Festival season is dawning once more, and with it SXSW looms on the horizon. Though it seems the ubiquitous festival couldn’t get any bigger, every year thousands more people manage to pour into Austin, Texas in hopes of making discoveries that will land them ahead of the tastemaking curve in the fields of music, film, television, and tech. Not to mention the hordes of showcasing artists and companies aching to reach new audiences and get a taste of that sweet word-of-mouth buzz SXSW is famous for producing.
The 2017 edition of SXSW was fraught with scandal in the wake of the Trump administration’s enactment of multiple travel bans and brutal ramping up of immigration standards that blocked several artists from entering the country. Even the SXSW organization was touched by controversy due to deportation-related language in their international artist contracts, later releasing a statement reasserting the festival’s commitment to its global showcasing talent. The ordeals sent shockwaves that continue to reverberate through the international music community, questioning the U.S.’s position as a bastion of artistic freedom and whether it’s even worth it for overseas talent to pursue stateside audiences.
As we do every year, we have curated a list of showcasing artists that embody the multitude of genres pushing boundaries across Latin America and the diaspora (as well as one Barcelona-based band). By coming to SXSW, these artists engage in an uphill battle for visibility and marketability, journeying from distant cities and countries, facing exorbitant travel expenses and an unwelcoming migratory process for often questionable gain. That’s why it’s more important than ever to go out and support young talent. These artists are using their work to break down walls and connect us to our communities and heritage, reshaping the definition and expectations of Latino identity in the process.
SXSW Music takes place March 12-18. Check out some of our top selections to see while in Austin.
Bogotá’s biggest party monsters are touching down at SXSW once again, and the collective is bringing every ounce of tropical sabrosuara in their arsenal. Drawing from Colombia’s rich sonic tapestry of cumbia, champeta, gaita and so much more, El Freaky represents the here and now of Colombian urbano music, ready to set parties ablaze all across Austin.
El Freaky will perform at Half Step on March 15 and at Flamingo Cantina on March 16.
Club de Surf
This twisted duo has been making jagged punk garage since 2014, emerging as a disruptive force within the glossy homogeny of Chile’s pop paradise. Club de Surf’s debut EP Sonic Death on Weiner Records is packed with raw and demented riffs, while their latest LP Anhedonia embraced psychedelia to lead their fans into dark new universes.
Club de Surf will perform at Friends on March 13 and Hotel Vegas on March 16.
If you thought Lido Pimienta planned to rest on her laurels after winning Canada’s prestigious Polaris Prize last year, you gravely underestimated the magnitude of her grind. The Colombian-Canadian powerhouse is performing almost every day at SXSW, bringing her empowering lyrics and soaring vocals to festival audiences thirsting for truly remarkable standouts in a veritable sea of talent.
Lido Pimienta will perform at Empire Garage on March 12, Mohawk Indoor on March 15, and The Townsend on March 16.
Amara La Negra
One of the most visible and outspoken voices for Afro-Latinos working in stateside music today, Amara La Negra has proven she is much more than her activism. Whether you know her from 2013’s viral dembow-baile funk hybrid “Ayy” or from her recent headline-making splash on Love & Hip-Hop Miami, SXSW may be your last chance to see this badass dominicana in an intimate setting.
Amara La Negra will perform at Empire Garage on March 12, the Radio Day Stage at the Austin Convention Center on March 14, and at Half Step on March 16.
The Chilean synthpop experimentalist will make her SXSW debut this year with enough indie earworms and androgynous outfits to make Annie Lennox proud.
Entrópica will perform at Friends on March 13 and CU29 on March 16.
This NYC-based Argentine has been building considerable buzz for his compelling blend of punk energy, candid lyricism, and pop idol charm, making him the kind of rare talent best experienced in the comfort of your local dive.
Tall Juan plays the Mohawk Indoor on March 16.
Alemán, FNTXY and Yoga Fire
Where there is smoke, there are fire performances, and the Homegrown Mafia crew is the brightest flame in Mexican hip-hop today. Be ready for several late night turn-ups because putting Alemán, FNTXY, and Yoga Fire in the same room together is a recipe for serious hangovers.
The crew will perform at Flamingo Cantina on March 16.
Salt Cathedral’s evolution from studious jazz-loving indie rockers to laid-back dancehall party band is awe-inspiring, with recent singles “Run For the Money” and “Always There When I Need You” serving as prime examples of their new artistic direction. With their major label debut Big Waves, Small Waves scheduled to drop later this year, this Brooklyn-based Colombian duo is at the cusp of a major breakthrough.
Salt Cathedral will play at The Gatsby on March 14 and at Esther’s Follies on March 15.
Raised in New Jersey and currently based in Brooklyn, Kala is a Boricua DJ and producer colliding global bass, hip-hop, and punk with a particular commitment to social commentary. Check out last year’s L.O.T.O. EP, which is packed with beautiful late-night dance floor meditations.
Kala plays the HyperlinkPartyATX 2018 at Lit Lounge on March 14.
DJ Jigüe and El Menor
DJ Jigüe draws from Afro-Caribbean heritage and the distinct flourishes of traditional Cuban music to concoct a sound that is jovial, rapturous, rooted in rich tradition, and ultimately, all his own. This afro-futurist musical scientist from Havana, Cuba is also one of the masterminds behind independent urban music label Guampara.
DJ Jigüe and El Menor will play at Flamingo Cantina on March 15, the International Day Stage at the Austin Convention Center on March 16, and at Speakeasy on March 17.
Currently on tour with Cuco and Jasper Bones, SXSW is the perfect place for audiences to discover and embrace August Eve on her own sheer talent. The young Los Angeles native’s vintage voice and highly stylized productions make for an evocative and cinematic listening experience.
August Eve will play the Mohawk Indoor on March 16.
Futuristic and psychedelic cumbia, urgent as it is immersive – that is what Combo Chimbita bring to the table. The release of their 2017 debut album Abya Yala galvanized the NYC-based Colombians, blasting them into the collective consciousness and playing a seemingly endless stream of gigs ever since.
Combo Chimbita play at Barracuda Backyard on March 14 and Palm Door on Sixth on March 16.
Baywaves can be defined as fuzzy, sunny hypnopop from Spain. Their EP Only For Uz released on Foehn Records in 2016 garnered them enough buzz to tour around Spain and even play Primavera Sound to much fanfare. Baywaves are part of the annual wave of captivating Spanish bands that leave SXSW reverberating in their wake.
Baywaves will play at Seven Grand on March 14 and The Townsend on March 16.
We’ve had Juan Ingaramo in our sights for quite some time. The Argentine multi-instrumentalist has two full-length albums under his belt, and his sound has begun to evolve from indie pop singer-songwriter into bolder trap-influenced territory, as on recent banger “Hace Calor.” This is a transformation you’ll want to experience live.
Juan Ingaramo will play at The Main on March 14 and the Flatstock Stage at the Austin Convention Center on March 15.
If you like St. Vincent, you’re going to love LaBaq. This Brazilian guitar prodigy and entrepreneur dropped her personal and buoyant debut album • v o a • in 2016. She is also one of the co-founders of Festival Sonora, a musical movement specifically providing platforms for emerging women musicians around the world. Though LaBaq rules the festival’s São Paulo chapter, Sonora now holds editions in 65 cities in 15 different countries.
LaBaq will play at CU29 on March 15.