While Miami's affinity for pure rock 'n' roll has fluctuated wildly since Hispanic immigration began in the '60s, the genre has still managed to thrive in the 305. As in all instances of assimilation, many first-generation Latinos rebelled against their parents and adopted the sounds of this new country.
In the '70s, though, an interest in their roots drove many burgeoning musicians to mix mom and dad's music with rock. It's been a sometimes erratic ride, musically, for the last 40-plus years, but Miami's remained at the forefront of the Latin rock in the United States. Though New York City and Los Angeles can also lay claim to leading the scene, Miami's proximity to the many varied sounds of the Caribbean and Hispanic diaspora has certainly kept her several strides ahead.
Here are Miami's 16 best Latin rock bands of all time.
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Formed in 2001, Origen's had the pleasure of working with Grammy-nominated producers, released a pair of well-received albums, and enjoyed exposure on Spanish-language television. For a band started by kids looking at music as a hobby, Origen has become a full-time professional gig for this trio.
15. Pepe Alva y Alma Raymi
As a roots musician who traveled between Miami's then-nascent Peruvian community and the Space Cadette Records scene, Pepe Alva long maintained a strong presence on South Florida's music scene. He would eventually drop the Alma Raymi and forge on. But he should have left behind a far greater recorded legacy.
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Taking many generations of angst against the Castro brothers and modern Cuban-American living, the boys of Guajiro tossed off a catchy and accessible punk rock racket. Drummer Douglas Mackinnon, who stinted with Slapshot and the Vandals, now owns and operates a boxing gym in Long Beach. Guitarist and singer Will Lopez currently works the stand-up comedy circuit. And guitarist Jorge Gonzalez-Graupera toured with Volumen Cero.
13. Inmundo Mundo
These '90s darlings from South Florida did a good job of blending numerous Caribbean sounds into their own individual ethnic ingredients, usually resulting in fun and lively gigs. Another criminally under-recorded outfit.
12. Elastic Bond
This outfit has done a great job of blending organic and digital sounds into flavorful and infectious tropical rock. There is a definitive dance mentality behind Elastic Bond's work, but bandleader Andres Ponce's take on Latin jazz and party music is also informed by saccharine pop. Meanwhile, the work of his surrounding cast of musicians -- from the guitars of Buffalo Brown and the horns of David Burgos to Sofy Encanto's delightful pipes -- holds it all together.
11. Fulano de Tal
Elsten Torres and Brendan Buckley were the perfect storm of musical chops and underhanded humor at a time when Latin rock needed some fun. Short lived by any measure, Torres and Buckley's Fulano de Tal managed to release two full-length albums in five years before disbanding. Torres has enjoyed a solo career and Buckley famously drummed for Shakira.
10. Music Is a Weapon
Whether known as Al's Not Well, All Is Well, or 10 Sheen, this crew's core figures, Brik Brixton and Kala Droid, have maintained a steady presence on Miami's music scene for a very long time. Most recently operating under a name borrowed from Fela Kuti and having become darlings in Amsterdam with singularly energetic performances, this band specializes in electronic rock that's always been rooted in the syncopation and rhythms of Brazil and Afro-Cuban music.
A newer outfit compared to others on this list, Feneiva has rapidly garnered enough accolades and notice to cement its place in local music consciousness. The self-described "Latin indie pop-rock dance" quartet recently auditioned for Telemundo's Buscando Mi Ritmo and time will tell what that exposure might yield. Oh, and doesn't the singer look like a Rasta Latino Ethan Hawke?
See also: Miami's Ten Best Ska Bands of All Time
Jorge Villamizar and Bacilos were the cream of the crop for Latin pop in the '90s and early 2000s. As Miami's unofficial musical ambassadors of that era, they certainly made waves across the Spanish-language market, winning four Grammy awards before delivering their swan song at Chile's revered Viña del Mar Festival in 2007.
7. Volumen Cero
Originally known as Orgasmic Bliss, this band's roots can be traced to Miami's goth scene in the '90s and specifically to several alt-rock outfits that had their stop-and-go on the local circuit. In 2001, Volumen Cero was able to land a contract with Warner Records' Latin wing and enjoyed heavy touring with bigger acts for several years. A good fusion of pop and British post-punk with Latino cheekiness, the group quietly went into the good night in the late 2000s after relocating to Los Angeles.
6. Suénalo Sound System
One of the better live acts in Miami, regardless of genre, Suénalo is infectious and engaging. There's also often somewhere in the vicinity of fifty members to be found on the stage at any given point. But even though the proceedings are carnivalesque, they always remain under control. So far, this notorious "Afro-Latin, baby-makin' descarga funk" big band has recorded two albums, which thump and hump just as hard as the live show. So if you ever have a bunch of wallflowers over at your crib for a party and it's time to get them moving, Suénalo can help.
5. The Antiques
Of the early Miami bands to incorporate Latin sounds, the Antiques took its cues from Santana and the California scene, producing one gem of an album in 1973's Sincerely Antique. We'd even venture to say that it belongs alongside the first three Santana albums. It is a damn shame that this Miami crew didn't explode into mega-superstar status like the aforementioned Carlos.
See also: Miami's 20 Best Punk Bands of All Time
4. Locos Por Juana
Now in its 14th year, Locos Por Juana's humble beginnings may have been as a jam band, but the group's sound has steadily expanded over the last decade to incorporate dance-heavy styles like salsa and cumbia. In 2005 and 2008, Locos earned Grammy nominations. But Itagui Correa, Mark Kondrat, Javier Delgado, and crew's signature achievemnet is likely the introduction of contemporary Afro-Colombian rock 'n' roll music to the South Florida scene.
3. Spam All Stars
Andrew Yeomanson is a personal vinyl hero for us. As DJ Le Spam, he's probably done more to introduce amazing tuneage into South Florida's subconscious than anyone else. With the Spam All Stars, he's managed to bridge his crazy love and thirst for music as a DJ with that of a live player. Effervescent, informed, and usually way more globally referential than an initial listen would suggest, Spam All Stars is also the hardest working band in Miami. What nights do Yeomanson and friends take off again? Oh, that's right -- nearly none.
See also: Miami's Ten Best Recording Studios
The only thing that prevented Coke, or rather, Los Coke from becoming a household name was its already trademarked moniker. But not even a cease-and-desist order from the soda company could silence what these guys did in the early '70s. Teenagers freshly out of high school when their self-titled 1970 album was recorded, los hermanos de Los Coke recently enjoyed a revival, alongside other South Florida bands of their era from the Open House circuit and the local disco scene. Though they no longer perform as Coke, the majority of the resurfaced members continue to gig around South Florida as Harmony. And that '70 album, now reissued on CD, is an absolute must in any Miami home.
1. Miami Sound Machine
Before even thinking about saying anything to the contrary, answer the following: When traveling abroad between 1988 and 1997, what did people say when finding out that you were from Miami? That's right, how awesome it must be to live the Miami Vice lifestyle and that Miami Sound Machine performed at your house. Prior to launching Gloria's award-laden solo career, the Miami Sound Machine bridged the dying disco era with '80 New Wave. Just rewatch that classic "Conga" music video. And after you're done chuckling over the outfits, tell us with a straight face that you're not shakin' your body, baby, doin' the conga. Go ahead. Try us.
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