SXSW 2016 Music Review: Sol Life Headlines Growing List of Cross-Cultural Showcases

SOL Life SXSW Logo

AUSTIN — Sol Collective, the Sacramento based nonprofit organization dedicated to art, culture and activism, joined forces with music business veteran and social entrepreneur Natalia Linares of conrazón to present “Sol Life,” an official SXSW 2016 showcase made up of new American cross-cultural sounds. This was Sol Life’s second official SXSW showcase, and this time the show featured 30 next-generation artists from California, New York, Florida, Missouri and Texas who otherwise wouldn’t have access to SXSW’s massive network.

“I’m a Boricua from Orlando who’s dreamt of going to SX for a couple of years now. For some of us, it’s a far-fetched thing,” said El Bles, a percussionist and producer who plays Latin Soul, an incorporation of Latin roots with Urban and Hip-Hop. “For me to connect with other artists who have the same level of passion, the same level of respect for culture in their own way, to contribute a grain of salt towards that and for a collective to believe in me enough to showcase that, it means the universe to me.”

El Bles

El Bles

The artists showcased blended new sounds of their immigrant and traditional cultural influences with modern American music representing their multicultural experiences and realities. From Latin percussion rhythms, Cumbia, Afro-Caribbean beat and Native American dances, mixed with hip-hop, electronica, reggae, turntablism, and more, Sol Life carved out a unique space at SXSW that set itself aside from the other categorized “New Wave” or “Latin” genre showcases.

“I think what we are trying to do is show that we cross all these borders and we represent all these things as Americans born of immigrant families across the country,” said Linares.

Other SXSW Showcases

SXSW hosted numerous international indie-rock, pop and traditional Latin American music showcases. Events curated by BMI Latin, Sounds from Cuba, Sounds from Spain and the U.S. online entertainment website Remezcla featured several artists from Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Puerto Rico and more. SXAméricas’ music program component spotlighted several artists, including electro-DJ group 3BallMTY from Mexico and Tejano/Norteño band Intocable. Mexico City’s popular music venues “Kichink On” (Que Chingón) and “Cara Dura,” (Hard Face) originally came to SXSW before the SXAméricas’ network formed five years ago.

“Before SXAméricas, you were only a fish in a super big ocean, and here you are diving in your own pond,” said Ahmed Bautista, Mexican founder and owner of “Kichin On” and “Cara Dura,” which forms part of a larger e-commerce platform for Mexican musicians and artists. “You know you are going to meet the right people at the right gathering having all these common connections. In SXAméricas, we have the common language and an understanding of how the industry works that is completely different from other countries.

However, these showcases featured very few Latino American bands and artists, despite the growing Latino demographic in the United States,

Back to Sol Life

SOL LIFE at SXSW 2016 (Photo: Sharis Delgadillo)

SOL LIFE at SXSW 2016 (Photo: Sharis Delgadillo)

Several of Sol Life’s artists who represent the Latino demographic are not signed to major records labels, yet they have generated a large fan base through grassroots marketing and endless live U.S. performances. Sol Life is currently developing a cooperative record label model and touring network to create new platforms away from the traditional music business model to better support these artists.

“What we are trying to do is build a label and network to do these things ourselves and not wait for the validation of the music business who is already hyper-categorizing us and clearly doesn’t understand the richness and the fabric that we are and are weaving this new narrative in this country,” said Linares.

Originally, Sol Collective and Linares came together to throw the unofficial “Global Local: Austin at Kenny Dorhma’s Backyard” in East Austin for four consecutive years as a way to create space for artists on the margins who wanted to experience the conference professionally. The collaboration has since then turned into an official showcase. Sol Life considers its special blend of artists as “cultural stakeholders” of their mostly immigrant, U.S Latino and indigenous-rooted communities and niches.

Gingee (Photo: Sol Collective)

Gingee (Photo: Sol Collective)

“It wasn’t positive in the beginning but we were looking to break down some doors, and after a bit of a struggle we were able to get an official showcase,” said Estella Sanchez, Sol Collective’s executive director and founder. “Some of the challenges were that we are looking at artists that use their music as a tool to empowering their community or who are breaking barriers, so that’s not always valued in the system. But for us, we know the value of the people who are speaking to these communities.”

Frank Waln (Photo: Frank Waln)

Frank Waln (Photo: Frank Waln)

The Sol Life showcase will continue its tradition of introducing and supporting artists for SXSW 2017.

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