My name is Selina Rose and I’ve created this page as a hub for all things local Latin music. I’ve lived in Austin for a few years now and am excited and passionate about the growth of the Latin music scene, specifically in my city. My love of this scene started early. I was born and raised near the border of Mexico in a small town called Eagle Pass. The music available to me was very limited. This was long ago, before Spotify and Apple Music and the ability to find anything our hearts desired on the Internet. Growing up, we had to travel an hour away just to find the closest music store growing up. The music I knew was what I heard playing in my neighborhoods and schools: Tejano, cumbia, latin rock. This is what was playing at school dances or family parties. My taste in music eventually expanded as I discovered different genres as they became more available, but I will always have a soft spot for the music of where I came from.
As I moved away from the border, I discovered that Latin music also spanned in to different subgenres other than what I grew up with. Friends of mine from Eagle Pass joined the Salsa band at Texas State. Salsa music was not a form of Latin music I had ever heard before. They loved it and formed their own salsa bands that sought to create a scene outside of the university. That desire took them (and myself, as their friend and “groupie”) up the highway to Austin, in search of a different scene and new venues to play. I enjoyed seeing the reactions of budding musicians experiencing a new world outside of school, and the reactions of more seasoned musicians watching their scene grow with wide-eyed amateurs who needed mentors. My friends brought that back to San Marcos, and I watched a new scene grow in San Marcos where it was badly needed.
Upon moving to Austin, I discovered many international musicians who have brought their culture to share with Texans and North Americans alike. Austin is home to two of the largest music festivals, SXSW and Austin City Limits, which in the recent years have both come to feature more and more Latin artists. Austin also celebrates Latin music with several different smaller festivals as well. Austin continues to attract Latin musicians from various countries and backgrounds. These musicians share with their new scene just as we did when we first started traveling just a few minutes up I-35. It still inspires me to this day to seek out new music.
Even years later, I enjoy seeking out both well-versed veterans of the Latin scene and the newbies looking to dip their toes in and learn more. The goal of this site is to be a point of reference for both, and I am looking forward to share these new experiences with you! Please visit the resources page to learn more about groups with like-minded individuals.
Check out these places recommended by our contributors to dance & let loose in the area.
Esquina Tango is an organization that actually holds events that are fun places to meet people and dance at. They hold classes for people that are new to it. They have live bands often! Check out their calender on their website.
Salsa Wednesdays at One-2-One Bar! It happens every Wednesday. La Mona Loca is a local salsa band who has been playing in Austin for quite a few years now. Definitely worth venturing out on a week night. Get ready to get sweaty though.
I really love Sundays at Hotel Vegas. It's a weekly event called La Cruda (which is Spanish for the hangover) which is pretty accurate for some of the people there. The DJ plays all Spanish music like cumbia and reggaeton. It's a lot of fun and there is free food.
Here are a few recommendations for upcoming events and releases, as well as some recaps for recent events.
Wache, a traditional Colombian group who has laid roots down in Austin, is releasing their first album titled Amistad. They are celebrating the release at Flamingo Cantina , located on E. 6th Street. The party is taking place Friday, December 7th and will feature two opening bands with similar vibes.
Wepa Festival held its second annual tradition celebrating cumbia roots on June 9. The festival was held at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard, a venue on East 11th Street in Austin. The venue is true to its name; it’s a large space with lawn chairs strewn about with a small stage set to one side. Named after the legendary jazz musician, it really feels like a backyard hang and often holds events featuring world music. The Backyard is set in the middle of an ever-changing (and controversial) East Side of Austin, and may soon be the only remnant of old-east-side left on the street.
The event is organized by local Austin musician Kiko Villamizar, who took the event worldwide by holding festivals in cities in Colombia and Europe. There was also a Wepa Festival held in Houston. Villamizar put the festival together to celebrate cumbia roots, which have an origin in his country of Colombia, and to bring musicians together to play this music. Most of the musicians featured on the lineup feature an instrument called the “gaita” which plays a critical role in many genres from the Colombian Caribbean, cumbia in particular.
The doors opened early, hours before the first band was set to start. Local DJ Orion Garcia from Austin’s popular Peligrosa played a few sets while the crowd slowly came in and explored some of the vendors. Las Ofrendas had a few booths there; they featured handmade crafts, jewelry and clothing for purchase. Sabor Colombia, a local Colombian restaurant, also had food for purchase (which I took advantage of right away.)
The lineup had a total of five acts, beginning at four p.m. The party continued until past midnight. Wache, a traditional group based in Austin, played their set first. Most of the members are from Colombia but have made their home in Austin. They introduced every song with a passion yet explained the variety of rhythms they were about to play before each song. La Frenetika, another local act, was next. La Rueda de Madrid played a set next. From Madrid, they brought African and Caribbean to their set. They describe themselves as preserving indigenous ancestral legacies with electronic beats.
The festival continued to gain momentum as Trapiche de Colomboy took the stage. With their colorful matching garb it was hard to believe it had stormed just a few hours prior. They got an entire backyard full of people dancing, clapping and cheering. Kiko, the musician responsible for bringing everyone together on this day, played guitar with them before he brought his own band up to play his original songs as well as some traditional Colombian tunes. He ended his set by joining the dancers in the audience, singing and dancing. Somehow, everyone still had more than enough energy to close out the night dancing to Gaiteros de San Jacinto. The group, who has won a Grammy for their popular “Un Fuego de Sangre Pura” were joined by Yieson Landero, the son of Andres Landero, a popular Cumbia musician in Colombia.
We compared this year’s turnout to last year’s inaugural Wepa Festival below. The data was provided by Kiko Villamizar. Check out a few photos below!
There are a ton of other things to explore than what we feature here. We encourage everyone to explore the scene. Send us suggestions here!
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