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Chico Mann's new album, Magical Thinking, sounds like a mix of Company B, P-Funk, and every freestyle song ever. It's a style characterized by classic machine drums, catchy synth lines, funky guitar chops, thumping bass, and party-ready female vocals.
The Brooklyn producer has been making waves throughout the States since joining the New York-based Afrobeat band Antibalas in 1998. But it's been a few years since he touched down in the MIA. So now that he's headed back south, we at New Times caught up with the Jersey-based artist to find out what he thinks about the touring life, broadening horizons, and having, as his song says, the "Magic Touch."
New Times: Wassup, man? How's it goin'?
Chico Mann: Good. Yeah, just hangin'.
What's been the holdup, yo?
Why has it been so long? Man, it's a long story. Basically, I mean, just lineup changes and touring with Antibalas and working on a new record. Before you know it, years have gone by. My last time in Miami was probably 2010 for Shake at the Vagabond.
What's your connection to Miami?
Well, I have a lot of family there. My family is Cuban. Everybody that's Cuban has family in Miami. I been just visiting to see family all my life, growing up. But the first time I played in Miami was with Antibalas at that same club, but back when it was called I/O.
Lots of acts seem like they ignore us.
Miami is not in the path of a lot of touring. Some years we get there; other years it doesn't happen. Which is a shame, 'cause it's a great place and so very receptive to the music I make. But unless you're gonna fly down, it just doesn't make sense.
But at the same time, this is the gateway to so many other countries that would probably like your shit.
Yeah, that's true. Then, obviously, it would make sense. Antibalas only played Mexico for the first time a few months ago. I would love to be able to tour in Latin America. It's been a slow process making that happen. But if that were the case, Miami would be the first stop.
What's the obstacle?
Overhead, pretty much, and I think there's not a lot of infrastructure with booking agents in the U.S. They don't have a lot of Latin American contacts. If I could find somebody like that, I would do it in a second.
How do you think your music would go over in Latin America and the Caribbean?
I think it would be understood. I did a DJ set in Mexico, and all the music I played, everybody understood it. The same thing in Miami. It's just nice to play for Latinos. That's true in L.A., Texas, and California too. They just kind of get it, and that's really nice, and I feel that is the future.
What country would you wanna play most?
I think that the internet has made it a lot more feasible. Just judging by the people that hit me up on social networks, it's so many people in Latin America. As they get more spending power and economies develop, they have access to all the music and artists that in the past just spread by word of mouth. Now people have a lot more access, which is great.
What have you been up to?
I just put out an album, Magical Thinking, on a British label called Soundways Records, and that's what I'll be in Miami promoting. The show is at Will Call, which is cool because it's open 24 hours, and I'm playing with Afrobeta's Tony and Cuci, who are good friends of mine. So it's gonna be a family affair. That'll be nice. I'm looking forward to coming back to Miami. It's like a second home. First stop is Palacio de los Jugos para un jugo de guanabana.