New Day Rising
It was an event that ended on a high note, with a third of Soho Lounge's capacity crowd inspired to break dance on mats in the center of the club. At the end of the concert, legendary Bronx DJ Afrika Bambaataa, who was headlining that night, said it best: "That's what we need in New York! Give it up for Council of the Sun!"
Talking over one another, the six members of Council of the Sun excitedly relive that magical concert, which took place last December. "It definitely was a big thing for us to be playing with him. Bambaataa is the grandfather of hip-hop, father of electro-funk, and one of the pioneers of conscious rap," says MC Inervolt, one of two vocalists in a band that energetically blends hip-hop, drum and bass, and English rhymes with Spanish hooks, giving birth to what they call "digi-organic meta hop drum and bass."
It was a special night that began ominously with a fight between two groups of fans on the second floor of the venue while Council of the Sun waited to go onstage. When half-a-dozen people joined the brawl, the club's security kicked everybody out, leaving a long line of peaceful hip-hop fans to wait for things to calm down.
"As I'm waiting outside, two guys come up to me and ask, 'Do you know if Council of the Sun will play or not?'" remembers Colombian-American guitarist Andrie Iglesias, who's in charge of providing "cosmic riffs." "I was like, 'Yes, we are going to play, I'm the guitarist,' and their reaction was 'Man, we came all the way from Ohio, we've heard that Council of the Sun is THE underground drum and bass and hip-hop band of South Florida ... you better play!'"
"To know that we're putting the word out and [that we can] reach people that far away and get a response is awesome," marvels Inervolt. Reflexively, the group begins to tell the story of how their drummer Jason Haft got into Council of the Sun. "You're the best example on how the word got widely spread about us," says Cuban-American bassist Pedro Marquez, pointing to Haft.
Son of a German-American father and a Cuban mother, the drummer lived in Miami but found out about the band through some New York friends. "That was the first time I had heard about them, long before I actually met them," says Haft. He explains how "as a drummer, drum and bass has inspired me to improve my playing. [My drumming] just evolved entirely because it's typically done with machines, and a lot of it is beyond human capabilities. But I try to push myself to achieve that. MC Wavelength heard me and recruited me and it just seemed to work."
MC Wavelength was born in Panama City, Panama, and moved to Miami at age five. Eleven years ago he met Inervolt, a Dominican American who had recently moved from New York City to Miami. They began writing rhymes together and eventually formed a group, the Solar Council. In 1999, the two MCs befriended the four members of another group called Desybil -- Marquez, Iglesias, Argentinean-born keyboardist and producer Alfi Martins (rock en español legend Charly Garcia's keyboardist), and Cuban-American drummer Paul Galan (later replaced by Haft). The six decided to create a new band together called Council of the Sun.
Based in Miami's "melting pot," COS has played for all kinds of audiences. "Honestly, we want to stand with one foot on one, and one foot in the other," says Inervolt, alluding to how its members live in the U.S. and are of Latin descent.
"Everything's involved -- where our families are from, where we were born, I'm gonna be Latin no matter what," laughs Iglesias, "be it how much Anglo music we create, or Spanish music I create, in the Spanish market they'll always see me as a gringo colombiano born in Jersey."
COS is planning to independently release its album Six Degrees of Culture on March 21, timed to coincide with the equinox. The members say that the album will be carried at local spots like Grooveman and Uncle Sam's and through their Website, www.councilofthesun.com. The songs have an incredible potential to cross over a number of barriers, despite the intrinsic limitations of a genre that at first can be interpreted as plain drum and bass with a bilingual background. "Will drum and bass go out of style?" wonders Wavelength. "No way, bass will always be in music, from the African drums thousands of years ago to right now, it's all about the bass. It may change names -- house music, disco, salsa, merengue. But todo is all about the bass."
The problem is, where will they play it? The musicians say they have difficulty finding good venues to perform their "meta hop" hybrid because Miami doesn't really have a strong live scene. Of course, not everything can be blamed on the city. "A lot of these promoters ... their hearts are in the right place," mutters Wavelength. "But most places don't really have good sound, and they pay the bands nothing! Bands are out there breaking their bones, working 24 hours a day, day and night, they hit the studio, they move their equipment ... nobody has roadies in this scene!"
"The good thing about that is that we end up playing to markets where we had no idea how they were going to react," says Inervolt. The common ground COS finds with its audiences is positive energy. "Some people react instantly, some people react later, but we've got a very good vibe with the audience," he says.
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