The name of his most recent album, "Bi," from 2012, aptly describes Kevin Johansen: bicultural and bilingual.
The son of an American father and an Argentine mother, born in Fairbanks, Alaska, but raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Johansen sings in English and Spanish. This week, the 49-year-old singer-songwriter is returning to the United States after an absence of more than 10 years. On Saturday, he and his band, the Nada, will perform their fusion of pop, rock, blues, cumbia and tango in Miami Beach.
"The truth is that we have been traveling quite a bit, thanks to the 'Bi' record, which opened a lot of doors for us in Latin America in the last couple of years," Johansen says from Buenos Aires.
Latin Americans first began to notice Johansen after the release of his 2002 album, "Sur o No Sur." Back then, he explains, things were at a "cult" status. That level of recognition has increased in the past three years, as he has made inroads in Mexico.
"And once we began to be heard in Mexico, it sort of resonated with Latin audiences in the United States," he says.
Part of Johansen's musical richness can be traced to the years he lived in New York, where he honed his skills at CBGB, launching pad of the Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads.
"I always say that I lived the 20th century's last decade, the Clinton years, in New York, and it was an amazing experience for me," Johansen says. "I arrived when I was 25, and two months later, almost like something out of a movie, Hilly Kristal, the club's owner, said to me, 'I like what you do. Play and record here.' "
In 2000, Johansen returned to Argentina. When the Twin Towers fell in 2001, he decided to stay in South America.
"I was always surprised that he was not better known here, because of the fact that he's perfectly bilingual and writes with the same quality and skill in both languages, without losing the ingenious stuff he works into his lyrics," says Juan Data, an Argentine DJ, writer, producer and promoter based in Oakland, Calif. "In a way, he will always be a niche artist, because his music is too intelligent. But within that niche, he has a lot of room to grow in the United States."
Kevin Johansen and the Nada will perform 8 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at the New World Center, 500 17th St., in Miami Beach. Tickets cost $41.50 and $61.50. Call 305-673-3331 or go to NewWorldCenter.com.