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The Baboons Showcases New Album at Hollywood ArtsPark

If you aren't familiar with the Baboons, one way to describe the Miami band's music is by saying they play a little bit of just about everything. The group enjoys experimenting with and exploring the sounds of a variety of local and international cultures. The Baboons recently even did a stint showcasing its worldly sounds as the house band on Fusion Live, the network's primetime program.

The group got its start in Fort Lauderdale at a spot called Squeeze where Mano Pila, percussionist and songwriter of the band, threw together some improvisational instrumentalists and combined music with poetry. That night was the first performance for the Baboons, a group of all guys, jamming out wildly like a bunch of well, baboons. When current lead singer and co-songwriter Majica was invited to come out to see the dudes perform, she quickly got involved. About 20 years later, Majica and Mano are married with two small children and still performing together. The two also host WDNA, 88.9 FM's Global Gumbo with Majica & Mano P.

After a very long hiatus from Broward, the band is returning for a very special show at Hollywood's ArtsPark where it'll be previewing its newest album in its entirety. And to think, the Baboons' first album, Evolution, won best album from New Times. Talk about endurance. Before this Saturday's show, we spoke with the musical duo about everything Baboons.


New Times: What can you tell us about your new album?

Majica: The new album is called Spanglish and it is inspired by, obviously, the cultures that we're surrounded by and there's a lot of great stories, songs in the album. "Spanglish" for example is about a person, which is actually me, (laughs) coming here to Miami and learning the language and falling in love and learning Spanglish and learning about love. Basically we decided that was going to be the title track of the album because it's very catchy and it's a fun upbeat tune.

Mano: A lot of the songs came out of a period of years where for one reason or another we were thinking about coming of age stories. So a lot of them wound up being stories about finding yourself in a multicultural world. In the last few years, while a lot of these songs were being written, there were a lot of babies coming into the band so there was quite a bit of thinking about new life and youth and looking back to childhood and looking forward to responsibility. And also because we enjoy drawing from a lot of cultures and a lot of different styles, there's also a message there of inclusiveness. We're not excluding anybody we're not saying, you know, we're just this or just that. We're saying everybody is welcome in the world of music.

Is there one song in particular you're most excited about performing for people?

Majica: Well one of our newest songs we played last night for the first time it's called "Cebolla." It's all about a sax player who is called the onion man and he makes people cry he's so good (laughs). So this is a song that, I don't know, I'm just kind of in love with it right now. It's super catchy, super fun, and always the newest song is the most exciting because it's the first time you're playing it and you're still kind of figuring it out, you're still a little bit nervous about it, and it's just always super exciting to break it out.

Mano: And it's a mambo-rock song which you don't hear a whole lot of. But it is both of those and it's in English. The thing about the song is it's kind of about this saxophone player and he's a Mambo king from the old days but now he drives a cement mixer by day. He's a working man, he's older. But when he goes out to play... There's a line that says, "He showed up in his two-tone convertible. His sense of style was incontrovertible." He's a stylish guy, he's still got it. The song is from the point of view of the kids in the neighborhood looking at this guy and kind of urging him on.

You have a show coming up at Hollywood ArtsPark can you tell us what to expect?

Mano: Well, we're gonna be giving a preview of the album we're going to record the next day. When we're done at the ArtsPark, we're going off to the studio to go set up for the next day to go in and record the album. So we expect to play essentially the whole album from beginning to end and maybe a few more classic Baboons tunes.

Majica: So it's kind of like a rehearsal for the album (laughs). Like let's make sure we're ready to record this stuff. But it's super fun, we always have such a good time. Everybody in the band, they're just all amazing people and we're so honored to play with these people. Each musician is amazing in their own way. Mono and I are the songwriters and the leaders of the band and we're just honored that these people play with us and have stayed with us for a very long time. We have a recent addition to the band Michael Mut. He's from another band and he joined us so that we were able to do the twentieth anniversary show. And I think we hooked him actually, I think he's hooked now. Because he keeps playing with us.

Mano: The other thing that I think is important about this show is that this is the first time we've played in Broward since 2009. The last time that we played in the ArtsPark was in 2008. So it's been a lot of years since we've been in Hollywood or Broward, and we've definitely never played most of these songs in Broward County at all. So it'll be exciting to get back there and play mostly new stuff for our friends and fans and family that we have up there. Which are a lot, hopefully (laughs).

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Ashley Zimmerman