By Kat Bein
By Shea Serrano
By S. Pajot
By Terrence McCoy
By Falyn Freyman
By Shea Serrano
By Jacob Katel
By Michael E. Miller
Eshkenazi is right: Khadir's sound is an amalgam of wobbly wah-wah guitars (supplied by Dylan Schiavone), the slippery bass lines of Dameon Maizler, fatback funk drums (compliments of Eshkenazi), the backing-vocal majesty of Marty Fernandez, and de la Guardia's rough-hewn voice, which can growl, moan, and soar skyward in a leathery falsetto. And though they're severely underrepresented on Step into the Rhythm, percussionists Joe Collado and Tomas Diaz manage to put a new -- but instantly familiar -- spin on Khadir's Seventies-style panoply of funk and soul.
De la Guardia blames the missing Afro-Cuban firepower (very much a part of the Brailey-helmed stuff) on Serotta. "He doesn't have any clue about Afro-Cuban rhythms, so he just took them out completely," says de la Guardia, exaggerating slightly. "I just don't think he knew how to go about recording them. That's what I mean about him not hearing what's in my head. That song "Your Only Love" -- I can't listen to it on the CD. It was a gospel song the way I heard it in my head, but the way it turned out it's more of a country-rock-pop sound. I told Serotta I wanted it to be gospel-oriented, because that's what influenced me when I was writing the song. But he told me, 'No, this is a Van Morrison-type song,' and because he's the producer I just shut my mouth."
Obviously, that's not always easily for de la Guardia, and that passion -- that drive to call things as he sees them and to pull no punches -- informs his songwriting. "Lino's lyrics are very spiritual but very much a part of the real world," says bassist Maizler, defining perfectly the genius behind de la Guardia's art. Delving into both the world around him and his own checkered past (he's bounced from Miami to the Dominican Republic to the West Coast, and has slept in cardboard boxes and been on the wrong side of prison bars), de la Guardia writes with equal measures of grit and compassion, concern and indignation. In "Your Only Love" he examines the pain of a son abandoned by his father. "Days a Gone" is a chronicle of optimism turning to cynical rage, while "The Funktion" takes a look at why optimism can sour.
"They come from things that happen, anything in everyday life," de la Guardia says of his songs. "Before I'm a musician, I'm an expressionist. Every time I write something, it's got to touch me when I hear it played back. If something makes me real, real happy one day, I'll write about it. But usually every day you hear some bad news, and once in a while it really hits home." De la Guardia is referring specifically to "Keep on Givin'," which was inspired by the Martin Luther King Day shooting this year in Liberty City which took the life of six-year-old Rickia Issac. "I know that happens every day, but it was this certain day," de la Guardia says. "People are celebrating and feeling good and you hear about something like this and you wonder, 'What the fuck is going on?'"
De la Guardia has been asking questions like that since he formed his first band Shank a couple of years back with some area session players. A later lineup cut some demos for the Coconut Grove label, but de la Guardia wasn't happy with the results; the project was shelved. After changing the band's name last year to Khadir -- the Arabic word for a muselike angel -- de la Guardia submitted a copy of the aforementioned promotional tape to the New Orleans-based Cutting Edge Music Business Conference, a South By Southwest-like artist showcase-cum-industry confab. Having won a slot in the Cutting Edge event (their debut live gig, by the way), Khadir was invited back to New Orleans to perform in yet another Crescent City blowout -- Jeff Fest, which then led to other gigs at famed clubs there such as Tipitina's, and heavy radio play on the city's community stations.
Because of this prodigious activity, not to mention the maturity in de la Guardia's writing and the agility and finesse in the group's playing, it's easy to forget that Khadir is still a very young band -- one that de la Guardia describes as a "people" band. "The best way to describe what we're doing is to call it people music. It's about the struggles that people go through every day. And I think if you take something up on-stage and it's real -- and people know when something is true when they see it -- it's going to touch their hearts."
Khadir's record-release party is Saturday, May 24, at Tobacco Road, 626 S Miami Ave; 374-1198. Showtime is 9:00 p.m. Cover charge is $5.