Latin rock veteran Pepe Alva and his band Alma Raymi ("soul celebration" in Quechuan) spent much of the past year in the studio, working on the follow-up album to 1997's Pa' Mostrarte Mi Amor (MATT Entertainment). With a new disc tentatively titled Comprometida (Engaged), Alva makes a bid for the big time, hiring top-flight producers and stellar New York session musicians to bolster his local six-piece ensemble. On Comprometida the rock-and-Andean-rhythm fusion Alva and his brother Carlos have experimented with since 1990 is carried into the mainstream. "Our music has a little more attitude now," Alva says. "At the same time, it's a little more commercial." While many of Alva's tunes could be anybody's altrock, other songs emanate a distinctive sound thanks to Peruvian instruments such as the quena, the Andean flute; charango, the world's smallest guitar; and zampoña, bamboo panpipes, which the Incas used as a form of communication. Listen for the new songs at Latin-rock hot spots the Grill and Club Millennium.
Chances are if you've heard any of the big-name Jamaican toasters or crooners in concert here, then you've heard Hal Anthony and his Millennium Band backing them up. The ensemble of choice for visiting vocalists holds up quite well on its own. Playing regularly for the past two years at South Florida venues such as Bayside in Miami and Alligator Alley in Sunrise, the six-piece outfit brings on real roots reggae with two keyboards, drums, bass, and two guitars. The group mixes soul-stirring original tunes like the praise song "Blessings" with innovative arrangements of reggae standards. A recent tour took the Millennial sound to 44 U.S. states and a number of Caribbean islands. The recent release of their CD Cool It means fans still can groove to the righteous rockers even when the band is out of town. Always true to the roots philosophy, the members of the Millennium Band say their motivation to play comes not from money but from love for their listeners, which is why we love them, too.
New World Center
While the rest of the free world consumed itself in the anticipatory hype over Star Wars: Episode One -- The Phantom Menace late last spring, the precocious members of the New World Symphony staged a more twisted salute to the glories of Chewbacca: an opera. Transposing sections of John Williams's original Star Wars score on to their own chosen instrumentation, the ever-so-proper stage of the Lincoln Theatre suddenly became host to a wide range of oboe-playing aliens and a very imposing Darth Vader (no Michael Tilson Thomas jokes, please). Frankly by the time the NWS got to the "death star" scene, it was hard to tell who was having more fun, the audience or the musicians themselves. One thing's for sure, after watching a brace of finely choreographed bassoon-blowing Stormtroopers bring down the house (while gliding on rollerskates no less), anything further from George Lucas is bound to be anticlimactic.
As South Beach slowly filled with New Year's Eve revelers looking to ring in the millennium underneath a glitter ball, a far more curious spectacle was unfolding deep within the Everglades swamp. There, on a swath of semidry land inside the Seminole Indian Reservation, nearly 80,000 folks from across America converged for an old-fashioned campout-cum-rock fest, complete with an on-site radio station to remind them not to feed the alligators. The soundtrack (and the magnetic draw that saw a virtual city appear overnight on a scrubby field) was the little cult phenomenon that could, Vermont's premier improvisatory neohippie outfit, Phish. While news choppers buzzed overhead and newspaper critics scratched their brows, Phish's devout fans gleefully settled in for two days of Little Feat-style guitar play and whimsical freeform jamming. A Porta Potti even was rolled out onto the stage to enable a midnight-to-dawn uninterrupted set, a supreme test of endurance. After all, what better way was there for a jam band to properly christen the century turnover? Pundits may have argued over the concert's cultural significance and made tiresome Woodstock references, but Phish's flock was much more concerned with boogying.
Live blues seems rather common in South Florida clubs. Blues on the radio is another story. Jazz DJs such as WDNA's Frank Consola, WLRN's Len Pace, and WTMI's China Valles occasionally spin the blues, but full shows are sparse. WDNA's weekly program Portraits in Blue is a bright star in a dark sky. Portraits (Monday from 11:00 a.m. to noon) devotes its entire hour to a single artist's music. Brief, often poignant, biographical information about the artist also is included throughout a set of tunes spanning the musician's career. Informative and entertaining, Portraits is produced in New Jersey. Too bad. Let's hope more local radio programmers take note and follow suit with shows of their own.
Saturday night, eyes bleary, rain slapping hard on your car. You turn up your radio to hear her silky narration, the aural equivalent of hot chocolate during a snowstorm. Although Fields, who studied broadcasting and journalism in college, makes her living as an Associated Press reporter, she confesses, "Radio was always my love." Since 1995 on WLRN, her sultry jazz selections and intimate intonations have conveyed that romance, wooing listeners and providing a cozy respite from the elements. Hear her 8:00 p.m. until midnight Saturdays.
Many a fan of local Latin pop band Rock'n Son have heard tunes in the group's repertoire played by other musicians. That's because the band's keyboardist and writer, Raul del Sol, still has a soft spot for songs he has peddled to other artists. During Rock'n Son's live sets, which begin at 10:00 Thursday evenings at Starfish, you might hear ballads like "Encuentro" and "Diferencias," both recorded on Spanish-language rocker Amaury Gutierrez's latest album. Francisco Cespedes, Chayanne, and even Jamaican pop sensation Beenie Man also have tapped del Sol's gifts for composition and arrangement. While love often is del Sol's subject, his music recalls the confections of the troubadour-style Cuban nueva trova movement of the Sixties. He writes polished, apolitical folk rock with a tropical feel.
Few local bands were ever more misunderstood, or more hated in certain quarters, than Harry Pussy, whose squalling feedback-drenched performances managed to clear rooms across Miami for a memorable chunk of the mid-Nineties. The more this no-wave trio was feted elsewhere -- saluted onstage by Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, spotlighted by Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore during his guest-VJ slot on MTV -- the more South Floridians scratched their heads and passed the Tylenol. Which may have been apropos. As the band attacked its instruments during (interminable for some) fifteen-minute sets, the message often seemed to be: "We suffered for our art; now it's your turn!" Harry Pussy launched its final sonic assault in May 1997 at Churchill's. That parting shot has been enshrined in its entirety on this posthumously released live album. Aside from capturing the outfit in all its shrieking glory, the record also serves as a welcome reminder that not everybody's creative response to our burg's fabled sun and surf is "Don't worry. Be happy."
In 1979 Victor Manuel Casanova left Peru with a group of musicians for a tour of the United States that never ended. Over the past twenty years, this Afro-Peruvian singer, guitarist, and caja or "box" player, has performed for Miami's ever-growing Peruvian population. A petite man with dark skin and a powerful voice, Chocolatin often exclaims with pride for his race and national origin. He learned to sing and play largely from his family during childhood, beginning a career that has spanned nearly three decades. He has mastered an array of international standards and Peruvian favorites, including "La Flor de Canela" ("Cinnamon Flower") by the Andean nation's most beloved composer Chabuca Grande. The rich tones of Chocolatin can be heard every Saturday at the Peruvian Grill in Kendall.
Some say the Bahamians built Miami. Early immigrants, they laid down the first roads and then laid out the towels and sheets for the area's first tourists. The drums and horns of Bahamian junkanoo music certainly have marched willy-nilly through the Miami soundscape since the beginning of the Twentieth Century. In Overtown Bahamian migrants founded the Sunshine Junkanoo Band in 1957 under the direction of Bruce Beneby. In 1993 former Sunshiners Langston Longley, David Dean, and Eddie Clark recruited more recent arrivals to create the Bahamas Junkanoo Review, which invades public school classrooms with whistles and bells, plays for tourists at hotels, and livens up nearly every local parade. The tireless Longley and his whistle-blowing, foot-stomping crew move back and forth between Miami and our nearest neighbors, taking with them the most brilliant costumes and latest Bahamian beats.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®