In the aftermath of the Latin Grammys debacle, an L.A. Times column pilloried Miami for delusions of grandeur about being the capital of Latin music and cast aspersions at homegrown Latin talent Gloria Estefan, Enrique Iglesias, and Jon Secada. Lord knows, I've cast plenty of the same aspersions myself, and you'll get no argument from me about the superiority of Havana's salsa scene, but the L.A. Times writer is missing the point: Miami is not so much a place that musicians come from as it is a place musicians come to.
Case in point: Square One, hailed the world over as the Ambassadors of Soca for their extensive touring in the United States and Europe, will be leading their own Caribbean versions of aerobics this weekend at Music Fest Miami. Featuring vocalists Cecil Riley, Anderson Armstrong, and Alison Hinds, Square One has won dozens of West Indian musical competitions since forming in 1986. Although based in Barbados, these upbeat soca partiers are a frequent visitor to Miami's West Indian nightspots, such as the Madhouse on Key Biscayne, and last October brought fire to the already hot Soca Fest 2000.
Back in 1998 Hinds was even voted Soca Magazine's vocalist of the year for In Full Bloom, a disc that boasts three versions of "That's the Way I Like It" by Miami's own Harry Wayne ("KC") Casey, each one smoothed into a postdisco Caribbean groove by Hinds's sultry growl.
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Hinds has said her hopes are pinned on winning global recognition for soca, with her eyes on the prize of a Grammy. To that end Champions, Square One's latest release, tempers soca's manic jump-and-wave aerobic exhortations with a guest appearance by Jamaican-American rapper Foxy Brown and liberal amounts of dancehall and classic reggae. Champions even tries out South African rhythms and chants with "Take Me Home." Tracking the migrations of Caribbean bands through Miami, we might add: wherever that is.