Asia, Africa, and everything after
The biggest story in world music this year hardly dented Western media. In October, South African reggae superstar Lucky Dube was killed in a carjacking in his native Johannesburg. Often considered the contemporary successor to Bob Marley, Dube was a powerful voice for peace and social justice on a continent that remains plagued by genocide, famine, and disease and is still perpetually overlooked by the world.
Africa contributes only a small contingent of artists to South by Southwest this year, but most impressive is Iran's representation. In a country where the official doctrine forbids Western-styled shows, simply picking up the mic is a political action, but an increasingly empowered youth culture has begun carving out a rock scene under the regime. Meanwhile, Eastern Bloc countries are beginning to experience a cultural renaissance in film, art, and music as the first generation to grow up post-Cold War comes of age.
Asia is likewise at a cultural crossroads as China's rapidly growing economy provokes a tenuous balance with the inevitable influx of global influences. Though the Asian mainland's rock seems stalled two decades behind, its electronica proves as progressive as anywhere.
Hospital Bombers (Amsterdam): If the name sounds familiar, it's because it was copped from the Mountain Goats' "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton."
Monotonix (Tel Aviv): New Drag City signees scratch out proggy, feedback-bent jams.
FM3 (China): The Buddha Machine duo comes armed with ambient bliss, lo-fi Zen-pods.
Canadians (Verona): Geographically confused from riding in a Death Cab Built to Spill.
Alamo Race Track (Amsterdam): Come for the quirky, gravely folk of "Black Cat John Brown," but stay for the versatile indie rock.
Zé Dos Frangos (Portugal): Male/female vocals softly intertwine over sparse indie electronics.
White Shoes & the Couples Company (Indonesia): "Jakarta pop" should be branded on the backs of this sextet, twee Camera Obscura female harmonies floating in an easy-swaying breeze.
Rains Down in Africa
Shawn Phillips: The Texas-born ex-pat of 1960s/1970s folk has led a storied career, acclaimed for his progressive stylistic sweep, smart songwriting, and virtuosic guitar.
Chiwoniso: This former member of internationally renowned African hip-hop collective P.O.E. offers an enticing mixture of Shona and English sung over mbira percussion.
Rock Me Ahmadinejad
127: Playfully but skillfully eclectic sixpiece hone their nu-jazz contortions into catchy, swooning odes touched off with Dire Straits-like vocals and sharp brass bursts.
Hypernova: Debut EP questions, Who Says You Can't Rock in Iran? Answer: Not the Strokes.
Tarantist: The quartet smelts droning dark metal with nuclear-reactor riffs and intimidating vocal growls commanding, "Kill Your Father."
YB (Korea): Korea's veteran guitar heroes unload 1970s riffs into 1980s glam.
KbN (Taiwan): Short for funK-b-Nice, this group builds any number of genres upon their sparse, experimental electronic base, shifting from suave trip-hop beats to sparse acoustic ballads.
The s.i.g.i.t (Indonesia): The Super Insurgent Group of Intemperance Talent – Zeppelin meets Cheap Trick on Pacific holiday.
Navruz (Uzbekistan): Named for the Zoroastorian New Year, Navruz upholds traditional Uzbeki roots through their Eastern folk.
Intuitive Music Orchestra (Russia): Brainchild of Ian Bederman, IMO craft improvised Eastern inflected melodies of world jazz through a diverse string of ethnic instruments.
Mona De Bo (Latvia): A drum and guitar duo of Edgars (Eihmanis and Rubenis), their garagey indie rock is ripped with pent-up blues jam howls.
Volodja Balalorsky (Slovenia): An internationally renowned concert violinist, Balalorsky's strings haunt with an evocatively rich Old World elegance.
Scrambled Eggs (Lebanon): Droning guitar Cure for Lebanese Sonic Youth.
Beangrowers (Malta): Driving pop-rock sizzling behind Alison Galea's sultry and glaring vocals.
The Bloody Beetroots (Italy): Acid-fried Saturday morning mash-ups.
Cherine Anderson (Jamaica): Dancehall soul driving sultry R&B into traditional reggae beats.
Inner Visions (St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands): Reggae stalwarts bring the good vibes.
Ella Andall (Trinidad & Tobago): Andall's vocals prove equally powerful through Afro-Caribbean chants, old-school soul, and pining ballads.
Red Light District (Netherlands)
Adept: Industrial electronica that thumps ominously sparse behind moaning, distorted chants.
C-Mon & Kypski: Spewing wires onstage like a gutted C-3PO, the quartet samples and scratches across hip-hop, garage pop, and world rhythms.
Do-the-Undo: California dreamin' in dykeland with classic pop tunes.
Lobi Traore & Joep Pelt: Melding Pelt's Delta blues instincts with Traore's Mali roots rhythms, the duo unloads a scatological funk without borders.
Postman: Rapper's fourth album, Green, finds gold.
Isthmus Be Portugal
Bildmeister: Ten-year-old quartet drives rich sonic textures over Brit shoegaze-styled vocals.
David Fonseca: Third album, Dreams in Colour, continues Fonseca's chart-topping success, with trembling, pitch-perfect acoustic pop.
Norton: Downtempo electronic soundscapes feel more Icelandic than Mediterranean.
Kalashnikov: Irreverent punk quartet carpet bombs "war time rock & roll."
FM3, Beijing, China, www.fm3buddhamachine.com, Friday, 1am, the Hideout
The s.i.g.i.t, Bandung, Indonesia, www.myspace.com/thesigit, Thursday, 12mid, B.D. Riley's
White Shoes & the Couples Company, Jakarta, Indonesia, www.whiteshoes andthecouplescompany.org, Saturday, 12mid, Habana Calle 6 Annex
Hypernova, Tehran, Iran, www.hypernovamusic.com, Saturday, 12mid, Wave
127, Tehran, Iran, www.127band.com, Thursday, 9pm, Habana Calle 6 Annex
Tarantist, Tehran, Iran, www.tarantists.com, Wednesday, 12mid, Red 7
YB, Seoul, Korea, town.cyworld.com/ybrocks, Thursday, 9pm, Bourbon Rocks
KbN, Taipei, Taiwan, www.k-b-n.net, Saturday, 8pm, Elysium
Navruz, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Wednesday, 9pm, Copa
Boubacar Diebate, Boulder, Senegal, www.myspace.com/boubacardiebate, Saturday, 9:10pm, Copa
Shawn Phillips, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, www.shawnphillips.com, Thursday, 12mid, Stephen F's Bar
Chiwoniso, Harare, Zimbabwe, www.chiwoniso.com, Saturday, 10:20pm, Copa
Monotonix, Tel Aviv, Israel, www.monotonix.com, Friday, 12:50am, Flamingo Cantina
The Bloody Beetroots, Bassano del Grappa, Italy, www.myspace.com/thebloodybeetroots, Saturday, 11pm, Vice
Canadians, Verona, Italy, www.myspace.com/canadianstheband, Saturday, 8pm, Cedar Door
The Second Grace, Sicily, Italy, www.thesecondgrace.com, Saturday, 8:30pm, Stephen F's Bar
Vanilla Sky, Roma, Italy, www.myspace.com/vanillasky, Saturday, 8pm, Wave
Mona De Bo, Riga, Latvia, www.myspace.com/monadebo, Thursday, 10pm, B.D. Riley's
Scrambled Eggs, Beirut, Leban, www.myspace.com/scrambledeggslebanon, Thursday, 8pm, Red 7
Beangrowers, St. Julians, Malta, www.myspace.com/beangrowers, Saturday, 8pm, Habana Calle 6 Annex
Alamo Race Track, Amsterdam, Netherlands, www.myspace.com/alamoracetrack, Saturday, 1am, Habana Calle 6
Adept, Groningen, Netherlands, www.myspace.com/adeptadeptadept, Friday, 10pm, Karma Lounge
Aux Raus, Amsterdam, Netherlands, www.auxraus.com, Friday, 11pm, Karma Lounge
C-Mon & Kypski, Utrecht, Netherlands, www.c-monandkypski.com, Friday, 1am, Karma Lounge
Do-the-Undo, Amsterdam, Netherlands, www.do-the-undo.nl, Saturday, 9pm, Habana Calle 6 Annex
Hospital Bombers, Amsterdam, Netherlands, www.hospitalbombers.com, Saturday, 7pm, Habana Calle 6 Annex
Lobi Traore & Joep Pelt, Amsterdam, Netherlands, www.joeppelt.net, Thursday, 8pm, Momo's
Moke, Amsterdam, Netherlands, www.mokemusic.com, Wednesday, 9pm, Bourbon Rocks
Postman, Amsterdam, Netherlands, www.postman-online.com, Friday, 12mid, Karma Lounge
Bildmeister, Vila Do Conde, Portugal, www.bildmeister.net, Thursday, 10pm, Habana Calle 6
David Fonseca, Lisbon, Portugal, www.davidfonseca.com, Friday, 8pm, 18th Floor @ Hilton Gardens
Kalashnikov, Lisbon, Portugal, www.myspace.com/kalashnikovarmy, Wednesday, 8pm, Bourbon Rocks
Norton, Castelo Branco, Portugal, www.nortonmusic.net, Saturday, 10pm, Club 115
Zé Dos Frangos, Lisbon, Portugal, www.myspace.com/zedosfrangos, Thursday, 8pm, Copa
Intuitive Music Orchestra, Moscow, Russia, www.ianbederman.com, Wednesday, 10pm, Copa
Volodja Balzalorsky, Ljubljana, Slovenia, www.balzalorsky.com, Friday, 9pm, St. David's Church
Inner Visions, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, www.innervisionsreggae.com, Wednesday, 11pm, Fadó
Ella Andall, Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, www.ellaandall.com, Saturday, 12:45am, Copa
Cherine Anderson, Kingston, Jamaica, www.myspace.com/cherineanderson, Saturday, 10pm, Flamingo Cantina