Juan "Buddah Funk" Gomez
This past Saturday night, Afro-Cuban funk band Palo! and 70-plus fans let loose with mojitos in hand this past Saturday night. The band's conga player Philbert Armenteros was running late and Steve Roitstein, the producer and keyboard player started by saying, "When this guy is late he's really late." It was almost midnight and they started anyway. Roitstein laid down funk beat drum loops with his keyboard. Saxophone player, Ed Calle, followed. A few minutes later, timbales player Raymer Olade joins them.
Juan "Buddah Funk" Gomez Leslie Cartaya and saxophone player Ed Calle.
"It's Afro Cuban funk, that's the best way to describe it. The Afro Cuban influence is in the percussion, in the vocals and in the songwriting," Roitstein says.
The band gets its name from Spanish folks mispronouncing Roitstein's first name. "They would say "Stick" instead of Steve so it just stuck," he says. Stick in Spanish is palo.
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On Saturday, timbales player, Olade, got the crowd to put hands up in the air, swing them from side to side. "Y pa' qui, y pa' alla, vamos a gozar," he said. Cartaya started off low -- her voice blending in with the timbales and sax. Then she belted out the first line to their song La Habana Buena. The music lifted people off their seats. The few still at their tables put down their mojitos and beers and hypnotically moved to the dance floor -- hips, arms and feet following the beat and a green strobe. Roitstein dedicated a song to the gossipers, to the ones that love to talk about people and just can't keep their mouth shut: Lengua Larga.
The group, which has been playing Miami clubs since 2003, is in the last stages of releasing a first album, Afro-Cuban funk. The set at Kimbaracumbara ended around 2 a.m. and my boyfriend took the accompanying shots. They're dark, dirty and rough around the edges. It's the look they're going for and everyone is digging it even the groupies watching on the side.
Catch Palo's next performance tonight at Transit Lounge at 9 p.m.; no cover. More information go to gopalo.com.
-- Aiyana Baida