On our Radar, SXSW edition: Eme Alfonso, Ambar Lucid, Cimafunk, Chhoti Maa and Combo Chimbita

By 11 March, 2019

The headlines surrounding the South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference these days have been about American politicians, and we’re glad that part of the festival has come to a close and the music part is just getting started. We took a peek at the schedule and picked the following artists as ones that are on our radar!

Cuba: Eme Alfonso, ‘Voy’

Cuban Singer Songwriter Eme Alfonso, who you can catch performing at least a couple of times this week, hails from a family of legendary musicians. Her parents, Carlos Alfonso and Ele Valdés, founded the Latin GRAMMY nominated band “Síntesis,” who pioneered the sound of mixing Afro-Cuban music with rock and jazz. Eme grew up in “Síntesis” and joined the band as a young woman on the keys and vocals. Her first collaboration was recorded when she was only 7 years old alongside Silvio Rodriguez for UNICEF.

“Voy” is a gorgeous song about willpower, the future, perseverance and firm thinking. The opening lyrics are a cry for independence.

A mí que nadie me quite la voz  (that nobody takes my voice)
Porque yo canto desde el corazón (Because I sing from the heart)
A mí que nadie me enseñó a llorar (nobody taught me to cry)
Que aprendí yo solo a consolarme (I learned to console myself)

U.S.: Ambar Lucid, ‘A Letter to my younger self’

Making music in your teenage bedroom is our favorite come-up story as of late. Meet Ambar Lucid, a first generation 18 year old Dominican/Mexican-American musician from Little Ferry, New Jersey, which is in the northern part of the state. After leaving high school a year early to pursue a career in music, Lucid started paving a lane for herself. At the age of 15, Lucid started writing and producing her own original music with influences of indie, R&B, alternative, and soul. She self taught herself guitar, piano, & the ukulele at age eleven. Her biggest influences are Pink Floyd, Mon Laferte, The Beatles, Andy Shauf & Sticky Fingers.

Her bilingual lyrics, a trend we’re seeing more and more from Generation Z (she’s Gen Z, right?), are beautiful and most welcome in this multilingual world. See her SXSW dates here.

U.S./Mexico: Chhoti Maa, ‘Gota de Fuego’

We had the pleasure of catching the Mexican-born, Oakland, Calif., -based Chhoti Maa last fall, and we’re thrilled to see her as one of the featured performers in the annual (and fiercely indie) Sol Collective’s SXSW Showcase, on the 16th of March, an all-day affair that also features another of our favorites, producer and DJ, Chief Boima.

Chhoti Ma, who is also an artist-teacher and cultural producer, will soon release her next music video, which she tells us will feature her grandmother, for her single, “Gota de Fuego,” off her album, Caldo de Hueso (Bone Broth), which she dropped this past November. For now, stream it below, and make sure to catch her Sol Collective’s showcase!

We asked who she is going to make time to see as a first-time SXSW performer, and she said, “I am excited about The Philarmonik from Sacramento.” You’re in luck, as The Philarmonik is also on the Sol Collective showcase bill!

Cuba: Cimafunk, ‘Me Voy’

Cimafunk, one of most exciting new faces in Cuba’s music scene, is one to watch at SXSW, yet—and this is great news for us—one you can catch in Philadelphia or New York City if you can’t make it out to the Southwest! (SXSW dates here.)

Cimafunk describes himself as a cimarrón (fugitive slaves who settled in the wild to lead a free life in Cuba), a pilgrim in search of new musical miscegenation and the reunion of black music. He believes in nothing but the power of the groove and the cathartic communion of dancing bodies.

A vocalist, composer and producer, Cimafunk offers a subtle and bold mix of funk with Cuban music and African rhythms, a life-affirming sound, a UFO in the island’s music scene. Catch him in Philly on the 29th of March (along with NYC/Colombia’s Dilemastronauta), and in Brooklyn on the 17th of April, and over in Manhattan at Drom on the 23rd of April.

We also asked Cimafunk who he is looking forward to seeing at the big SXSW, and the excitement in his response is palpable.

“It’s my first time in the United States and first time at an event of this magnitude. I’m looking forward to attending as many panel discussions and keynotes as possible in order to learn more about the music industry and meet key players in the game. I’m a music lover first and will try and catch some hip-hop, R&B and jazz, but I’m prioritizing learning from the brilliant minds sharing their knowledge at the conference.”

Bonus pick: NYC/Colombia: Combo Chimbita, ‘Brillo Más Que El Oro (La Bala Apuntándome)’

Tropical futurists Combo Chimbita are a forever pick for us. If you’re at SXSW, you just can’t miss them. And you’ll likely get a preview of the new tunes that can be expected on their forthcoming album, Ahomale, which will drop the third of May via ANTI-/Epitaph.

This was a fun band to ask about who they’re looking forward to checking out at SXSW:

Prince of Queens (synth, bass) is amped to see Philadelphia’s Tierra Whack and Sao Paolo’s Bixiga 70, and Niño Lento (guitar) says he wants to check out Colombia’s Mabiland (a suggestion we like so much, we’ll definitely keep her ‘on our radar’ for a future post) and Brooklyn’s Leikeli47 (watch her wonderful new Tiny Desk Concert here).




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