Friday Night: Chana and Afrobeta at Bayfront Park

Ben Thacker
Chana performing at the Tina Hills Pavilion at Bayfront Park Friday night. Click here to view the full slideshow.
DWNTWN Concert Series with Afrobeta and Chana
Friday, February 13, 2009
Tina Hills Pavilion at Bayfront Park, Miami

Better than: Ever.

Psst...things are happening in Downtown Miami. Especially at Bayfront Park: Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays you can find free yoga; Thursdays you can find delicious organic produce at the farmers market; and second Fridays you can find free concerts!

Back with its second installment, the downtown concert series, sponsored by the Miami Downtown Development Authority, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Rhythm Foundation, is going strong. This month's edition featured Miami's favorite electro-funk duo Afrobeta, and L.A.-based Latin rock sensation Chana.

If you haven't seen Afrobeta live yet, go see them. Seriously, these guys are the real deal. Keyboardist/composer Tony Smurfio, of Suenalo fame, along with frontwoman Cuci Amador and a really amazing live drummer whose name I regretfully did not catch, rocked the house with their special blend of '80s throwback Miami dance music. 

Amador's seductive vocals and energetic stage antics take Smurfio's funky electronic beats and space-age sounds to another level. Think Miami Sound Machine, but indie, and better. This girl is a firecracker with some serious '80s dance moves and a wardrobe to match. The hour-long set was packed with one instant classic after another, including great renditions of 2 Live Crew's "We Want Some Pussy," and Michael Jackson's "Beat It."
Smurfio, with his spaceship looking keyboard rig, triggers beats and samples while playing live keys, creating a soundtrack for the new Miami, with nostalgic tinges of the freestyle, booty-bass and old-school Miami house. (By the way, in addition to throwing down on keyboards and vocals, Cuci Amador does a pretty impressive running man.)

Speaking of running men, dudes (and girls) appeared to come out of cracks in the concrete when Dominican-American beauty Rosanna Tavarez, a.k.a Chana, came on as the concert's main act. Chana, a dance graduate of downtown Miami's New World School of the Arts, is an accomplished TV personality and a born rocker. Backed by a band of heavy hitting professional musicians, she practically took the house down with her poppy Latin electro-rock. Songs ranged from all-out hard rock to softer romantic ballads, but the volume stayed high, and the grimacing drummer stayed hitting (really) hard as he played along to sequenced beats and bass lines. A horn section came out from the shadows every now and then to back up the guitar and keyboard (no bass player), as Chana carried songs with her high-energy, Shakira-esque vocals.

The show was good, but the sound during Chana's set was too loud for the intimate crowd, making her otherwise sultry voice sound piercing at times. Also, it would have been nice to see a bit more dancing, especially knowing that she studied dance at a college level. But overall, definitely a solid performance.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I am a fan of any band that covers 2 Live Crew.

Random Details: Afrobeta's guest drummer was Chana's younger brother, a UM Jazz grad.

By the Way: Upcoming Concerts in the series:

  • March 13: Spam All-Stars
  • April 10: Conjunto Progreso with featured guest Arturo Sandoval

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Ben Thacker