In the United States, music industry professionals look to Austin's South-by-Southwest to discover up-and-coming talent. In Latin America, programmers, agents and managers from Europe and the Americas count on a festival in Guadalajara to find emerging voices from all over the continent.
The event is called the Feria Internacional de la Música Profesional — the International Professional Music Fair, better known as FIMPRO.
At the Rambla Cataluña stage, located a few blocks from downtown Guadalajara, Colombian singer-songwriter Edson Velandia strums an acoustic guitar, performing one of his signature songs, "El Caníbal" — The Cannibal.
Velandia is one of the more than 30 acts being showcased at five venues here. Leigh Ann Hahn, program director for Grand Performances, which has been presenting shows in downtown Los Angeles since 1986, says the acts presented at the conference represented a broad range of sounds:
Some of it was coming more obviously from the traditional folk sort of work. And then there was the very contemporary [sounds], almost too contemporary for my program. So it was really nice to be able to see the students from the University of Guadalajara attending with enthusiasm.
This is the third edition of FIMPRO in Guadalajara. Given the strong presence of artists and their representatives from throughout Latin America, there’s a sense that something bigger is starting to happen. Enrique Blanc, a music journalist and one of FIMPRO’s organizers, says the conference has a goal:
I believe we’re dreaming about consolidating an independent industry of music here in Latin America — that’s the main point.
In addition to showcasing bands from all over the continent, FIMPRO also includes workshops, one-on-one meetings between musicians, managers and agencies, as well as conversations with industry experts.
At a University of Guadalajara auditorium, Latin Grammy president Gabriel Abaroa talks about the rules of the Academy to a packed house of conference attendees. He says this is the first time he’s been invited to participate at FIMPRO, but he supports every effort to promote music and musicians:
It’s not only a fantastic experience to have the opportunity to come and tell the people what I do, but also to learn from them and to see that this is moving. Once again, music drives lots of people, lots of minds, but mostly many souls.
One of the bands that moved a lot of those souls here is Brazil’s Francisco El Hombre. Playing to an adoring audience, the band is an explosion of sound and energy on stage. Tom Frouge, founder of the Globalquerque Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says he was impressed by their show:
Francisco El Hombre was my hands-down favorite, I’m already talking to their manager about Globalquerque 2018 and other [opportunities]. I think they have the broadest appeal and were the most interesting.
Besides the more than 20 bands from other Latin America countries, there were also a few groups from Mexico. One of the local bands here is Toktli, led by jazz bassist Vico Díaz. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Díaz has been creating new music that blends traditional Mexican folk rhythms with jazz.
Díaz says the opportunity to play in front of potential programmers from the U.S. and Europe is a crucial step to wider exposure:
It’s very important for me, it’s like a dream come true, to see that the work — the hard work — is finally bringing the fruits.