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Kevin Johansen: Rock Star with Bilingual Twist

<i>Sur o No Sur</i>, the latest CD from Kevin Johansen.
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Sur o No Sur, the latest CD from Kevin Johansen.

This week, singer-songwriter Kevin Johansen and his band The Nada will begin their first big tour of the United States. They'll be hitting cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco and others.

The tour is a homecoming of sorts for Johansen. Born in Alaska, Johansen has spent nearly half his life living in Argentina, his mother's native country. His multicultural background informs his music, which features a mix of English and Spanish lyrics and encompasses an eclectic range of styles: salsa, samba, rock, rap, reggae, cumbia, country, hip-hop, tango.

As Brian Byrnes reports, in the past year, Johansen's quirky and catchy bilingual songs have caught on with Argentine audiences, transforming him into one of the country's hottest musicians. "Down with My Baby," the song that catapulted him to stardom, is a slow-burning single, sung entirely in English, that Johansen describes as "Barry White meets Nirvana." The song has dominated local radio and was even adopted as the unofficial anthem for one of Argentina's most provocative nighttime soap operas.

Johansen is now turning his attention to Spain, Mexico and the United States. Sony Music has licensed his most recent album, Sur o No Sur. Johansen's promotional tour of the United States will include a red-carpet performance at the MTV Video Music Awards Latin America in Miami.

Johansen admits he's not certain if he'll be able to duplicate the success he's had in Argentina. But he says he's grateful that evolving technology and shifting demographic interests in the music industry have given him the chance to try.

"To be able to record and publish your stuff from any point in the world right now, thanks to… the terrible word 'globalization'… It also gives you the opportunity to kind of develop a project from wherever you are, and that was a great lesson," Johansen says.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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