Afrobeta and Rhythm Foundation Partner for a Livestreamed Show at the North Beach Bandshell

Cuci Amador and Tony Smurphio of Afrobeta.
Cuci Amador and Tony Smurphio of Afrobeta. Photo by Juan Vergara
click to enlarge Cuci Amador and Tony Smurphio of Afrobeta. - PHOTO BY JUAN VERGARA
Cuci Amador and Tony Smurphio of Afrobeta.
Photo by Juan Vergara
The second edition of Social — the Rhythm Foundation's new monthly event series — was scheduled to happen tonight at the North Beach Bandshell.

But certain developments in public health have made holding gatherings of that nature more than a little tricky at the moment.

"We were going to have yoga, acupuncture, healthy food, and astrology readings," shares Karla Arguello, the communications director for the Rhythm Foundation. "And it was all going to be topped off with a performance by Afrobeta."

Owing to the recommendations of medical officials as well as ordinances put in place by federal, state, and local officials, a conventional concert by the beloved Miami duo has been made all but impossible by the social distancing needed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Luckily, as the past few days have shown, creative minds have found ways for the show to go on: Tonight at 8, Afrobeta will perform to an empty North Beach Bandshell and stream the whole thing on Facebook Live so would-be concertgoers can enjoy it at home.

The Rhythm Foundation and Afrobeta mobilized independently to experiment with livestreaming shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States.

"Live shooting was something the Rhythm Foundation has long wanted to explore," says Arguello, adding the group has "slowly accumulated" a number of in-house professional cameras. "Last week, when our Betsayda Machado y Parranda El Clavo show in Doral got canceled after the band had already flown in... we moved it to the Bandshell. We livestreamed it, and over 6,000 people watched it."
Cristina "Cuci" Amador and Tony Smurphio — the electro-pop enthusiasts who make up Afrobeta — organized a livestream test run of their own last weekend as well. They had even intended to stage an online show independently before the Rhythm Foundation reached out. "We were going to do a second test run with a sound card so we could have proper audio when Rhythm Foundation offered us their stage," Amador says. "The reach you can have digitally is so much more. Hopefully, this is something we can keep doing."

Afrobeta, like many Miami musicians, has been hit hard by the closures of the city's bars and live music venues. "Everyone has lost all their weekly gigs; it's hard not to have a pessimistic outlook. A lot of musicians have saved for the next couple weeks, but after that —," Smurphio says, pausing deeply before resuming his thoughts. "We'd been saving ourselves for this show and for Ultra, so we're so glad to do this. It's the only way musicians and audiences can share music for a while."
Arguello says navigating the logistics of the live video stream hasn't been all that complicated. "We wanted the city's seal of approval since it was originally a Miami Beach event as Culture Crawl. The Bandshell is open-air, and we shouldn't have more than ten people," she says, noting it'll take two members of the band, a small tech crew, and three people to coordinate the video stream.

Smurphio says Afrobeta has been diligently prepping for tonight's performance. "You have to plan more than for a normal show, where once you play live, that's it. This will be less forgiving since it will be replayed."

Amador adds, "Not being able to interact with the audience will be different: You won't see anybody dancing, but you also won't see anyone leaving to go to the bathroom. I've been thinking about what I can do differently for this. Maybe I'll leave the stage for a while so [Smurphio] can go solo."

A little more than 24 hours before showtime, the organizers and the band are still working out how they can make the most of this forced opportunity to do something creative. "I'm scared of the comments we might get: I'll try not to look," Amador jokes. "Maybe we'll offer the idea of requests. We're going to have the Afrobeta Instagram Live feed going to give people a behind-the-scenes look."

With few answers as to how long this period of social distancing will last, is it possible livestreamed shows will be a way for musicians to make do during quarantine?

"You could have a digital tip jar where people could donate while you're streaming," Smurphio opines. "You've got to look at it from a positive viewpoint. This could be a time where musicians write and record."

Afrobeta. 8 p.m. Thursday, March 19, at the North Beach Bandshell. Stream via
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland