Miami’s music scene is a rich one, with talent that spans a variety of genres. One of the city’s long-standing bands is one that surfaced during the ’90s era of World Beat, and have grown a confident sound all its own. The Baboons have been around, off and on, for 23 years. They haven’t released an album for 15 years, but they have made a mighty return with a 15-track CD called Spanglish, as I have already detailed in an article recently published by the Miami New Times (The Baboons’ First Album in 15 Years, Spanglish, Is a Love Letter to Miami).
I spoke to the band’s main songwriters, singer Majica (pictured above) and founder/drummer/singer Mano Pila, over the phone ahead of their CD release concert event this Saturday in Miami Beach. Their album features a range of influences, but it wastes no time overwhelming the listener with that range. The opening number, “Balkan Thang” has an Eastern European feel but also touches on ska, Klezmer, Afro-Cuban music and even the blues.
“It’s a fusion,” says Pila. “We play Balkan brass bands on our show [“Global Gumbo With Majica and Mano P.”, a radio show on WDNA (88.9 FM) ] and Klezmer, and to my ear it kind of links to Middle Eastern and Spanish and Moroccan music and those things have links to Cuban music and blues. This album is, in a way, about all those connections.”
There’s also a bit more straight-forward rock. “This Is Me” and “Prints” both have a retro rock feel. “I grew up listening to doo wop,” notes Majica, who moved to Miami from Pennsylvania as a college student before meeting Pila, who was born and raised in Miami to Cuban parents who immigrated to Miami. Majica says she joined The Baboons with an eye to add some “girl power” but ended up “falling in love” (she and Pila have since married and have two children).
Majica also says she fell in love with Miami, and its acquired brand of lifestyle. However, the record is called Spanglish not just because it reflects the special Latin-influenced culture of Miami but because the band has such sensitivity to blending cultures, which is something that also expands beyond Miami’s borders. “Americana is a big part of that,” notes Pila. “It’s rock. It’s funk. It’s jazz. It’s gospel. It’s all that stuff. It also links heavily to the Caribbean islands and to Cuba … Those things, they are all connected. You start listening, and you start to get that earworm, and you start to figure out how can I do this my way, make it authentic and link to what I know and am? It almost happens automatically. Like, you can’t help it … You are who you are and it goes through your prism and it comes out a different way.”
(Read more in the Miami New Times)
The Baboons CD release party takes place on Saturday, April 16, as part of the North Beach Bandshell’s Day at he Beach Concert series, from 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. For tickets visit: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2516608. The event also features performances by Third World, Uma Galera, Big Harvest, Yohan Marley & Jo Mersa Marley. There will also be live painting by Spanglish CD cover artist Eva Ruiz. All images in this post are courtesy of The Baboons.