SXSW Music Day 3: Santigold, Hindi Zahra, Debo Band

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My third day at South by Southwest kicked off with the big SPIN Magazine party at Stubb's. Best Coast was wrapping up their set and everyone was eagerly anticipating headliner Santigold.

Santigold's rhythm section entered the stage wearing Max Headroom-esque caps, then her backup singers came on in outfits that were a spin on matador chic, and finally she came on donning a crown. She's been busy working on a new album for the past few years, so her high profile gigs at SXSW seem to be serving as a homecoming of sorts.

Jason Newman of Fuse went as far as to dub her the festival's "prom queen"... hence the crown. While her big hits like L.E.S. Artistes sent the crowd into frenzied sing-a-longs, her new material was received almost as enthusiastically... boding well for her album release come April. 

 

Later that eve I got to chat with Venezuelan rockers La Vida Boheme before heading to the globalFEST showcase at Speakeasy. Each year globalFEST brings acts from all over the world to New York's Webster Hall, and this year they've taken their act on the road for the first time. As I arrived Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang were on stage leading the crowd through their high-BPM take on Sierra Leone's bubu music. 

 

After the Bubu Gang's set the globalFEST crowd awaited the Colombian sounds of Queens-based M.A.K.U SoundSystem, but technical issues plagued the venue. Nearly an hour later the band was finally able to get going. Most of the crowd stayed on and it seemed like delaying the gratification heightened their excitement.

 

I stopped in to see Glen Hansard who's devoted fans were singing along with every word. Then walked back across to the Nacional Records showcase just in time to catch the beginning of Ritmo Machine's set. A collaboration between Chilean beatmaker Latin Bitman and Cypress Hill percussionist Eric Bobo, their set was a mix of impressive turntablism and percussion set to music that ranged from blaxploitation-era soundtracks to Tito Puente. 

 

After that it was back to globalFEST at Speakeasy where Chicha Libre were playing a psychedelic rendition of Guns of Brixton. From there it was off to see French-Moroccan chanteuse Hindi Zahra who had the crowd in the palm of her hand. 

 

My night ended with globalFEST's final set by Boston's Debo Band. Their take on Ethiopian pop music has garnered notice in the past year and they recently signed on with legendary indie rock label Sub Pop. I first caught the band a little over a year ago and since then their live act has grown by leaps and bounds. They've been working with producer Thomas "Tommy T" Gobena of Gogol Bordello and it seems they've learned a few things from the Gogol playbook... in terms of the energy and the ecstatic vibe they're bringing to their performances. Keep an eye out for their release later this summer.