The first album to be released on the new Discos Peligrosa record label, Kiko Villamizar’s “La Remolacha,” is an exhilarating fusion of Latin American and Caribbean sounds with ample jazz and a few hints of hip-hop thrown in for good measure. The album is out today and DJ collective Peligrosa will celebrate the release and the launch of the label, helmed by founding member Orión García, at its monthly throwdown Friday night at Empire. The party will mark a new chapter for Peligrosa. Well-established as one of the city’s best DJ events, keeping Austin dance floors hot for more than seven years, it expands into a two-stage affair, with García booking live bands inside the club. Villamizar will perform with an ensemble featuring over a dozen musicians and dancers. Psychedelic cumbia outfit Money Chicha will also play.
The idea of branching into live music and running a record label has been in the back of García’s mind for the better part of a decade. “I know from personal experience how hard it is to be a musician and be an entrepreneur, because you have to be both if you want to be successful,” he said.
As Peligrosa’s profile rose — the DJ crew has done two European and three U.S. tours — he began researching what it takes to successfully release and promote music. When his old friend and former roommate Villamizar approached him for engineering advice, García took the album on as his first project. It was an easy call. “I can’t think of an album as Afro-Colombian and diverse at the same time as Kiko’s album since my parents gave me their records,” he said.
A first-generation American, Villamizar spent his formative years bouncing back and forth between Medellín, Colombia, and the United States. His family was very musical, part of the Colombian serenade tradition, and he made his vocal debut singing in the family choir at age 6. A brief stint in South Carolina during his high school years was transformational. Listening to the black gospel choirs of the area, singers he refers to as “the heavyweights of music,” he learned how to set his own voice free. He later went on to study voice at the University of Miami, and though he plays a wide variety of instruments, from native Colombian flutes and drums to guitar, his powerful voice remains his primary musical vehicle.
After college he took on a nomadic lifestyle moving around the country with a backpack and a guitar. He lived with Jamaicans and Nuyoricans in Orlando, and he ran an American roots music night in New York City. Through his travels he explored indigenous music of the Americas and the imported sounds “of people who were forced to migrate,” the tension and the magic that happens when the two meet.
The title of his album, “La Remolacha,” translates to “The Beet.” It serves as a metaphor, central to both the album and his musical journey. “It is about an underground beet/beat … of cumbia, and of immigration,” he said. “It is about how indigenous people, whether they be American indigenous or African indigenous people, can not be uprooted.”
The album is emotional, a lament over the violence Villamizar witnessed as a youth in Colombia and an outcry against imbalance and injustice wherever it exists. Ultimately, he hopes the album will offer “medicine” to his listeners. “Healing for their spirit, for their psyche, for whatever music does for people.”
‘Get to Know’ Charlie Belle
Teenage trio Charlie Belle celebrates the release of its debut EP “Get to Know” tomorrow night at Holy Mountain, but the band is already generating buzz. Last week they received a nod from NPR’s national music desk and tonight they appear on KLBJ 93.7 FM’s Local Licks program. Never mind that the band’s elder, vocalist/guitarist Jendayi Bonds, is only 16 — their appeal is a thoroughly appealing take on ’90s-style alt-pop. Their songs are catchy indie gems — breezy on the surface but packed with witty lyricism and carefully tempered hints of melancholy. Catch them now and you can say you saw them way back when, on a school night.
Who should keynote SXSW 2015?
Amid much kerfuffle about city permits for events in parking lots during the South by Southwest Music Festival, we reported last fall that the massive vending machine/premium stage/garish spectacle Doritos has erected for the last few years in the parking lot of Carmelo’s Italian restaurant would not return to that space in 2015. A few weeks back, in a visit to the Statesman office, SXSW organizers confirmed that the chip company will not be at the festival at all this year. (Doritos representatives have not responded to a request for comment.)
For many critics last year, Doritos became a representation of how corporate sponsorship has led the festival astray. In addition to programming the vending machine stage, Doritos sponsored a concert by last year’s keynote speaker Lady Gaga. In order to gain entry to the show, Gaga fans (and music journalists) were required to participate in a ham-handed “Bold Moves” social media campaign which had credentialed fest-goers performing publicity stunts for the company. Gaga’s performance was widely panned. Her keynote address had a few salient points about individual creativity in the modern music industry but was largely a softball conversation with a fanboy interviewer, Fuse TV’s John Norris.
In the wake of all that, who could SXSW tap this year to bring the festival back into focus? I’ve turned this over in my head a hundred times, and I always return to the one obvious choice:
Why? Leaving aside the fact that it’s 2015 and the festival has never tapped a hip-hop artist to keynote, the drummer and musical director for the Roots is now also the leader of the Tonight Show band. His day job is to create musical arrangements for an elite selection of the most relevant musicians performing today, superstars and emerging artists alike. Beyond that, he’s a huge technology geek. His early adoption of blogging software in the late ’90s contributed to the creation of the Roots’ website okayplayer.com. Through its message board communities, hip-hop heads from around the world met, traded verses and ideas and argued about pretty much everything. The site was absolutely instrumental in undoing much of the regionalism that was central to hip-hop’s identity at the time. To this day, he functions as not just a musician, but one of our generation’s essential thinkers and philosophers. In 2014 he eloquently challenged artists to create post-millennial protest music and weighed in reasonably on the Iggy Azalea debate. Also, that D’Angelo album that everyone lost their minds over around Christmas time? He co-produced it.
How likely is it? At first glance, it seems like a long shot. He is an awfully busy man, and unless the Tonight Show is going to follow Kimmel’s lead and do a week in Austin, which seems unlikely, the scheduling would be tough. But when you take into account his pet project, the VH1 show “SoundClash” he executive produces, it begins to seem much more plausible. “SoundClash” puts bands that wouldn’t normally collaborate together for mashup mixes of cover songs. The show premiered in July and has produced a few incredible collabs — think Ed Sheeran, Sia and Grouplove doing “Drunk In Love.” But it has not received a ton of buzz. Where better to supercharge the show than at SXSW? Thousands of musicians converging on Austin create endless mix-and-match possibilities, not to mention the greatest showcase ever. If the stars align correctly, it’s not out of the question, and, quite frankly, it would be the best possible thing to happen to the fest.