Local Music

For Stroke Awareness Month, South Florida Musicians Raise Funds for Fellow Artist Xela Zaid

Alex Diaz performing at International Noise Conference 2015.
Alex Diaz performing at International Noise Conference 2015. Alex Markow for Miami New Times
Over the past 28 years, wherever homegrown Miami musicians were planting sonic seeds that sprouted into bits of brilliance, there was the ubiquitous, smiling presence of Alex Diaz. He's been a staple on the music scene since he began performing his music as the indie act Ho Chi Minh in the '90s. Later, his sound turned experimental under the moniker Xela Zaid. But he suffered a tragic stroke just before Christmas 2016 that compromised his ability to speak. He has been battling since to regain his independence and voice.

Fellow musician Rob Elba (Holy Terrors, Shark Valley Sisters) started a YouCaring campaign last year and hosted a fundraiser to help Diaz pay for necessary medical care that isn't being covered by his Medicaid insurance. This Stroke Awareness Month, Elba is partnering with other scene stalwarts to rock out at their preferred haunt, Churchill's Pub, and offer support to someone in need who has always supported them over the years.

"Aside from being an amazing musician and performer," Elba says of his friend Diaz, "he has always been known as a soft-spoken, gentle soul with never a harsh word to say to anyone. He was always everywhere on the scene, playing with all different musicians and always there to lend a hand at benefit shows for others."

Before his stroke, Diaz was touring the country and Europe to share what Elba describes as "dreamy sonic soundscapes" and promote his release Orange Violet on the French label Partycul System.

"This stroke has been particularly devastating, because outwardly, Alex looks great, but he has severe aphasia and basically lost the ability to speak or communicate. He knows what's going on and can say words, but he can't, as of yet, put them together to communicate his thoughts past some rudimentary phrases," Elba explains. Because of these challenges, he can't work. "It's been a constant battle to get Medicaid to cover speech therapy, which he desperately needs."

This Saturday, Churchill's Pub will be packed with friends of Diaz's for the second-annual An Evening for Xela: Stroke Awareness Benefit Show. Most exciting, Diaz might even perform a short set with his sometime collaborator, noise guru Rat Bastard. Acts you'll want to catch include Humbert, Curious Hair, John Camacho & Friends, the Brand, Victorious Eve, Ronit Golan, Carla Cabello, Brian Franklin, Amy T Baxter, Mr. E & MLE, Jean Pereira, and DJ Skidmark.

"Aside from raising some money — which will really help Alex out," Elba says, "the show is also meant to raise awareness for the causes of strokes and how to prevent them. What happened to Alex really could have happened to any one of us."

There will be information to increase awareness of strokes and a raffle with rad prizes donated by his friends to support him further. "Most of all," Elba says, "the show is to gather his friends together and show Alex that he hasn't been forgotten and that we as a music scene have his back."

An Evening for Xela: Stroke Awareness Benefit Show. 8 p.m. Saturday, May 19, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; churchillspub.com. Admission is a $5 donation. Visit the YouCaring site to donate additionally and the event's Facebook page.
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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy