themselves.
With Calle 13, Cabra says she gained confidence as a person and performer. Now as a soloist, she’s learning to trust herself more. “I really want to create more music,” she says. “I want to feel challenged and uncomfortable so that I can explore more of myself.”
While the South by Southwest crowds are worrying about wristbands, badges and lines, Latin music lovers can check out free music with a lakeside view during the Mexican American Experience and Pan Americana festivals March 15-18.
The two separate festivals at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center celebrate the diversity within the Latin music genre by showcasing everything from Tejano grooves to Latin alternative beats. It’s where you can discover new musical gems but also dance to your favorite songs.
Tejano Music Award winners Jaime y Los Chamacos, of San Antonio, will headline the March 15 showcase at the Mexican American Experience. Other featured performers at the showcase, which starts at 5 p.m., include Los García Brothers, Rumores, Lesly Reynaga and Austin Tejano Idol 2011 winner Ashley Borrero.
Tejano music star A.J. Castillo returns to the Mexican American Experience festival this year to headline the March 16 showcase at 10 p.m. Some acts performing earlier that evening include cumbia band Cañonazo, former frontman of Grupo Vida Art Tigerina, former David Lee Garza Y Los Musicales member Ben Ozuna and Austin-based singer Mia Garcia.
Still want more music? Don’t worry — after the Mexican American Experience ends, the Pan Americana Festival begins on March 17-18. Some of their Friday performers include all-female DJ group Chulita Vinyl Club and Rio Jordan (made up of the sons of legendary accordionist Esteban Jordan). Some of the Saturday night performers include Grammy Award winners David Lee Garza y Los Musicales and funk/soul group 80H Project. Check facebook.com/PanAmericanaFestival for schedule and lineup updates.
Here’s the full line-up for the Mexican American Experience:
Doors open at 5 p.m. Times subject to change.
Wed. March 15
5:30 p.m. Lesly Reynaga
6 p.m. Ashley Borrero
7:15 p.m. Rumores
8:30 p.m. Los Garcia Brothers
9:45 p.m Jaime y Los Chamacos
Thursday, March 16
5:30 p.m. Michel/Corpus Christi
6:30 p.m. Cañonazo
7:30 p.m. Ben Ozuna
8:30 p.m. Art Tigerina Band
9:15 p.m. Mia Garcia
10 p.m. AJ Castillo
Here’s the Pan Americana Festival Line-up (talent subject to change)