The multimember collective known as Locos por Juana -- which includes Itagui, Guillermo "Chamo" Cabral, Carlos "Negro" Viafara, Marc "JC" Kondrat, Marcos "Matatigre" Delgado, Camilo "Tumbao" Sierra, Jonathan "Boricua" Marrero, Javier "Lakambra" Delgado, Emiliano "CheFunk" Torres, Carlos "C-Bone" Avila, Alan Reyna, Claudio, and CALI 3000 -- would never, ever marginalize its music by calling it Caribbean, yet that global term, encompassing the sea and islands from Europe to the Middle East to Africa to the more familiar Bahamas and Puerto Rico -- is a good metaphor for the shifting energies and personalities of Miami's true identity band. This ambitious multicultural mélange mixes salsa, timba, ska, reggae, and cumbia in a wild stage show that is enhanced only by the aesthetically pleasing members. After completely upstaging, in the nicest way, headliner Lila Downs at this spring's Latin Funk Festival, and with a new album, La Verdad, dropping in June, LPJ shows no signs of slowing down or taking time off -- good news for its ever-growing legion of devotees.
Well, it's like this: "Otto Von Schirach is an IDM and breakcore artist from Miami, Florida, of Cuban/German decent. His style is more sporadic and noisy than other artists in the genre, and his visual aesthetic leans on the heavy-metal side rather than electronic. He has released most of his work on the Schematic and Beta Bodega labels, and was featured in the 2002 documentary Electro Dziska. Most recently he worked and went on tour with Skinny Puppy and produced a remix for Miss Kittin." That's from Von Schirach's Wikipedia listing, a listing he made himself, before most people knew what Wiki was (which in Miami means before most people knew what the Internet was). But did you see the last sentence of the entry? The part that says, "and went on tour with Skinny Puppy"? I mean, come on: Skinny Puppy. Even if that's the only thing OVS ever did, it would still make him more awesome than 99.9 percent of other people on the planet, let alone what passes for electronica artisans in most circles. But Von Schirach can stand on his own Korg. He is extremely prolific, having released nearly a dozen full-length works in the past five years alone (with great names such as Chopped Zombie Fungus, Well Suited for General Purpose Audio Work, and last year's Armpit Buffet). And he plays out a lot -- his recent appearances including a set at March's Noise Festival at Churchill's that culminated in cross-dressing and animal costumes. Von Schirach's music is surprising accessible and indescribable, a little of the Puppy's bluster cooled out with the intellect of Cabaret Voltaire, yet wholly original and mandatory for anyone who is into music, either seriously or just for fun, in South Florida.
Jude Thegenius (a.k.a. Jude Papaloko) draws much of his inspiration as a painter and musician from his youth in Haiti. "In Haiti, if you spoke out against the government, the police could come into your house at night, take you away, and you'd disappear forever," says Thegenius. Despite the high risk, Jude and a group of musicians and activists formed an organization called Sunshine and put on performances that were critical of the government. "The music was about revolt," Thegenius explains. "One day the police came in and started shooting." The police continued to put pressure on Sunshine, and in 1986 Jude left Haiti for Miami. Now, when he's not working on after-school art programs for kids in Miami's inner city, Jude plays percussion and does lead vocals for his band Loray Mistik at his art own gallery, Jakmel Art Gallery (147 NW 36th St.). Jakmel moved from its old location on Biscayne Boulevard, where in 2004 it won this paper's Best Place to Slow Dance. The new Jakmel is a warehouse Thegenius turned into a creative cultural center. There is a studio for painting, a gallery, a back-yard area with a small bar for parties, and a performance room with a stage and dance floor that Thegenius built himself. On Mondays at 7:00 p.m., the gallery hosts training for aspiring drummers. The Loray Mistik sound comes from a fusion of Haitian, African, and a bit of Brazilian music, with lyrics that are always thoughtful and politically conscious. Thegenius has appeared on two albums: Timounyo, which he recorded with his band, and Full Moon Energy, which he recorded with the Drum Society, with whom he began the Full Moon Drum Gathering. Thegenius writes all of his own songs, including the beautiful "The Life of the Poor Kids," inspired by "the thousands of poor kids who sleep in the streets of Haiti at night," he says.
LeNard Rutledge, born and raised in Miami, where there is only a handful of truly great jazz vocalists, is usually compared, aptly, to the legendary Lou Rawls. Like Rawls, Rutledge's classy elegance is often permeated by the raw passion of his church choir work. In fact Rutledge still sings with the choir at the historic Saint Agnes Episcopal Church in Overtown. "I'm religious, but not very. I drop the F-bomb when necessary," he says. Rutledge began not as a vocalist but as a drummer, playing in the marching band at Miami Central Senior High, and later making his income during college, in North Carolina, playing at local clubs. He began his vocal career in 1997, when he was asked to join the famed Melton Mustafa Orchestra, whose bandleader, the amazing trumpet player Melton Mustafa, was a member of the Count Basie band for seven years. In 2002 Rutledge was introduced to the music director of Miami's Van Dyke Café, Don Wilner, who immediately recognized Rutledge's talent and began giving him regular spots. "Don Wilner has a reputation of being difficult," Rutledge says, "but that's just because he wants the absolute best. I feel honored to sing there, because it means I'm up to those standards." Rutledge also performs at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach and Emeril's Restaurant, and is working on his debut album, scheduled for release in June. For live performance dates, visit www.donwilner.com.
Skampida is as Skampida sounds: a stampede of positive Colombian ska that tramples right over you with energetic horns, rap solos, and pounding punky drums, all salted with traditional Colombian genres like cumbia and champeta. The nine-member band made its grand entrance into Miami last year with a bang of good vibes that quickly led to nightly collaborations with other bands on the Latin funk scene, including Locos Por Juana and Suenalo Sound System. In fact Skampida's openness and camaraderie is exactly what gives the group its unique sound. Back in Colombia, the bandmates collaborated with street musicians on the margins of society, often participating in festivals to help the poor. When they arrived as broke immigrants in Miami, that same commitment to the public paid off here. Skampida went from being a virtual stranger to an overnight success by continually passing the mike off to colleagues and fans as the band members improvised the music in the background. "The universe works for them because they work for the universe," commented Lizzie Easton, promoter of the Latin Funk Festival.
What was it like to work with Miles Davis? "Working with Miles was outrageous, eccentric, and wonderful. He taught me how to play more by playing less. He also taught me to be myself and not a bullshit artist," says Sammy Figueroa, the percussionist whose 2005 debut album, And Sammy Walked In, was nominated for a Grammy. Figueroa was born in the Bronx and began drumming when he was a young boy after seeing a local drummer perform live. "I forgot who it was, but I caught the bug. I started imitating him," he says, "and my mother got tired of me constantly banging on tables, so she bought me some drums." His professional career began years later when he was eighteen, when he was invited to play percussion for bassist Bobby Valentin's band. Figueroa quickly earned a solid reputation and subsequently has worked with some of the biggest names in music, including Chet Baker, David Bowie, Marc Anthony, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion, as well as Miles Davis, with whom he toured for eight years all over the world. You can hear Figueroa's work on an assortment of pop hits, including Chic's "We are Family" and the Luther Vandross hit "The Night I Fell in Love." Throughout his career, Sammy has been a sideman to the greats, until he came to Miami, where he was embraced by the Van Dyke Café-centered jazz community and became the frontman of his own band, Sammy Figueroa and His Latin Explosion. Upstairs at the Van Dyke (846 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach) is where the Latin Explosion can often be found, and check out www.donwilner.com for more info about Sammy and his congas.
The Waterford Landing is a group of four extremely creative musicians -- Alex Caso (synths, vocals), Ed Matus (electric guitars, synth, drum programming, vocals), Richard Rippe (synths, electric Fender bass, vocals), and Neil Rippe (drum set) -- who, with the release of their self-titled debut album (which you can buy for $12 at www.appliedchaotics.com) and constant live performances (see myspace.com/thewaterfordlanding for dates and locations), have amassed a solid local following. In fact this is their fourth Best Of award. The Waterford Landing is a pop band in the best sense, capturing the catchy yet personal, thoughtful spirit of Dark Wave/New Wave greats like Magnetic Fields, New Order, Cocteau Twins, and Joy Division, all of which Caso lists as influences. "Skylark," the second song on their album, is a perfect mix of warm synths, catchy melody, danceable drums, and heartbreaking lyrics. The Waterford Landing is very much an electronic band, but that doesn't mean you'll find the band members behind laptops at live performances; instead they'll be turning up the distortion on their guitars (Matus might be handing someone in the crowd his axe) and letting the "wall of sound," as Caso calls it, blast through the speakers.
Tango music is meant to be seen and heard. The tango fest, an annual nine-day extravaganza, features the best in tango music from Buenos Aires. This year the festival will grace the Deauville Hotel, and the Orquesta Gente de Tango will play live sets every night. The bandmates promise such a vast repertoire that they won't repeat a set even once over the duration of the festival. In their off-time, the Gente de Tango members will give clinics to aspiring musicians. But that's just one element of the music: Not only will you get to hear incredible, authentic milongas, but also you can watch tango greats such as Eduardo and Gloria Arquimbau (of Tango Argentino and Forever Tango fame), Fabian Salas and Carolina del Rivero, Osvaldo Zotto and Lorena Ermocida, and other legendary couples perform flinty boleos, graceful ochos, and romantic tango waltzes. Single women who wish to dance get an extra boost: This year there will be ten "Taxi Dancers," those sexy Argentine tangueros who will switch partners to keep everyone's feet busy. If you can't make this year's festival (May 26 to June 3), check out the music and dancing at founder Lydia Henson's Tango Fantasy Milonga at the American/Czechoslovak Cultural Club (13325 Arch Creek Road, North Miami) from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. every Saturday.
We can all learn a lot from Trick Daddy. What are dub deuces? How does one get low to the floor? And how does one get that cream? If we pay attention, we could end up like Trick: with six cars, including a green monster truck in front of our mansion. Trick, who put Miami on the mainstream rap map with his four gold albums, is all over MTV and the radio, dominating the charts with songs like "Sugar (Gimme Some)" and the Ozzy Osbourne-sampled "Let's Go" from his latest album, his sixth, Thug Matrimony, which is headed for platinum status with 804,000 units sold. There is also word of an MTV series called Cookin' with Trick Daddy, in which he will make anything except chitlins because they, as he says, "smell like ass." The real reason Trick deserves this award is that, along with his devotion to children, his work is not cliché. Trick's authenticity strikes a chord, which is why he has spawned so many "Dirty South" copycats. He's creative and versatile, able to make a booty song, but also politically thoughtful (listen to the single "Amerika"). Trick is definitely a savvy businessman, turning Slip-N-Slide Records into a blue chip from scratch, but he's not selling empty boxes. His production is always catchy and interesting, and his lyrics are consistently creative and truthful.
Three young MCs -- Afterlogic, Newsense, and Parable -- all Miami natives, form the hip-hop trio SoulWhat?, which can be seen making the rounds at live music venues including I/O and Metropolis. But it is from the giant, borderless trunk called the Internet -- using a simple Website and a PayPal account -- that they deliver their fun, smart hip-hop full-length Rewind: Bringing Back the Future, released in 2005. Rewind may be one of the most important albums to come out of Miami in a long time. It's one of the very few to deliver the creative, thoughtful lyricism that has been almost nonexistant in the local music scene. Like all great hip-hop music, Rewind reaches listeners because the performers, with no pressure from a record label, use the album as a medium to actually say what they feel, and can get creative with sound. One of the tracks, "SoulWhat? vs. Beck," samples Beck's mid-Nineties hit "Loser," which along with the trio's brilliant flow makes for an interesting and wonderful mashup. "Gift of Gab" is laid-back and smooth, like Common's earlier work, with a perfect, mellow electric jazz guitar loop. But there's really no need for a review when you can buy the album for only $2 at www.soulwhat.net.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®