It's no small coincidence that bandleader Lino de la Guardia chose New Orleans rather than his hometown of Miami as the place to premiere his new band Khadir. The former, he exclaims, is a thriving live-music mecca jam-packed with dives, clubs, and concert halls. The latter? "Miami is all about club DJs and people rolling on Ecstasy," says the 31-year-old de la Guardia, who most recently scratched for club gigs with the band Shank. "There just aren't that many places willing to take a chance on local musicians. There's not much of a scene here, nor a musical appreciation for live bands. I've been playing in bands here for the last ten years and I've seen people get stiffed by club owners, clubs closing down all the time. I've had racial problems with Shank, because we had two black guys in the band."
Taking their name from the Arabic word for a muse-like angel, Khadir, a nine-piece self-described "Afro-Cuban Funk Pop Soul Sensation," debuted in the Crescent City late last month at the Dream Palace club during the city's annual Cutting Edge Pop Festival. They brought their robust, percolating fusion home last weekend, for their maiden South Florida show at Rose's. Their set leaned heavily on de la Guardia's compositions, many of which are slated to appear on Khadir's eponymous debut album to be issued later this month through Bitter Crop (a production company run by Oscar de la Guardia, Lino's half-brother).
The lineup for the album is still up in the air, but the prerelease tape they've been sending to the press includes eight songs that de la Guardia says are pulled from his globetrotting past and distill the music he heard while growing up in Miami, the Dominican Republic, and Venice Beach, California. The melting-pot set, co-produced by de la Guardia, Chris Rutherford, and P-Funk/Mutiny drummer Jerome "Bigfoot" Brailey, moves from taut, guitar-driven soulful pop ("Someday Pain") to light, percussive grooves accented by Afropop background vocals and de la Guardia's rough-hewn, throaty tenor ("Time/Bembe").
"My music isn't spiritually oriented, but it's spiritually influenced," explains de la Guardia, who has incorporated elements of Buddhism and Sufism into his writing. "Mostly, I try not to let the system drag me down. This can be such a narcissistic society -- you always have people trying to make you pull away and be selfish. Songwriting is the medicine that keeps me going. My songs say I'm not going to let that happen. I'm not getting political. I write about personal politics."
"Time/Bembe" reflects de la Guardia's interest in Rastafarianism, while "Freedom's Child" reflects his interest in the charms of "smoking weed and freeing my mind from any kind of depressing attitude I might wake up with." Other highlights: "Cardboard Home," a chronicle of the homeless drawn from de la Guardia's own street-living stint in Venice Beach; and "Macorix," which surveys his working-class roots in the Dominican Republic. "I've learned a lot about survival," he assesses. "The places I've lived, I learned how to appreciate things. I was shocked when I left the Dominican Republic and came home and saw people in restaurants order food and throw half of it away. That kind of waste, that kind of attitude. Those are the things I want to get across in my music, and if this thing ever takes off I plan to do a lot down here to help the homeless and the hungry. I don't want to preach, but if someone can get something good from my songs, I'm happy."
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Miami punk legends the Eat take it to the stage once again Saturday at Churchill's Hideaway, 5501 NE Second Ave., in Little Haiti. Opening acts for the "old time punk rock" blowout include Morbid Opera, the Trash Monkeys, and Rat Bastard.
God knows what they sound like these days, but judging from their 1995 slab Hialeah, things haven't changed much since their late-Seventies heyday, when they put Miami on the punk rock map with highly revered stompers like "Communist Radio" and the God Punishes the Eat EP. Saturday's show will be the first Eat appearance in ages; Eat guy Ken Lindahl says it "should be a good time even if we don't remember all the chords."
A historic occasion indeed.
-- By John Floyd