Latin-fused sounds take center stage at Side Bar

Miami's Suénalo Sound System performs with Gainesville's Umojo Orchestra and Native Imports on Saturday.

SOLO/Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 12:56 a.m.
In 24 years of existence, not a single person has independently surmised my Cuban heritage. It's not for lack of meeting people - I haven't been living in a hole in the ground.
Strike that. I did a year in student housing. But that's besides the point. The point is that I have a natural draw to Latin music. While my instincts sometimes betray me to things of low musical quality, that one has never done me wrong.
I'm not talking about the type of Latin music that makes you want to injure the inventor of the electric piano. It's the kind that can make even the most awkward, gangly teenager feel the need to display his (lack of) dance skill in public.
On Saturday night at the Side Bar, that very thing will be on display.
Gainesville's own Umoja Orchestra is teaming up with Suénalo Sound System and Native Imports to celebrate the release of their debut album, "Umoja Means Unity."
It's not the most creative title in the world. At least it's not self-titled. Unless it's particularly poignant not to name an album, pick something.
Anyone who actually reads this column on a regular basis is probably thinking, "Hey, didn't he just write about these guys?" Yes, I did.
Though Umoja is a group I thoroughly recommend and their new album is one that belongs in your collection, the thing about this show that really grabs me by the hair is who they're playing with.
Suénalo Sound System isn't just any Miami band. In fact, you may have already heard of them while flipping through the New York Times, or if you're a Spanish speaker who happened to glance away from the scantily-clad women of Maxim En Español.
Suénalo puts a heavier emphasis on the latter half of the Afro-Latin style they share with Umoja Orchestra. They also throw a sizeable dose of straight hip-hop into the style conglomeration that has earned them so much praise in so little time together.
The two groups also share similarity in size. Umoja weighed in with eight members at my last count, with Suénalo tipping the scales and the stage at 10.
Hopefully, there will be room for an audience.
Despite their similarities, the feel of these two bands is very different, making for a much more interesting show.
Umoja's laid-back, jam-band aura seems the perfect counterpart to the nightclub energy of Suénalo's act. Creating an ebb and flow while maintaining a consistent style is an integral part of almost all music, and is particularly important in the Latin realm.
I have to respect a show that respects the traditions of the music it presents.
There is another group on the bill, but the presence of Native Imports isn't something to upset the balance.
Two male and one female M.C., Native Imports touches base with many of the same styles, adding in a prominent soul flavor on top. And when one of the members lists Bobby Womack on the top of their influence list, you know that "soul" label isn't being tossed around lightly.
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Sidebar's Friday night holds plenty of promise as well. Maxwell Edison/Morningbell combo The S------ Beatles will be getting together with Rickulous and the pleasantly comedic sounds of Inuit Jargon. The S---- Beatles, quite apparently, cover Beatles songs, putting a lot of productive effort into matching the original sound. I highly recommend their work to any Beatles fan who's tired of bands who feel the need to add anything at all to the work.
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Reach Kyle at

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