Nag Champayons
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Nag Champayons

Miami, Florida, United States | SELF

Miami, Florida, United States | SELF
Band World Jam




"Let's Get Weird-The Nag Champayons fill the room with a positive vibe."

Let's Get Weird
The Nag Champayons fill the room with a positive vibe
By Audra Schroeder Thursday, Jun 3 2004
In the intimate practice space of the Seventh Circuit in North Miami, six guys with varying amounts of facial hair tune their instruments. A fog machine sits on the floor coughing puffs of smoke into the air. On a large screen behind the stage, geometrical shapes and slides from vacations are projected. Then the jam starts. Samples from Noam Chomsky's CD An American Addiction fight with bleats of bluesy sax. The samples become distorted and louder like you just did a Whip-It. "Ladies and gentlemen," a voice announces over the mounting percussive tension, "we present to you, the Nag Champayons..."

Have you ever orchestrated a soundtrack in your mind? It could be a soundtrack for driving through Wendy's, taking a shower, dumping a body, or even trying on shoes at Foot Locker. Whatever. You probably wished you had a way so people could hear it. Or maybe it was just too weird and only warranted the "nod and smile" response.

The Nag Champayons create music that could be a soundtrack to the Apocalypse or maybe to a lazy ride down the Peace River. This six-man collective, composed of guitarist Jose Elias, drummer Nestor Prieto, saxophonist Harold Cardona, bassist Ed Cardona, percussionist/sampler Ryan Cacolici, and urban pundit/vocalist Kronos, gets experimental sound, music, and art together to do the freak nasty.

The Nag's sound is like a game of Whack-a-Mole. Just when you think you've nailed it, another instrument is introduced, another sound is made, another sample is tweaked. Cacolici, whose long, well-manicured beard could well be the seventh member of the band, describes it as "world garage," "an organized improv unit," and "psychedelic jazz practice." Take those descriptions and add a few of these instruments: marimbula (a large box you sit on to pluck metal keys), rackett (a small German instrument that sounds like a cross between a weed whacker and a bassoon), Boomwhackers (colored plastic tubes of different lengths that create different pitches when whacked on the ground), didgeridoo (a long, wooden, pipe-like Australian instrument that emits a haunting sound), a sax, bongos, a baby intercom, a synthesizer, a cowbell, a penny whistle. Confused yet? Eeeexcellent.

"We work towards cohesion of chaos," Elias says. "It's danceable and ambient, but we're also an ensemble. And we're comfortable having an odd-instrument department. We jam, we document, we develop. That's the only way to keep track." Elias has been friends with brothers Ed and Harold Cardona since they were kids, and they've jammed in local bands since their teens. Prieto and Cacolici have been the percussion junction for about a year, and Kronos stepped up to the mic a month ago.

Perhaps what is most refreshing about the Nag is its rejection of the traditional drums/guitar/bass lineup. Watching the group for the first time, the light bulb comes on. Of course! Electronic, dub, dance, hip-hop, Afro-Cuban, and free jazz can mix! Then, anything seems possible. Why not make music by banging on empty margarine containers, shaking a jar of jellybeans? Playing human skulls! It's Frank Zappa and Serge Gainsbourg wrestling Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. It's Sonic Youth's plane crashing into Fela Kuti's boat in the Everglades on the hottest day of summer.

Despite the comparison to politically fueled bands and the inclusion of samples from conspiracy theorists like Chomsky, the Nag isn't necessarily politicked-off. "We are not at all a political band," Cacolici says. "But we do read a lot, and you know where that leads. I incorporate the Noam Chomsky sample as an intellectual spur, with the focus on content, not intent. Really, we're about everything. We started out with didgeridoo, sitar, percussion, and it grew from there. We're still an organic band, even though the electronic aspect is there. We've all experienced very different lives to this point, creativity being the common ground. So we get together as friends and contemporaries to make beautiful."

"What we do is ethereal but still a little hip-hop," Kronos continues. "We all come from different musical backgrounds, so it works."

And the music is beautiful, but there is also a climactic quality to it. Like soundtrack music, each piece fits together in the puzzle to resolve the tension of six people. On one of their untitled songs, they each grab a different-colored Boomwhacker and whack two cinderblocks until they all find a groove. When they do, it sounds like the Fourth of July. The song then sneaks off into a dub reggae dirge in which Kronos raps about an old roommate who used to do martial arts after smoking pot. Bassist/marimbulist Ed Cardona also takes over vocal duties on one song, dropping disjointed spoken word over a menacing drumbeat. The words somersaults and pancakes are intelligible. By the end of every jam, each member is vibrating in place like a powder keg with a half-lit fuse. And... scene. - New Times Broward/Palm Beach

"Best Band Name 2004 - Nag Champayons"

Best Band Name - 2004
Nag Champayons

Have you ever gotten a whiff of Nag Champa? It seeps into your clothes. It does strange things to you. It makes you want to turn on your black light, stare at your Pink Floyd poster, and just "be cool, man." It turns anxious Type A's into mellow love and peaceniks. Now, Afro-Cuban free-jazz groups aren't often known for a sense of humor, but this Fort Lauderdale band makes the dreaded dorm room incense (all right, now you know what we're talking about) sound clever, and that deserves a round of applause. Or, at least a "right on." - NewTimes/Broward Palm Beach

"Free 4/20 Music: Nag Champayons Release "183 St Flea Market" For Weed Day"

By Jacob Katel Fri., Apr. 20 2012 at 1:30 PM 1 Comment
Categories: Local Music, Q&A

See Crossfade's top ten 4/20 parties in Miami.

In the days before ganja, Planet Earth was a boring expanse of mountains, flatlands, and water.

But on the fourth day, there was weed, and it was good, and after 20 hits off the burning bush, man was hungry, and he filled his soul with music.

The Nag Champayons understand the power of the groove. And as Miami's premier tropidelic Afrogalactic jam band, they are here to soothe your savage beast.

Today, in honor of weed day, they have released a new dub single, featuring Itagui Correa and El Chino Dreadlion. It's called "183rd St Flea Market."

So grab your headphones, light your spliff, and listen up, we've got the song, and the interview. Happy 4/20, long live that ganja, and legalize marijuana.

Crossfade: How'd the track come about?
Nag Champayons: It was born from a live improvisation, from these guys just jumping on stage with us. So we said what better date to release this than 4/20.

How'd you get the title?
We got the title from the groove. It just has so many elements to it. Just like the 183rd Street Flea Market. There's the dub, the Asian, the Arab, the Israeli sounds, all that. It's just like that fleamarket with all this crazy energy from all these different cultures.

When I used to go there, there were these head shops with all these bongs and pipes and rolling papers. Then the Rastas had these all-vinyl record shops way in the back. The Asians would be selling clothes. There was jewelry vibe. And then it was real hood too. Like, something could go down at any minute. You never knew if it was cool or it was dangerous.

How long has the band been together?
We been together eight years, jamming. We don't play every week. We play for, like, astronomical alignments, big things, like 4/20. And when we get together, we have a good time.

What's next?
We're working on a new EP for the summer.

Wasup with the name?
We got our name from burning incense before practice. We are the champions of Nag Champa. Wherever you smell the incense, we're there jamming.

What about weed?
Everybody has a choice. I think it should be legal. It's a big help for people that need it medically. And some people like to smoke a little something and just listen to music. That's a reality. Like, some people are gonna grab a quart and do the same thing.

We call our music tropidelic Afrogalactic because it's pure Miami, just like us. We're Cuban, Haitian, American, and Colombian. But the main thing is we're all friends.

We don't have to play every weekend, there's no contract forcing us to be somewhere. We've got members of Spam and Conjunto Progreso who are full time musicians, but Nag Champayons are a jam band. - New Times-Miami


AfrOminous demo
"James Brown's A$$" - single
"183rd St Flea Market" - single
"Nag Champayons"- EP
"Habana/Harlem Volume 1" V/A



Hailing from Miamis loosely-knit enclave of Francophone cultures known as Little Haiti, six-man afrogalactic jam outfit the Nag Champayons thumb their musical noses at the borders of geography and time. If at moments their sound recalls the patient, psychedelic grooves of Nigerian legend King Sunny Ade with a little Woodstock thrown in, at others, it speaks to some illicit rendezvous between hip-hop, droning sitars, funk, and the Afro-Cuban entire. Dark, hypnotic, and defiantly unpredictable, the group is not to be missed.
- Brooklyn Academy of Music

Band Members