Global sounds have been a part of the South by Southwest Music Festival since its beginning nearly 30 years ago, and the international component has grown yearly since. Of the nearly 2,200 bands scheduled to play this year’s event, 584 are international acts.
Though many of the artists traveling thousands of miles to share their sounds are top-billed performers in their home countries, these showcases generally take place in the shadows of high-profile headliners and buzz bands. This makes them some of the most accessible events for locals without credentials. Though all official shows offer priority entry to SXSW badge and wristband holders, it’s possible to pay a cover charge of $5-$20 at many international showcases. As Austin has grown as an international city, these shows have become rich gathering spots for local expats from around the world.
Over the past five years or so, Latin music has flourished at the festival, with many South American countries represented in their own showcases. This year’s lineup includes dedicated nights for Chile, Uruguay and Colombia. On the Asian front, Japan Nite, one of the flagship international fest events, celebrates 20 years this year, Korea expands to two nights of dedicated showcases, and for the first time Pakistan has a big presence at the festival.
The festival provides an incredible opportunity for Austinites to explore the world without leaving our own city limits, and this guide is an overview of the places you can go. --D.S.S.
Sounds from Chile at Icenhauer’s: In recent years, Chile has been a hotbed for producing rising Latin alternative indie artists. When Lollapalooza debuted outside the U.S. in 2011, it launched in Chile. Check out the artists who are bringing everything from synth-pop to folk at various all-Chilean SXSW showcases. (Show starts at 8 p.m. Also playing 8 p.m. Saturday at Maggie Mae’s) — N.F.
Songhoy Blues (Bamako, Mali): Belonging to the Songhoy ethnic group of northern Mali, the band members were driven out of their homeland on the banks of the Niger when radical Islamists took control of the region and banned music. They formed the band in Bamako in the south of Mali and were soon packing local clubs. Though the rhythm, vocal patterns and guitar prowess are reminiscent of the desert blues popularized by Tinariwen, their sound is livelier with a more direct lineage to Western guitar greats like Jimi Hendrix. (11:30 p.m. at Buffalo Billiards; also 10 p.m. Thursday at Hotel Vegas and 11:40 p.m. Friday at the Parish) —D.S.S.
Rangleklods/Hitchhiker/Perfume at Highland. A transcontinental night of electronica gets interesting around 11 p.m., when Eurocool club specialists Rangleklods, a Danish dance pop duo, takes the stage. South Korea’s Hitchhiker switches things up with a harder take on EDM at 11:45 p.m., and Japanese girl band Perfume takes things out at 1 a.m. with danceable electro-pop. —D.S.S.
SXAméricas: Zona Indie at Elysium: From Brazilian hip-hop to Ecuadorian electronic music, this showcase features indie artists from throughout Latin America and Portugal. (Show starts at 8 p.m.) — N.F.
MPeach (Caracas, Venezuela): Get your cardio workout on the dance floor with electronic music influenced by a fusion of Changa Tuki (Venezuela’s upbeat dance music), folk and Afro-Caribbean beats. MPeach is also an audio/visual artist, and has completed several installations in New York. (11:30 p.m. at Russian House; 9:05 p.m. Saturday at Speakeasy) — N.F.
Rwina Records showcase at Barcelona (Netherlands): The Dutch imprint presents a night of cutting-edge electronica, kicking off with the intelligent dance music of Torus (The Hague) and ending with the oozy ambient electro-jazz of Jameszoo (De Bosch). Show kicks off at 8 p.m. — D.S.S.
Caloncho (Guadalajara, Mexico): Get transported to a tropical paradise with the upbeat and sophisticated pop songs that are making this Mexican artist one to watch. (9 p.m. at Icenhauer’s; 1:10 a.m. Friday at Red Eyed Fly Inside) — N.F.
Haroon at Victorian Room at the Driskill (Islamabad, Pakistan). The highlight of the FACE: Music of Pakistan showcase is the dreamy heartthrob who sings the kind of schmaltzy, dramatic pop songs that figure in to key scenes in modern Bollywood flicks. He also rocks out over Arabic backbeats. (Midnight, also 1 a.m. Thursday at Palm Door on Sixth) —D.S.S.
Sounds from Uruguay at Speakeasy: Sandwiched between South American giants Argentina and Brazil, the tiny country of Uruguay has been capturing the world’s attention for its vibrant cultural and music scene. (Show starts at 8:30 p.m.) — N.F.
Elliphant (Stockholm, Sweden): Her coy vocals slide easily from R&B hooks into a sassy hip-hop flow that works well whether laid over midtempo electro-pop or a dancehall club grooves. (9 p.m. at Clive Bar; also 10:45 p.m. Friday at the Main) —D.S.S.
Stromae (Brussels, Belgium): An international superstar who sings in French, the singer and rapper — aka Paul van Haver — makes exhilarating indietronica mixed with hip-hop, house and occasional Latin horns. (11 p.m. at Stubb’s) — D.S.S.
Call me Lolla (São Paulo, Brazil): Sweet folk-pop music with a Brazilian twist that brings together instruments like charangos and mandolins. (1 a.m. at 18th floor at Hilton Garden Inn) — N.F.
Sounds from Colombia: Set the bar high when dealing with music from the birthplace of cumbia. This year it features innovative bands playing everything from reggae to rock fusions. Make sure to check out Monophonicos, a band that blends vintage samples from the gramophone era with contemporary beats. (8 p.m. at Speakeasy) — N.F.
KPop Night Out at Elysium: Korean music at the fest has grown into two big showcases, and though this one is billed as KPop, the styles represented go deeper than the saccharine manufactured pop songs associated with the genre. Highlights include retro doo-wop girl group the Barberettes, who play at 9:30 p.m., and excellent hip-hop outfit Epik High, who close the show out at 1:10 a.m. (Korea Night II, Seoulsonic, is Friday at the Majestic) — D.S.S.
Huichol (Nayarit, Mexico): The fusion of Mexican regional music and Huichol rhythms result in an innovative cultural soundscape that’s sung in Spanish and Huichol. (11 p.m. at Russian House; 10 p.m. Saturday at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary) — N.F.
Digiwaxx/Okayafrica at Speakeasy Kabaret: Okayafrica, an offshoot of the Roots flagship website Okayplayer, is dedicated to exploring sounds of Africa and the African diaspora. This excellent showcase does the same. Highlights include quirky Kenyan electro act Just a Band, Jamaican reggae and soul artist Gyptian, and first generation American Rafiya, who spent much of her childhood moving around the continent. (Time TBA) — D.S.S.
La Inedita (Lima, Peru): Creating their own musical style called “Chichamuffin,” La Inedita blends chicha (cumbia from the Peruvian Amazon) with ragamuffin and dancehall music with rock and hip-hop. (1 a.m. at Russian House; TBA Saturday at Flamingo Cantina) — N.F.
Laleh at Buffalo Billiards (Stockholm, Sweden): Former Iranian refugee/Swedish national Laleh Pourkarim makes sweeping anthemic pop songs loaded with universal tales of love through hardship. She’s a star in Scandinavia, and her song “Some Die Young” became a healing anthem in Norway after a pair of terrorist attacks that shook the country in 2011. (9 p.m.; also 12:10 a.m. Friday at Stubb’s) — D.S.S.
Tanya Tagaq at Flamingo Cantina (Brandon, MB, Canada): A wildly experimental Inuk punk singer who mixes Inuit throat singing and chants with climatic electronic noise. (11 p.m.; also 11 p.m. Friday at Speakeasy and midnight Saturday at Swan Dive) — D.S.S.
Japan Nite 20th Anniversary at Elysium: Explore a spectrum of Japanese sounds from J-pop duo Moumoon, who are making their debut American appearance, to Kyoto folk from Pirates Canoe. All girl rock trio Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re headlines. Show kicks off at 7:20 p.m. —D.S.S.
Ibeyi at Central Presbyterian (Paris, France): French Cuban twin sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz sparsely mix piano, percussion and their haunting voices into an ethereal, entrancing blend. (9:30 p.m.; also 10 p.m. Saturday at Bungalow.) — D.S.S.
Bituaya (Caracas, Venezuela): An electro-Caribbean experience that’ll have your hips shaking. (8:45 p.m. at Flamingo Cantina) — N.F.
Hashback Hashish (New Dehli, India): With a cool minimalist aesthetic, the DJ-producer captures the city slicker vibe of modern urban India. (11 p.m. at the Iron Bear) — D.S.S.
Sounds from Spain at Lucille: An eclectic mix of sounds that includes, among other bands, vibrant punk rock from Disco Las Palmeras! and multicultural global grooves from popular Spanish artist Macaco. (Show starts at 8 p.m.) — N.F.
Sounds of Africa/Sounds of the Caribbean at the Palm Door on Sixth: Inside the venue, travel the continent of Africa with Afropop showcases from artists from Ghana, Kenya, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Lagos-based D’Banj headlines. Meanwhile, on the patio, a reggae showcase headlined by Kingston’s Mr. Vegas presents artists from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the U.S. (Show starts at 8:10 p.m.) — D.S.S.
MMF LA at Red Eyed Fly: The Latin American chapter of the International Music Manager’s Forum presents a showcase of artists from Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. (Show starts at 8 p.m.) — N.F.
Auditorium Shores Stage at Lady Bird Lake: As part of SXAméricas, the fest will present a Latino show featuring Colombia’s Bomba Estéreo and Mexico’s Compass. Texas natives Intocable also will perform. SXSW alums Bomba Estéreo return to the festival to deliver what’s sure to be a sweaty dance party. And Compass, a highly anticipated collaboration between Mexico City-based DJ Camilo Lara and DJ Toy Selectah, will anchor the show. (Show starts at 6 p.m.) — N.F.
Trinidad and Tobago presents Callaloo at Karma Lounge: Atlanta rapper Trinidad James is best known for his dirty South rap, but he goes back to his familial roots headlining this showcase named after the national dish made with leafy vegetables and coconut milk. The artists on the bill include traditional steelpan drum players and acts that incorporate East Indian sounds, reflecting the diverse culture of the islands. (Show starts at 7:45 p.m.) — D.S.S.
La Guacha (Santiago, Chile): Catchy lyrics and pop goodness make this Chilean band’s songs stand out. (1 p.m. International Day Stage at Austin Convention Center; 1 a.m. at Maggie Mae’s ) — N.F.
V-Rox Festival showcase: The Vladivostok Rocks festival, now in its third year, takes place on the far east side of Russia near the Korean peninsula, and presents a blend of Russian, European and Asian artists. Festival host band Mumiy Troll headlines the SXSW showcase that features a mix of artists from Russia, China, Korea and Japan. (Show starts at 8 p.m.) — D.S.S.
Taiwan Music Night at Icenhauer’s: The island nation presents a showcase of diverse sounds headlined by rapper Dwagie. Artists playing rock, pop and electronic music are also represented. (Show starts at 8 p.m.)— D.S.S.
Marcelo Fruet & os Cozinheiros (Porto Alegre, Brazil): Chilled-out indie pop with a unique and contemporary Brazilian spin. (9 p.m. at Esther’s Follies) — N.F.