The Miami band Tamboka plays a unique fusion of flamenco, cumbia, swing, jazz, and bossa nova. According to guitarist Tyrone Iregui, the musical mixture came together in 2011 outside the Wynwood gallery Plant the Future. "I was friends with the owner," Iregu recalls. "I said if I played music outside, I could bring people into the store. We got 200 people to come out and dance."
As a boy in Colombia, Iregui learned to play guitar but never foresaw a future busking on the streets. After moving to Aventura as a teenager, he thought he would study finance at Miami Dade College. A couple of classes into the curriculum, though, he quickly figured out guitar was his real passion. He began playing with some jazz students and soon dragged them out to entertain the masses at the Second Saturday Art Walk.
One of those nights, Nay Rozé, who would become Iregui's collaborator, joined the street band. "They were jamming to 'Summertime' by Gershwin," recalls the Central Florida native, who moved to Miami to study classical violin. "I loved that song, so I pulled out my violin. We played at Churchill's the next night. Playing with them was a culture clash for me at first. I didn't understand Latin rhythms. I was into bluegrass and classical music."
Over the next six years, the pair fell into an easy songwriting collaboration. "Tyrone has a lot of juicy melodies that he shows to me on his guitar," Rozé explains. "I'll then write the lyrics since I'm constantly writing poems. Then we throw in the drums and see what lyrics fit that emotion."
Earlier this year, after more than five years in existence, Tamboka released its first full-length album, Gypsy Voodoo, which Rozé describes as the culmination of the band's journey developing its sound. "It has our earliest tunes, which we called jungle jazz, that are smooth, swingy, and flavorful. It gets to what we do now, which is more Gypsy Latin." Some of the songs were recorded as early as 2012, but much of the album was created in the past year, which was an exhilarating experience for all of the members of Tamboka.
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Accompanied by Luis “Lucho” Portacio, Abel Morales, Jose Albizu, Darwish Iregui, and rapper John Alvarado, they aim to make 2018 a more international experience for Tamboka, Iregui says. "We want to travel a lot more next year. We want to play Colombia, we want to play New York, and we want to play festivals." First, though, they will give their hometown a double set this Saturday at the New Times food event Tacolandia. "We're going to play from 2 to 5. It will be two sets with a little break in between."
As for what listeners can expect as they munch on tacos, Rozé says, "We say Tamboka means 'speaking from the heart,' so it will be a lot of dancing and excitement mixed in with some street love."