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Island Wave Returns to SXSW, Featuring a New Lineup of Emerging Caribbean Artists

Island Wave Returns to SXSW, Featuring a New Lineup of Emerging Caribbean Artists

Island Wave, a platform bringing together “the sounds of the Caribbean”, returns to SXSW festival this year to put Caribbean music at the forefront of the international music scene. The one-year-old collective has been mission-focused, making waves in the industry while staying true to artist support. 

The SXSW (South by SouthWest) festival, a music, film and emerging technology event held annually in Austin, Texas, featured a Caribbean music stage, curated by Island Wave, as part of last year’s online lineup. The one hour presentation was captured in Kingston, Jamaica and featured artists Mortimer, Khalia, Sevana, Tessellated and Island Wave co-founder Kalpee.

This year promises to be a great one with both Kalpee and Tessellated returning to the stage, joined by soca royalty – Nailah Blackman, Jimmy October, Trinibagonian band Freetown Collective and the contemporary reggae, dancehall and R&B fusion artiste, Jaz Elise

The uphill battles for Caribbean artists to crossover into international markets – from both a production and promotional point of view – has been a constant theme. But the advent of COVID-19 brought with it new ways of experiencing and packaging entertainment. In the last couple of years, live streaming and the use of digital media platforms have proven to be excellent gateways for entertainers to bring their craft to the ears and eyes of millions, emerging and non-emerging entertainers alike. And the founders of IslandWave have tapped into this formula, creating a launchpad for these emerging talents to gain more reach outside of the Caribbean region. 

In chatting with both the members of Freetown Collective and Island Wave alumnus, Tessellated, I learned about the everyday dynamics of an emerging artist, and how Island Wave has facilitated paving the way. 

When asked about some of the industry-inflicted challenges that newer Caribbean artists face while pursuing a wider, international reach, Freetown expressed that the Caribbean music industry has received a substantial amount of growth over the last couple of decades, and accounts it to traditional mainstream genres, as well as an increased awareness of their subgenres Rapso, and “New Kalypso” (as coined by Jimmy October), to name a few. 

The challenges Freetown Collective details, is the “lack of proper marketing and distribution infrastructure to properly share their music with the wider global audience,” and “a lack of representation from record labels and music managers.” 

They went on further to say that the “wearing of multiple hats” proves difficult when the artist has to be their own publicist, producer and more, in tandem with being an artist. 

Tessellated, recent Grammy nominee, posited that the music industry prefers to categorize artists based on their predecessors. “This sometimes leaves us in a position where we’re expected to follow a certain roadmap or be left in a position where people are hesitant to support.” he explains. 

This has been the experience of many emerging artists coming out of the Caribbean, as it almost becomes a tug-o-war between staying true to your roots or losing your roots to industry standards or “what’s hot now”. 

This is where Island Wave has stepped in. The platform has provided Caribbean artists with the opportunity to explore new audiences while being true to their craft. According to Freetown Collective, it provides an “opportunity for the Caribbean to showcase to the world the range of our ‘sound’” without limiting it to mainstream genres such as reggae, dancehall and soca. And as Tessellated said, it helps to showcase a brand new set of artists from the region, with similar roots that can cement the ideas of this generation of Caribbean artists in the industry. 

With support from MusicTT, the Island Wave team will hit the stage at Flamingo Cantina on March 18, for SXSW 2022. Visit their website and IG for more details. 

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