On this week’s Global Notes, Tony Sarabia, host of WBEZ’s Morning Shift and Radio M, highlights some of the global sounds being showcased at this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
The festival came under fire this year for warning international artists that bad behavior could result in it making a call to U.S. immigration agents. Officials later said they would remove that contract provision.
Despite the controversy, the festival estimates about 1,100 performers will take the stage at the festival from March 13 through 19. Below are a few of the international highlights.
Sweden: Albin Lee Meldau
Tony Sarabia: That’s how he’s described, as a soul singer. You might say blue-eyed soul. Pretty young guy. Kind of reminded me a little bit of the singer Jack Johnson, although a huskier voice. I kinda like it.
Sarabia: This kind of reminds me a little bit of Frank Zappa, maybe some prog rock. These guys have been together for 13 years. Someone described it as sort of like a soundtrack to a heist movie — if Salvador Dali ever made a soundtrack to a heist movie. So it’s got a bit of everything: movie music, jazz, you heard a little bit of DJ scratching, horns.
Belarus: Stary Olsa
Sarabia: They’ve been around since 1999. Their primary repertoire is songs from the middle ages, songs from the renaissance … This is a band that dresses in period costumes. When I say period I’m thinking maybe the 14th century medieval England … I think this is what they’re going to be showcasing when they take the stage at south by southwest. It’s an album of covers of songs by Nirvana, AC/DC, Metallica and others.
South Korea: Drunken Tiger
Sarabia: Hip hop really started to emerge in South Korea in the 1990s and the leader of this band, who goes by Tiger JK, he dominated the charts and then sort of disappeared and now he’s back. This kind of reminds me of Linkin Park. It kind of has that heavy, heavy commercial appeal and it still has a little bit of boy band in there … If anything it was like hip hop with a strong dose of rock and roll, and that’s what this reminds me of.
Latvia: Carnival Youth
Sarabia: There are a lot of bands from this part of Europe who have this sound … thoughtful pop rock. So I would imagine they will get some good support out at South by Southwest.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Hear more recommendations from Tony Sarabia on Radio M Fridays at 9 p.m. on WBEZ.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the ‘play’ button to listen to the entire interview.