It's a hot Saturday night at Miami's Transit Lounge, and it seems like, temperature-wise, there's no relief in sight. Just as a breeze starts to blow through the semi-open air bar, Miami's hotter-than-lava Latin funk band, Suénalo, takes the stage and cranks up the heat even more. Instantly, everyone inside the packed club is dancing and grooving as Suénalo (which roughly translates to "hit it") sets a party vibe unlike any other band in South Florida. The group's frontman, Amin De Jesus (one of the rare MCs who uses his real name), is on stage freestyling in English and Spanish; Chad Bernstein, trombone player, is having fun using a conch shell as a horn, and the band is working out various songs that are so funky that couples can salsa to them and b-boys can top-rock to them on the same beat. That's a hard sound to pull off, but Suénalo does it perfectly.
"With us, you're never going to hear a song that's 100 percent hip-hop or 100 percent funk — it's always a mixture," De Jesus says during a recent phone chat. He's been the group's lead vocalist for the past two years, although Suénalo's history goes back to 2002. The group got started in Little Havana playing shows wherever it could. At the time, Itagui, of popular Latin band Locos Por Juana, was the lead singer; since then, several artists have jumped in to fill the slot. But when you see the bilingual De Jesus (who joined the band in 2004) under the spotlight, he fits right in with the direction of the group. Past frontmen rapped almost exclusively in Spanish.
Currently, the band is working on a new album to be released sometime in early 2009, following up its last project, which came out in '06. The group has a bunch of songs written, but it's going about recording it in a more professional way.
"The album is certainly coming out a lot more adult than our previous one," De Jesus says. "The last time, it was like, let's just do it and get it out. And [because of that], we get a lot of comments like, 'Yo, the album is dope, but you all are much better live.' This time, we really want to capture that live feel. That's what people know us for. So we've got much higher aspirations for this album."
The group also recently started a nonprofit organization called GOGO (Guitars Over Guns Organization), which is a music mentoring program for at-risk youth at North Miami Middle School.
"It entails us going over to the school and teaching youth about music on a merit-based program," says Bernstein, who also plays trombone for the Spam Allstars. "They can't be ditching school and getting into fights if they want to stay in the program. And we provide an access to music and mentoring after school." It's a cool concept from a cool band that seems to understand how important giving back to the community really is.