Crate Digging: Foreign Artists (Week 3)

For many, music is to be consumed popularly and blindly, clicking through Spotify playlists and mindlessly looping the Billboard Hot 100. But for some, there is a particular beauty in the art of musical consumption. Finding music no one has heard of, falling in love with artists who never hit the mainstream or devoting one’s musical palate to the obscure. Crate Digging is that art. So for those interested in the overlooked, here are the Tribune’s recommendations for unknown foreign artists to look out for.


Samuel JJ Minioza

Artist: Akini Jing

Genre: Deconstructed Club, IDM, Art Pop

It’s rare to find truly mind-blowing artists without any notoriety. Yet Akini Jing, despite all her talents and her potential for stardom, remains entirely unknown. That potential becomes patently obvious when listening to her newest record, “Endless Farewell,” where Jing exudes all the confidence, poise, and presence of a multimillion-dollar name. Her production bangs and beats to the tune of airy, atmospheric drums and punchy, plucky 808s and synths. She marries glittering, dystopian club dance floor timbres to her new-age mandopop vocals and aesthetics in a way wholly unexpected but sonically divine. Jing is an artist that can get any listener up on their feet and dancing, swallowed whole in the magnetic and hypnotic soundscapes she creates. She entrances and seduces, swaying between elusive IDM ballads and blinding deep house bangers. No matter the genre, her beaconing confidence remains evident and shines through, oozing from every inch of every track with swagger and strut. Yes, she won’t be on the major airwaves any time soon, but Akini Jing is a walking tour de force, and should be on your radar for foreign artists to listen to.

Ekroop Kaur

Artist: Wazir Patar

Genre: Punjabi pop, Punjabi rap

Spotify: Link to “Notorious” single by Wazir Patar

With the tragic death of Sidhu Moose Wala, a renowned Punjabi singer and rapper, protégé Wazir Patar continues his legacy and has been redefining Punjabi rap, a genre that is now gaining more traction worldwide. Patar, a composer, producer, lyricist and rapper, started his music journey in 2018, where he collabed with different Punjabi artists such as Roop Bhullar and Moose Wala, and would produce the instrumentals for their songs. It wasn’t until 2020 when he began singing and creating his own songs. 2021 was the year in which his singing career blossomed with his hit single, “Notorious,” in which he embraces a carefree lifestyle while also firing back at rumors, telling the world how his fame came from hard work. The beats in this song are reminiscent of old school 90’s hip-hop and have a catchy, upbeat tune that captures listeners into wanting to rap along with the singer. This theme was present in his debut EP, “Keep it Gangsta,” but he adds on to it by opening up about his roots, “silencing” his enemies while highlighting his confidence at the same time. With each of the five songs in his EP having a different vibe, starting off with boasting lyrics in “Outlaw” and cooling off with a slow, poetic hip-hop in “One Way,” Patar conveys his pride and confidence through his dramatic lyrics and incredible beats. When it comes to paving the way for Punjabi rap, Patar is truly a game changer in adding a spotlight. 


Olivia Phongsa

Artist: Natalia Lafourcade

Genre: Latin American Folk Music, Folk Pop, Rock 

Spotify: Link to “Hasta La Raiz”, Natalia Lafourcade’s top track

Natalia Lafourcade is a Grammy-nominated and Latin Grammy-winning Mexican singer and songwriter who, outside Latin America, is most known for the Academy Award-winning song “Remember Me” from the movie Coco. Lafourcade debuted as a solo artist with her self-titled album in 2002, which is considered one the most influential female albums of the decade in Mexico and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album. Her strong music career of 15 years has provided listeners a discography that spans a variety of genres. It’s easy to hear but hard to describe why Lafourcade’s music is so attractive. Her nostalgic but modern sounds filled with acoustics and seemingly carefree and unique vocals strike the heart of listeners and draw a brilliantly romantic image of a warm and peaceful home. Although her music is full of traditional Latin sounds, Lafourcade is universal because of the way she immerses listeners in melodies that spark pure joy. Lafourcade’s music may many times be personal, with many homages to her own culture and home, but the feelings she expresses are infectious and remind people of the raw happiness that comes from true human connection. Aside from the beautiful sounds Lafourcade creates with her voice and production, Lafourcade’s culturally rich music seems to have an agenda of spreading awareness of Latin music. Lafourcade is always using and bringing attention to different types of Latin music, from son jarocho to her own hometown of Vercruz’s folk music style. Lafourcade’s music is truly one of a kind.

Emily Wong

Artist: space x

Genre: Mandarin pop, hip-hop/rap

Spotify: Link to “0321,” space x’s top track

Taiwanese music artist space x produces nostalgic hip hop sounds through a wide range of electronic beats. Though she mainly sings in Mandarin, her calming voice guides the melody and builds up to a catchy chorus that resonates with the listeners’ soul, regardless of the language they speak. space x’s songs are generally upbeat with a tinge of melancholy to them, allowing listeners to fully embrace their emotions as they nod their head along to the beat. Her most recent release, “救世主Savior,” has a darker, more hip-hop feel to it compared to her other songs, with her rap-like vocals backed with a heavy bass beat and a constant tapping repeating in the background. When listening to this track, it feels as if the song empowers the listeners to be their own saviors during their dark times. Her passionate feelings shine through in her voice, encouraging listeners to remain strong through their hardships. The language barrier doesn’t stop space x from connecting to her listeners on a musical or even an emotional level, captivating them with some soulful tunes.