Miami People

Afrobeta: Perfect Pair

Afrobeta's magnetic force and upbeat songs dare you not to dance. The duo has a look, feel, and sound that captures the energy of a midsummer Miami rave on the sand.

Cuci Amador belts out tropical lyrics while Tony Smurphio mixes dance tracks behind her. Miami-bred, they attended Catholic school and were members of the Latin fusion group Suenalo. While playing the pipe organ at Belen Jesuit, Smurphio snuck in his own spiritual renditions of The Mickey Mouse Club theme. That flair, in many ways, demonstrates their musical attitude. "I think it's a reflection of the things that make you happy," Amador says of their songs. "I don't think Tony could write a depressing song if he tried."

A recent trip to Los Angeles yielded a recording session with Kanye West's engineer, producer Andrew Dawson. He'd just returned from working with the Rolling Stones in Paris. Dawson told Amador as she was warming up: "Mick always warms up too." She was thrilled, of course, and declares, "I don't feel nerdy now!"

That trip westward also brought Amador and Smurphio to the home of friend Scott Kirkland of the Crystal Method, where a drunken late-night singing sesh on Smurphio's birthday led to the creation of a song about getting on guest lists.

"Even though you made this music in the context of where you live and for the people who you perform for live," Amador says about taking their very Miami music to other cities, "when it translates somewhere else, it's like, oh, that's cool!"

They recently performed in Seoul, South Korea.

Afrobeta is also known for its distinctive style. Smurphio jokes, "Instead of roadies, we have fashion people that come to our shows." Amador is a big-time fashionista who often works with Hollywood-based Kayce Armstrong of Art of Shade to create exquisite and memorable getups. "I feel like it's an honor to be onstage, so I should dress to a certain point," she says. "I'm not going to just show up in chancletas!"

Smurphio, however, thinks differently. As the hippie of the group, he points out that he's fashion only "from the neck up," referring to his sphere of gravity-defying hair.

Afrobeta isn't out to bring you down. It's here to entertain and enrich. Concludes Amador: "There is some joy that is unique to who we are and what we put out there."

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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy