Suenalo Sound System
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Suenalo Sound System

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The best kept secret in music


"Suenalo Sound System: Latin Funk, Family-Style"

“I feel like we’re the luckiest band in Miami,” said Gerard Glecer, guitarist for Suenalo Sound System, the preternaturally tight, nine-piece collective that’s been perfecting its shape-shifting Latin funk for nearly four years.

In a city where most nightlifers pay about as much attention to local musicians as they would Chuck E. Cheese’s animatronic band, Suenalo is fortunate to attract crowds who actually listen, not to mention dance.

Best experienced in a packed neighborhood bar like Transit Lounge, Suenalo’s tribal rhythms induce a warm, communal euphoria normally reserved for bacchanalian holidays.

They once played weekly “Family Style Open Jams” on Sundays at Jazid, inviting friends to join them onstage.

The family Suenalo’s proud Papa is guitarist Phil Maranges, a native of Long Island who moved to Miami in 1993. Maranges learned guitar from his roommate Jay Garrett, a musicology graduate student at the University of Miami. The two of them played for hours each night, and religiously studied the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and Santana.
After a three-year stint at audio engineering school in Orlando, Maranges returned to Miami with the desire to launch a Latin-tinged improvisational group, mutually influenced by his favorite rock records and his Cuban heritage.

Though the local Latin music scene was barren when he first came to Miami, on his second try he befriended a core of talented musicians living at the Monkey Village, a rented home in Little Havana. He played weekly impromptu jams with percussionist Rey “Conga” Diaz, keyboardist Sebastian Gray and whoever else was around. On August 15, 2002, these friendly get-togethers blossomed into a music and visual art show at the Absinthe House, an old Coral Gables movie theater. Conceived as more of a cultural event than a mere concert, the show, dubbed “Suenalo,” attracted more than a hundred people.

Suenalo’s first lineup, like its music, was improvised. One last minute addition was keyboardist Tony Laurencio, a fan of psychedelic trance, who had seen fliers for the show but wasn’t keen on coughing up the admission fee.

“He didn’t want to pay, so I asked him to play with us,” Maranges explained.
Other participants were saxophonist Juan Turros and Itagui Correa, the singer/rapper of a likeminded band, Locos por Juana. Correa’s powerful live presence heavily influenced the band, steering their sound toward reggae and cumbia, Colombian dance music.

Suenalo coalesced during a series of weekly gigs at Paco’s Tavern in Miami Beach, now Café Nostalgia. Over the next six months, their amorphous lineup grew more defined, with bassist Carlos Guzmán and drummer Fabio Patiño solidifying the rhythm section.

When Marc Kondrat, an occasional guitarist, left the group, Maranges tried to convince his old roommate, Jay Garrett, to take his place. But instead he received a call from Garrett’s friend Gerard Glecer, who had moved to Miami three weeks prior after taking care of his dying father in Ft. Lauderdale. Maranges, who immediately bonded with Glecer, calls it an “act of God.”

Glecer augmented Maranges’s laid-back, Jerry Garcia style with his grittier, bluesier tone, the product of listening to Led Zeppelin and playing Stooges and Motorhead covers with punk and indie bands in Northampton, Massachusetts, the hometown of Sonic Youth. Suenalo was “a dream come true” for Glecer, who was used to playing in front of 10 people with their arms crossed. In Miami, his music was finally embraced.

“A four-piece band is like a stool,” said Glecer. “Suenalo is a plush couch.”

Then, in true VH1 “Behind the Music” fashion, the band unraveled. Correa’s other group, Locos por Juana, was named “Best Latin Rock Band in the U.S.” by the BBC, and because of that his commitment to Suenalo became strained.

“He was such a strong presence and talent,” said Maranges. “He helped us but was also a crutch – we couldn’t move forward.”

Maranges and Diaz feuded over whether or not to keep Correa in the band, and Maranges quit for three months, as did brother-in-arms Glecer. Soon afterwards Maranges discovered his wife was pregnant, and a wellspring of conflicting emotions overwhelmed him.
“Every time I heard Suenalo I thought, ‘That’s my band, that’s my baby’.”

The band begged him to come back, and he eventually consented. With the understanding that Correa might not be around for much longer, Maranges brought in his neighbor Amin de Jesus, a rapper, to share vocal duties.

When Correa left for good, percussionist Patiño assumed frontman responsibilities, but severe tinnitus forced him to quit as well. The future of the band imminently imperiled, de Jesus taught himself to sing and filled the void.

“Before he joined he didn’t sing a note,” said Glecer. “He progressed above and beyond our expectations.”

With de Jesus as lead singer and the departure of Correa, Suenalo’s sound evolved into a synthesis of bluesy rock and hip-hop colored with Afro-Cuban rhythms, with less emphasis on reggae and cumbia. Son and salsa shared space with fiery renditions of “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2” and Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun.” De Jesus rapped and crooned in Spanish and English.

Adding UM graduate Luis Gonzalez on drums, Haitian elder statesman Marèchal Tito N’Kolo Bulabull on congas and Creole vocals, and frequent collaborators Juan Turros and Chad Bernstein on sax and trombone, Suenalo perfected its new musical mélange and recorded its first studio album at Juan Pablo Manzanero’s Espiral Studio in Coconut Grove. The album, delayed by Hurricane Wilma, was recently finished and will be released independently in less than a month.

Though everyone agrees the band has won greater freedom since the departure of Correa, they all speak of him fondly. Members come and go – conga player Alan Ramos and timbalist Alan Reyna recently left – but those remaining harbor no animosity. Their ex-bandmates are still part of the Suenalo family, and though they may no longer share the stage, their presence is felt in the polyrhythmic textures, the torrential guitar solos, the sweet tri-lingual melodies.

As for Suenalo’s future, Maranges hopes the new album will score them more out-of-town gigs, achieving success in Broward and eventually working their way up Florida. He is pragmatic about his band’s immediate prospects, but others have loftier ambitions.
De Jesus, for one, is taking his cue from another bandmate: “Our bass player put it best when he said, ‘Get rich and famous and buy a house in Lithuania overlooking the Baltic Sea’.” - Biscayne Blvd. Times by Matt Gajewski

"Local Heroes, Suenalo Sound System"

While the best way to join Miami's multicultural, multi-rhythmic band Suenalo Sound System in their quest to increase the peace is by dancing or smacking a tambourine at one of their family-style concerts, their latest CD, Collage, is a perfect at-home companion.

Dedicated to "The Most High On Earth," Suenalo Sound System's celebratory jam session takes you on a mental odyssey invoked by Afro-Latino rhythms, Caribbean ragamuffin, and North American hip-hop melded with horns and gyrating, wah-wah-pedaled guitars that get you jumping in joyful praise. The dreamy groove of "Maria" gently rocks you out of a groggy sleep, and before you know it, you're beating the eggs for your breakfast burrito to the cumbia rhythm of "Me Duele," chan-chaca-channing the wire whip against the side of the bowl. But save "Samba" for an hour after eating to avoid side aches from the Bahia bash you'll be prompted to hold while doing Saturday chores and getting in shape with reggae-robics.

On songs such as "Kimbia" and "Matt Arnold," punchy rap and alternating flamenco cries help unleash pent-up aggression as you scrub the mildewed grout between the bathroom tiles. Keyboard salsa scales rain down and wash away bad vibes from a week's worth of transgressions. The instrumental section of "Marcela" is good for closet cleaning, as it is reminiscent of once-treasured Grateful Dead bootleg cassettes hidden behind your cobwebbed copy of Siddhartha.

Collage is proof that liberation from life's daily grind does not come from physically escaping to another world, but from harnessing creative energy found in this seemingly mundane one. - Miami New Times - Julienne Gage

"New Latin Music Fuses Many Styles In A Polycultural Jam"

Itagui Correa is whipping his dreads around atop a speaker at Club State, as if to further mix up the rhythms of the 11 musicians in Suenalo Sound System, from Colombia, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico and the U.S.

It's a polycultural jam just this side of chaos -- Colombian cumbia with a funky bottom and a throbbing reggae backbeat, squealing Santana-style rock guitar, a taut Cuban piano montuno accenting Correa's rap. But most of the time all you hear is a churning groove that has the 800 people at this South Beach club chanting, dancing and yelling for more.

Correa and his various bands -- Suenalo, Locos Por Juana, and Xperimento -- are at the center of a new sound in Miami, one which was celebrated at Club State during the Miami Latin Funk Festival earlier this month.

Call it Latin jam, or Miami fusion.

In contrast to the Latin music that came out of this city in the '80s and most of the '90s, largely defined by artists like Gloria Estefan, Willie Chirino, and Nil Lara, who mixed Cuban with American genres, this new sound has its roots all over the Americas.

''I don't think there's any other American city that has the mix you have here,'' says Andrew Yeomanson, best known as DJ Le Spam, mixmeister and brain behind the Spam All Stars, the nationally known Latin funk group that created the blueprint for today's Miami music scene.

The sound is a blend of Colombian cumbia and vallenato, Jamaican reggae and dancehall, Cuban son and timba, American funk and hip-hop, seasoned with Brazilian, Puerto Rican and other music from both hemispheres.


It's made by young and idealistic musicians from all over the Americas, many of them part of the influx of new Latin American immigrants. They're joined by circumstance, a love of groove, a freeform attitude, and wide open ears. And they're infusing the local Latin music scene with an energy it hasn't had in a long time.

''What's happening here in Miami is there are so many different people from so many different places we're creating this universal sound,'' says Nacio (real name Juan Ignacio Londoño), a young Colombian artist who's part of the scene. ``I can do what I do because of Miami.''

Fusing Latin with international styles like rock and electronica is hot in Latin alternative music right now. But in countries like Mexico and Colombia, artists tend to stick to genres from their own countries for the Latin half of the recipe. In Miami, musicians accustomed to hearing music from all over and jamming with artists from all over are mixing it all together, following instinct more than a conscious plan.

''When I start to play, it's like I've got headphones on and I just follow along,'' says Correa. He started laying down his internal soundtrack during streetside jams in the rougher neighborhoods of Medellin, Colombia, where his family lived until it moved to Miami when he was 15. In high school, he was a breakdancer, but also moved to salsa, fell in love with reggae, got down to Miami bass, rediscovered Colombian cumbia. Along the way, his father, a timbal player with Fruko y Sus Tesos, one of Colombia's top salsa bands, introduced him to piano, and then Correa discovered he could play just about anything.

At 25, he's one of the older musicians on this scene. He's a whirl of energy, spinning off projects and ideas. Four years ago, he co-founded Locos Por Juana, then launched Suenalo, which has a looser format, then Xperimento, which is completely improvisational. ''Music should have no rules,'' he says.


This year Locos was named the Best Latin Rock Band in the U.S. by Britain's BBC. Correa is fielding interviews with European media, putting together projects with artists from Spain, Miami and Argentina, and beginning to produce other artists.

He draws energy and ideas from a communal pool of talent. ''Miami is changing,'' Correa says. 'Everybody is stopping that `I'm better than you.' ... Now everyone is collaborating.''

Other, more mainstream acts share a similar sensibility. Los Bacilos, the Latin Grammy-winning Colombian-Brazilian-Puerto Rican trio, play a sophisticated mix of styles that merge in gorgeously crafted pop songs. Jorge Moreno, who produced Locos' first album, won the 2002 Latin Grammy for Best New Artist with an innovative, alternative pop-Cuban sound. But the loose, bohemian community of musicians that switch between bands like Suenalo and Locos is at the heart of this scene.

Javier Garcia grew up in Spain and Ireland with a Cuban father and an Irish mother, then came to Miami as a teenager. Now he mixes Cuban son and salsa, reggae, rock, funk -- even Haitian compas and Argentine cuarteto. He has an album coming out in January produced by Gustavo Santaolalla on Surco/Universal Latino, the same team behind Colombian rock star Juanes.

Whether these bands will have enough success to make an impact on the wider Latin music world, or change the perception of the Miami Latin sound as slick tropical dance pop remains to be seen. But the attention that Bacilos and the Spam All Stars have attracted gives hope to those coming up behind them.


''Bacilos put a hit on the radio and made us all believe we could do it,'' Correa says.

Among those banking that they can are the quartet of women who produce the Miami Latin Funk Festival. They've launched a record label, Soulas, and production company, EastonBravo, to foster and promote this new group of artists. Their first release will be Nacio, produced by Correa.

They're producing weekly jam sessions at Jazid on South Beach and at House, a new venue on Biscayne Boulevard.

Two of them, Liz Easton and Tanya Bravo, attended Coral Gables High School with Garcia and Moreno. Although they're novices in the music business, they have the enthusiasm and idealism of ardent fans. ''I think this is a major movement in the Latin music scene,'' says Bravo. ``It's an evolution of Latin music in today's urban culture.''

Partner Denise Galvez says they've had an enthusiastic response from commercial sponsors. ''Companies are realizing there's an audience and a market, Hispanics who are bicultural and bilingual, who grew up with all these different cultures,'' she says.

Adds Easton: ``We find so much talent the labels are not signing. We feel like we're holding this golden egg.'' - Miami Herald - Jordan Levin

"Best Local Latin Rock Band 2005"

Every year the Florida frontier becomes more polyglot. About the only South Americans who haven't made a move on these parts are the Bolivians, the Guyanans, and the Surinamese. They're also about the only ones not representin' for Suenalo, the source of Miami's best new spin on rock, Latin or otherwise, since Nil Lara first whipped out his son-ified electric cuatro. Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico: presente. Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Cuba: presente. Chicago, New York, and the Republic of Texas: presente. Outgoing lead singer Itagui Corea is Colombian; incoming Amin DeJesus is Miami-Dominican. Drummer and singer Fabio Patiño is Mexican; conga player Alan Ramos is Puerto Rican; keyboardist Tony Laurencio and sax player Juan Turros are Miami Cubans; guitarists Phil Maranges and Gerard Glecer are New York Cuban and Massachusetts French, respectively. Chicago's man in Suenalo is trombonist Chad Bernstein. Other cities, states, and nations may not have a guy in this band, but they are there in spirit: The ensemble employs rhythms from Brazil to Jamaica, including samba, cumbia, rumba, son, hip-hop, and reggae. "We're mainly focusing on fusing Afro-beat and Latin rhythms with funk and rhythm and blues," Maranges says. "Afro-Latin funk?" Whatever you dub it, the Suenalo sound is buzzing from the fashionable warehouse parties of Wynwood to the trippy lounge scene of South Beach. - Miami New Times


Suenalo-In stores Spring 2006


Feeling a bit camera shy


In the neon jungle of Miami, in dusky bars and on moonlit beaches, Suénalo Sound System has the natives dancing. The rhythms, a riotous intersection of Afro-Cuban, Latin, R&B and hip hop, come courtesy of bassist Carlos Guzmán and percussionists Luis Gonzalez and Tito, effortlessly fusing the sounds of distant continents into their own distinctive premium blend. The horn section, saxophonist Juan Turros and trombonist Chad Bernstein, bring the funk, cascades of fire and brimstone rippling through the gyrating crowds, and guitarists Phil Maranges and Gerard Glecer bring the blues, distorted wails and wah-wah injecting the mix with barroom soul and Hendrix’s voodoo spirit. Keyboardist Tony Laurencio lends his fingers and voice to the fray, harmonizing with MC Amin de Jesus who spits bilingual rhymes and sings sweet, heartfelt melodies. Suénalo is a nine-piece, but its music is so powerful and intense you’d swear there was an entire village onstage.

Formed in 2002 after a series of jam sessions in Little Havana’s Monkey Village, a communal home of musicians and artists, Suénalo has undergone a number of personnel changes but its unique musical essence has remained intact, a mélange of Western, Latin, and Pan-African styles that has won the band legions of loyal fans and Best Local Latin Rock Band honors from the Miami New Times. Suénalo has performed at the Latin Funk Festival in Miami and NYC, Carnaval on the Mile, Fete de la Musique, the Calle Ocho Festival, and the 2006 Langerado Music Festival, headlined by Ben Harper, the Black Crowes, the Flaming Lips, and Wilco. In addition, they’ve shared the stage with Afrobeat heavyweights Antibalas, the Latin Grammy winning Bacilos, and Latin Grammy nominated acts Bosacucanova and Locos Por Juana.

Suénalo has released one live album, 2004’s Collages, and will soon unleash their debut studio album, recorded at Espiral Studio. In the meantime catch them at their regular gigs at Jazid on Miami Beach and Transit Lounge in Downtown, where the faithful go for their weekly fix of family-style revelry and funk.

For booking info contact Marcel Lecours: 305-878-1111 or write to