SXSW 2018: When the sounds of the world come to Austin

Often overshadowed by big names and buzz bands, South by Southwest’s rich world music program is one of the festival’s greatest assets. Many of the artists playing these showcases are top-tier talent in their native countries. They bring with them rhythm, passion and beautiful stories from around the globe. These showcases tend to be somewhat under the radar, and in many cases uncredentialed music lovers can pay a cover at the door.

Here, Deborah Sengupta Stith and Nancy Flores from the Statesman and Michael Crockett, host of “Horizontes” on KUTX-FM, share some of their SXSW world music picks. All three will discuss SXSW and world music this Sunday on “Horizontes,” which airs at 7 p.m. on KUTX-FM, 98.9.


Amara La Negra (Miami). VH1’s “Love and Hip Hop” is becoming a consistent launchpad for America’s hottest female urban music stars. The Dominican American artist starred in the Miami edition, and she’s about to make a huge pop crossover with her jubilant Spanglish club bangers. She has used the platform created by the show to call out colorism in the Latin music industry, and in the process she’s become an Afro-Latina style icon. (1 a.m., Empire Garage; also: 1 p.m. March 14, Radio Day Stage, 1 a.m. Half Step) — Deborah Sengupta Stith

Van Ness Wu (Taiwan/Los Angeles). The actor, boy band star and all-around Taiwanese heartthrob closes out a night of hip-hop, electronic music and pop from Taiwan with schmaltzy cinematic pop designed to tug at hearts and make the ladies scream. (1 a.m., Elysium) — D.S.S.

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OY (Berlin). On their new release, “Space Diaspora,” the German electro duo beams in from a bright future where celestial synths float over a dancefloor bumping mix of poly-rhythms. (11:30 p.m., Barracuda Backyard; also: 3 p.m. March 14, International Day Stage; midnight March 17, Russian House) — D.S.S.

Also recommended:

British Music Embassy at Latitude 30

Manitoba Music/Sask Music/M4Montreal at Bungalow


Wentru (Antofagasta, Chile). Opening a showcase for bands from Chile, Wentru, who take their name from a Mapuche Indian word, deliver a soothing mix of acoustic and electronic sounds mixed with lovely vocal harmonies evoking the desert-meets-the-sea landscape surrounding the city they are from. (8 p.m., Friends) — Michael Crockett/”Horizontes” on KUTX-FM

World Music Unleashed by SIPM (Austin). This East-West collaboration by musicians from Austin’s own School of Indian Percussion and Music with various other instrumentalists seems to be the perfect start to an evening of Austin-based South Asian music at the Russian House. (10 p.m., Russian House) — M.C.

Black Prophet (Accra, Ghana). A night of roots reggae at Flamingo Cantina ends with this singer from Ghana who mixes reggae with traditional African music and a bit of hip-hop as well. (Midnight, Flamingo Cantina) — M.C.

Los Outsaiders (Lima, Peru). When the Sounds From Peru showcase debuted at SXSW last year, these rockers turned heads with their blend of rock-pop. Now, the band returns to the fest as one of Peru’s most prominent indie rock bands. (11 p.m., Maggie Mae’s Rooftop) — Nancy Flores

Adahzeh (Kingston, Jamaica). It’s inspiring to see this all-female outfit break barriers and excel in a male-dominated reggae genre. It was vocalist and keyboardist Karissa Palmer’s dream to form a female ensemble, and now the rising artists are gaining buzz beyond Jamaica. (11 p.m., Flamingo Cantina) — N.F.

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Pussy Riot (Moscow). The protest punk outfit made international headlines in 2012 when members of the group were arrested for performing “Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away” in Moscow’s Savior’s Cathedral. Since their release in 2013, they’ve become international activists, advocating for freedom, feminism and LGBT rights. Recently, they’ve been releasing songs in English, including the Trump-taunting track “Make America Great Again.” (7:15 p.m., the Main; also: midnight March 14, the Belmont) — D.S.S.

Wunmi (Lagos, Nigeria/Brooklyn). Born in London, her formative years were split between the U.K. and Nigeria. She plays body-bumping Afro house that combines tribal polyrhythms with British club styles. (Midnight, Parish) — D.S.S.

Also recommended:

Estado de Sitio (Lima, Peru) 9 p.m., Maggie Mae’s Rooftop

Lolo Lovina (Sydney) 11:30 p.m., Lucille

British Music Embassy at Latitude 30

Sounds Australia at Lucille


Filipe Catto (Porto Alegre, Brazil). With a beautiful countertenor voice and a glamorous stage presence, this Brazilian singer has been compared to Queen’s Freddie Mercury and Brazilian singer Ney Matogrosso. This early performance is unfortunately the only time to catch him, so don’t miss it. (7 p.m., Sheraton Backyard) — M.C. 

Christina Rosenvinge (Madrid). Part of the 10th annual Sounds of Spain showcase, singer-songwriter Christina Rosenvinge first appeared at SXSW in 2001 introducing the first of three English-language indie rock albums recorded in New York. She has since returned to Spain and is recording in Spanish, including a great Spanish version of Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat.” (9 p.m., Bungalow) — M.C.

Mokoomba (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe). Having seen this band a couple of years ago, I can attest to their energetic and powerful live show featuring many styles of African music. They have two albums that reflect a pan-African electric dance side and a more acoustic side with traditional Zimbabwean music. With a smaller room at the Russian House, a more intimate acoustic set may be in store, but local Zimbabwean music group Rattletree will follow, so an end-of-evening jam is a possibility … and then perhaps a more electric set at the Flamingo Cantina 11:30 pm on March 15. (midnight, Russian House) — M.C.

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The Chamanas (Ciudad Juárez/El Paso). These SXSW alums draw musical influences from 1970s Mexican pop and contemporary indie music. The Chamanas have credited Austin singer-songwriter David Garza with motivating the band members to launch the group that’s been on the rise in the Latin alternative music scene. (9 p.m., Speakeasy) —N.F.

Astrolabio (Bogotá, Colombia). This Colombian band likes to call its sound “alterlatino” pop. It blends Latin rhythms with alternative and pop music and results in fresh, upbeat and danceable grooves. (10 p.m., Stephen F’s Bar) —N.F.

Centavrvs (Mexico City). It’s a perfect blend of electro-corridos, which marries Mexican folk ballads with electronic rhythms. (Midnight, Karma Lounge; also: 5:15 p.m. March 15, SXSW Outdoor Stage Presented by MGM Resorts) —N.F.

Bad Gyal (Barcelona, Spain). The Spanish sensation who hit viral gold with a cover of Rihanna’s “Work” is having a moment. Less than an hour after we left a meeting where SXSW staffers raved about her charisma and easy swag, The Washington Post crowned her the “future-present of club music” in a review of her D.C. debut. Her crowd in D.C. was relatively small, but by the time she leaves SXSW, we predict her rooms will be packed. (11 p.m., Bungalow; also: 6:15 p.m. March 13, the Main) — D.S.S.

Soweto Kinch (Birmingham, U.K.).The underground jazz scene in Britain is on fire right now with a wealth of young artists exploring new sonic avenues. The alto saxophonist and rapper creates vibrant compositions that layer complex jazz structures over hip-hop backbeats. (Midnight, Waller Ballroom; also: midnight March 15, Elephant Room) — D.S.S.

Also recommended:

Punjabtronix (Bristol, U.K.), 8 p.m., Barcelona

Luz Pinos (Guayaquil, Ecuador), midnight, Stephen F’s Bar

Rawayana (Caracas, Venezuela), 1 a.m., Speakeasy

British Music Embassy at Latitude 30

Sounds of Norway at Elysium

Glasgow Buckaroo Part II at Hotel Vegas Annex

Focus Wales at the Townsend


Alsarah & the Nubatones (Brooklyn/Sudan). Sudanese singer Alsarah and her sister sing traditional music from their homeland accompanied by the oud, bass, various percussion and electronics of their Brooklyn-based band the Nubatones. Also playing at the Palm Door on Sixth on March 16. (9:30 p.m., Flamingo Cantina) — M.C.

Yemen Blues (NYC/Israel). Yemen Blues is part of a strong global lineup that lasts all night at Flamingo Cantina. Led by Yemenite Israeli singer/composer Ravid Kahalani, the band has the heavy bass and brass sound of ’70s Ethiopian jazz and the bluesy sound of the Arabic oud mixed with other African and even Latin rhythms. Also playing March 16 at the Palm Door on Sixth Patio. (8:30 p.m., Flamingo Cantina) — M.C.

La Fragua Band (Medellin, Colombia). Part of the annual SXSW all-Colombian music showcase at Speakeasy, La Fragua Band plays what they call “sicotropico” music — a mix of psychedelic rock over tropical rhythms from Colombia (11 p.m., Speakeasy ) — M.C.

Luna Lee (Seoul, South Korea). Luna Lee isn’t just a musician — she’s a pioneer. As the one and only gayageum rocker, she’s managed to bring a traditional Korean zither-like string instrument into the 21st century by redesigning it to fit her love of rock music. Seoul-based Lee developed a custom gayageum to play everything from Pink Floyd songs to Jimi Hendrix, which has earned her scores of loyal fans on YouTube. (9 p.m., Russian House; also: 1:30 p.m. March 16, Flatstock Stage at Austin Convention Center) — N.F.

WHERE’S THE PARTY? Use our searchable side party database to plan your fun

Liniker e os Caramelows (Araraquara, Brazil). After a successful SXSW debut last year, transgender Brazilian singer Liniker Barros returns to the fest fronting this popular South American soul band. Barros first captured Brazil’s attention after a YouTube video of a performance went viral, but the singer has been writing songs since she was 16. (Midnight at Russian House; also: TBA March 16 at Palm Door on Sixth Patio) — N.F.

Quique Escamilla (Toronto, Canada). Originally from Chiapas, Mexico, this multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter blends Mexican folk music such as huapango and rancheras with jazz, pop, rock and ska. His socially conscious music also sheds light on issues ranging from civil rights to immigration reform. (1 a.m., Victorian Room at the Driskill; also: 9 p.m. March 17, Flamingo Cantina) — N.F.

Yahyel (Tokyo, Japan). The five-piece indie outfit band lays bluesy vocals over evocative electronics to create chilled-out, downtempo pop songs. Part of the Sounds From Japan showcase. (1 am., Maggie Mae’s) — D.S.S.

Ace Tee (Hamburg, Germany) Born in Germany to Ghanaian parents, the rapper also known as Tarin Wilda makes upbeat hip-hop with a ’90s R&B vibe. She scored a major smash at home last year with “Bist de Down,” and we promise you don’t need to know a word of German to “Bounce auf dem Beat” with her. (10 p.m., Friends; also: 10 p.m. March 12, Barracuda; 10 p.m. March 14, Waller Ballroom) — D.S.S.

Also recommended:

Pierre Kwenders (Kinshasa/Quebec), 7:30 p.m., Flamingo Cantina

La Fame (Miami), 8 p.m., Half Step

La Cuneta Son Machin (Managua, Nicaragua), 10:30 p.m., Flamingo Cantina

MTA Festival: China Night at 3Ten

Berlin Beats/Musicboard Berlin at Barcelona

British Music Embassy at Latitude 30

Sounds From Italy at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room

Bureau Export France at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop

Musicalize presents British Takeover at the Main II

Halifax Pop Explosion at Swan Dive Patio

Music From Ireland at the Velveeta Room


Sahad & Nataal Patchwork (Dakar, Senegal). Anchoring a mostly French West African showcase at Malverde, this Senegalese band mixes a bit of Malian blues with a lot of brassy Afrobeat. (11 p.m., Malverde) — M.C.

Remma Schwarz (Praia, Cape Verde). A singer-songwriter and guitarist who has lived and played all over West Africa and France and has written songs for Cape Verdean artists like Sara Tavares. His music is an acoustic-electric mix with elements of reggae, hip-hop, pan-African and Cape Verdean styles. (9 p.m., Malverde) — M.C.

Gepe (Santiago, Chile). Returning to SXSW after five years, Chilean songwriter and singer Daniel Riveros, who performs as Gepe, has continued to release thoughtful and joyous acoustic pop songs influenced somewhat by Andean folk music. He has toured the U.S. several times but so far has performed in Austin only at SXSW, so don’t miss him. (1 a.m., the Townsend; also: midnight March 17, Javelina) — M.C.


Andrea Cruz (Cayey, Puerto Rico). After Hurricane María devastated Puerto Rico, this singer-songwriter had to put all of her concerts and promotional efforts on hold. Instead, she traveled around the island handing out food to affected families and took her folk-pop music with her. (9 p.m., Speakeasy) — N.F.

Payambó (Bogotá, Colombia). Get ready for a dance party. This six-piece outfit fuses Colombian folk rhythms with rock to make high-energy music that’ll surely be a fun live experience. (Midnight, Russian House; also: 11 p.m. March 16, Flamingo Cantina) — N.F.

Tita Lima (Los Angeles via Brazil). Tita Lima’s avant-garde-tinged vocals may be inspired from her childhood influences. She’s the daughter of Liminha, bass player for Os Mutantes, a popular Brazilian psychedelic rock band. Austinites may remember Lima from her collaboration with local musician and producer Adrian Quesada and his soulful funk/psychedelic band, Echocentrics. (8 p.m., Russian House) — N.F.

Mallrat (Brisbane, Australia). We’re not sure exactly what’s going on with the abundance of unusually astute pop coming from young women of Australia, but 19-year-old Gracie Shaw layers witty lyricism into upbeat electro grooves. Listen to “Uninvited” and tell us she’s not the slacker girl you want to skip out of the cool kid party with. (Midnight, Lucille) — D.S.S.

Kwesta (Johannesburg, South Africa). For years, the independent emcee has been tackling weighty topics with his lyrical flow. A star in his home country, he recently collaborated with rapper Wale on the single “Spirit.” His next project includes Rick Ross and Tory Lanez, and he hopes to move onto the international stage. (11:45 p.m., Highland Lounge; also: 1:15 a.m. March 14, Mohawk Outdoor) — D.S.S.

Also recommended:

Cheryl Rivera (San Juan), 8 p.m., Speakeasy

Silibrina (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 1 a.m., Elephant Room

Bohemian Betyars (Miskolc, Hungary), 1 a.m., Palm Door on Sabine

Korea Spotlight at the Belmont

British Music Embassy at Latitude 30

Japan Nite at Elysium

Musicalize presents British Takeover at the Main II

Sounds of Hungary at Palm Door on Sabine

Sounds From Italy at Stephen F Austin

Pop Montreal at Swan Dive / M Is for Montreal at Swan Dive Patio


La Misa Negra (Oakland, Calif.). This seven-piece band is a powerhouse of brass and Afro-Latin rhythms from cumbia to salsa with clever and socially conscious lyrics sung by Diana Trujillo, whose voice wails above it all. Their song about the seductive “Pistola” couldn’t be more relevant right now. (12:45 a.m., Speakeasy; also: 10 p.m. March 16, Russian House) — M.C.

Pommez Internacional(Buenos Aires, Argentina). Returning to SXSW with a new album, this Argentine band throws in elements of electronic music, world music and even a bit of Argentine folk rhythms that provide a diversity in their Latin alternative music worth checking out. (11 p.m., Javelina; also: 1:10 a.m. March 14, Speakeasy Kabaret) — M.C. 

Boogat (Montreal, Canada). This Montreal-based Mexican-Canadian vocalists delivers a great show of cumbia, reggaeton, salsa and hip-hop in Spanish, French and English. (11:20 p.m., Speakeasy; also: 11 p.m. March 16, Russian House) — M.C.

Lorine Chia (Bamenda, Cameroon). Like many immigrants, Lorine Chia navigates between two worlds. As a young girl, she moved from Cameroon to Baltimore and struggled to fit in before learning how to play the guitar. Her soulful R&B music tells stories of love and empowerment. Her song “Black Girl Magic” is an ode to black women across the globe. (11 p.m., Palm Door on Sixth Patio) — N.F.

Gato Preto (Düsseldorf, Germany). Walk into an Afro-futuristic world with this electronic duo that’s known for its high-energy live performances. Producer Lee Bass is half-Ghanian and half-German while rapper/singer Gata Misteriosa grew up in Portugal and has roots in Mozambique. (Noon, International Day Stage Austin Convention Center; also: 10 p.m. Friday, Palm Door on Sixth) —N.F.

Deluxe (Aix-en-Provence, France). The French six-piece has an affinity for ridiculous mustaches, copious sequins and brassy, sassy glitz. With a vintage cabaret aesthetic and ample modern electronics, they play a new-school version of gypsy jazz. (1 a.m., Mohawk indoor; also: 11 p.m. March 14, Sheraton Backyard; 1 a.m. March 15, Maggie Mae’s Rooftop) —D.S.S.

Jay Park/Ph-1 (Seattle/Seoul, South Korea). K-pop has a bigger presence than ever at SXSW, and this showcase demonstrates how quickly the genre is moving toward the American mainstream. Jay Park, a Korean American singer, rapper and former K-pop star who just signed to Roc Nation, founded the label H1ghr Music with collaborator Cha Cha Malone. They set up the business as a global enterprise featuring Korean and American rappers. Park and Malone host this showcase that features Seattle rappers Raz Simone and Avatar Darko alongside South Korean Ph-1. (Park hosts all night at the Main) — D.S.S.

Also recommended:

Papachina (Armenia, Colombia), 10 p.m., Flamingo Cantina

Lido Pimienta (Toronto/Colombia), 10:40 p.m., Speakeasy

Makana (Honolulu, Hawaii), 10 p.m., CU29

Zona Indie at 720 Club

Sounds from Africa and the Caribbean at 800 Congress

British Music Embassy at Latitude 30

Intl Hip Hop at the Main II

Sounds from the World at Russian House

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