SXAméricas will present the Sounds of Cuba showcase, the first of its kind in the 30 year history of SXSW.
Five Cubans acts – a record – will play at SXSW. The showcase will take place on Friday, March 18 at Speakeasy (412 Congress Ave).
The Cuban groups come from the hip-hop and jazz genres that is sweeping the island nation today. Prior to taking the stage on March 18, Kelvis Ochoa and X Alfonso will speak during the day at the Austin Convention Center about the future of the energetic, eclectic, and brilliantly independent Cuban sound now that the country is beginning to rapidly open up to the rest of the world.
“This is not the first time we have bands from Cuba showcasing at SXSW,” says SXAméricas organizer Alicia Zertuche, “but it is the first time we have a Sounds from Cuba showcase, and an entire night dedicated to bands that currently reside and don’t plan to leave Cuba.”
The Cuban music scene is heating up in 2016. The overwhelming response from Cuban youth to recent music events in Cuba offers a glimpse into what’s happening in real time as the music scene inserts itself into the narrative about Cuba’s new openness and provokes questions about what the future means for them.
The SXSW film, music and technology festival in Austin, Texas is projected to attract some 300,000 people and more than 2,200 artists from all over the world. The event occurs over a ten day period – each event theme (film, music and technology) is featured for a set period of days.
The exciting lineup starts with Telmary, a seven-piece band lead by rapper, composer, singer and poet Telmary Díaz, that performs an intriguing mixture of hip-hop and modernized forms of Afro-Cuban music. Telmary has collaborated with many well-known Cuban artists, including Pío Leyva (Buenavista Social Club) and Los Van Van.
Led by drummer Yissy García, daughter of a founding member of the legendary jazz outfit Irakere, Yissy & Bandancha is an Afro-Latin Jazz quintet that moves with ease from Funk to popular Cuban music to R&B and electronica while retaining a very Cuban sound.
At just 23 years of age, Daymé Arocena is already making waves in international jazz scenes with her powerful, sultry voice and unique brand of R&B-tinged Latin Jazz. Her 2015 debut album Nueva Era was selected by NPR as one of the best 50 albums of the year.
X-Alfonso (pronounced Equis Alfonso) y La Flota bring a mixture of jazz, hip-hop, Cuban folklore, funk, electronica, and other contemporary sounds. Before forming La Flota, Alfonso was the singer and co-composer for the legendary Cuban group Síntesis, a pioneer band that explored the fusion between Afro-Cuban music—Cuban roots—and contemporary sounds.
Finishing the evening is Kelvis Ochoa, a vital force in Cuban music today who seamlessly blends traditional rhythms like son, sucu sucu, cha cha cha, songo, conga, merengue, and milonga with funk, rock and pop influences to create infectious, extremely danceable music.