SXSW Is Canceled, But You Can Still Discover And Support Indie Musicians The cancellation of SXSW was a huge blow to musicians hoping for a big break. But you can still hear artists who were slated to play the festival with NPR's The Austin 100.
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SXSW Is Canceled, But You Can Still Discover — And Support — These Artists

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SXSW Is Canceled, But You Can Still Discover — And Support — These Artists

SXSW Is Canceled, But You Can Still Discover — And Support — These Artists

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/814964301/815778483" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And were this any other year, if you looked out onto the streets of Austin, Texas, you'd see throngs of music fans and guitar slingers gathering, excitement building for shows at places like Stubbs, Elysium and the Continental Club and maybe even to hear B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music. But in a sad turn of events, the South by Southwest film Music and Media Festival, which was scheduled to start this weekend, was canceled over fears that it would help further spread the coronavirus in the U.S. The Music Festival has for years been an important steppingstone for bands trying to establish themselves. And every year, NPR's Stephen Thompson has scanned the roster to choose the Austin 100, a playlist of his favorite New South by Southwest discoveries. The good news is NPR Music's Austin 100 has not been stopped by a virus. This list will be published on npr.org on Monday.

And Stephen is here to give us a preview. Welcome to the program.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: You know, before we listen to a few tracks, tell us what South by Southwest means for musicians. I mean, this must be a devastating blow for bands hoping for a big break there.

THOMPSON: Yeah, South by Southwest provides a lot of one-stop shopping for music fans, music media, record labels - all get together in one place to hear about 1,500 bands, and it's an opportunity to present yourself to people who have a lot of power in the music industry. And so canceling South By Southwest, in addition to devastating the city of Austin, Texas, which makes an enormous amount of money through that festival, it does also hurt the progress of a lot of young musicians who are just getting their start.

MONTAGNE: Tell us about a band that you were looking forward to seeing there.

THOMPSON: I was really excited about seeing a very young Nigerian singer named Rema.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DUMEBI")

REMA: (Singing in non-English language).

THOMPSON: He's a superstar in Nigeria. One of his songs made one of Barack Obama's playlists. He has a lot of momentum. And a lot of Nigerian pop music is starting to cross over well outside of Africa.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LADY")

REMA: (Singing in non-English language).

MONTAGNE: That one is hard not to move to.

THOMPSON: (Laughter) You know, it's just, how many opportunities do you get to walk out of a club having just seen an African musician, and then you step into another club and see an artist like Sifica, my next pick, who is from Seoul in South Korea? Let's hear a little bit of the song "Water" by Sifica.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WATER")

SIFICA: (Singing in Korean).

THOMPSON: Sifica plays this wonderful electro pop music, where she weaves really seamlessly between singing in English and singing in Korean.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WATER")

SIFICA: (Singing) You only feel it deeper. (Singing in Korean). I'm breathing slowly. (Singing in Korean).

THOMPSON: So that's Sifica, a South Korean musician I was really excited to see at South by Southwest. And instead, I have to stay at home like everybody else and just listen to her music through my computer. But she is wonderful.

MONTAGNE: And who else were you hoping to see and now, no possibility of that?

THOMPSON: Well, I hope to see him eventually, but my next pick is a singer - now based in LA but born in London and raised in Uganda - named Jonah Mutono.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHOULDERS")

JONAH MUTONO: (Singing) On the J train over the east river. The 6 of November, just another Tuesday night with no phone call.

THOMPSON: Jonah Mutono's new record is about the experience of coming out as gay when you've grown up in Uganda, where homosexuality is seriously punished. And so his music is this beautiful kind of swaying, blissed out R&B. But the topics are really deep, you know, about the experience of finding your own identity.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHOULDERS")

MUTONO: (Singing) I don't really know you, but I miss you and you know what? In the subway car to nowhere. You could be anyone, anyone.

MONTAGNE: You've got - I know you have at least one more choice that we're going to hear from.

THOMPSON: So we'll keep it international and go with a singer from Madrid, who I really like, named Marem Ladson. Her music really, kind of like Sifica earlier, blends the two really cleanly. She weaves between singing in English and singing in Spanish. She's got a one called "Azul".

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO SENTIR NADA")

MAREM LADSON: (Singing in Spanish).

THOMPSON: So that's "No Sentir Nada" by the singer Marem Ladson. And yeah, it really is one of the great things about South by Southwest - is you kind of take this world tour, even though you're you're just plopped down in one city. And I will really miss that this year.

MONTAGNE: Any parting thoughts on how to support artists who have had to cancel their appearances because of the coronavirus, and, you know, it's really hard on them?

THOMPSON: Yeah, I mean, there are a number of ways you can do that - buy their music online, if you're still somebody who buys music instead of simply streaming it. Go to their websites. Order their merchandise online. Buy the T-shirt. Some bands have Kickstarters or Patreons. And I think the most important thing and the easiest, quickest, cheapest thing you can do - tell your friends about it. That word of mouth is part of what they would've gotten out of appearing at South by Southwest.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR Music's Stephen Thompson. He's curator of the Austin 100. And that playlist will be posted Monday on npr.org.

Thanks for joining us.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Renee.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO SENTIR NADA")

LADSON: (Singing in Spanish).

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