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Though the Miami New Drama-commissioned “Queen of Basel” will have its official world premiere at Studio Theatre in Washington D.C. next season, you don’t have to wait or travel to discover how playwright Hilary Bettis has reimagined August Strindberg’s controversial 1888 classic “Miss Julie.” With three powerful actors and a small audience sharing the stage space at Miami Beach’s Co..

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"The Other Mozart" is a suitcase play – one of those shows where a single actress can pack the entire contents that creates the setting – costume, wig, and props, and go anywhere in the world. It is the way Samantha Hoefer will arrive in Miami to present Sylvia Milo's one-woman play about Maria Anna Mozart, the not nearly as famous older sibling of that 18th century rock star Wolfgang Ama..

Early on in the Argentinean film “El Último Traje” (The Last Suit), which makes its U.S. theatrical debut this week, a deceptively quaint and humorous scene takes place between the film’s protagonist, 88-year-old Abraham Bursztein and his young granddaughter. The little girl refuses to join in a family photo with Abraham surrounded by his many grandchildren. When he cajoles and insists, ..

Gone are the days when filmmakers needed huge budgets, and major movie studios backing them with big bucks to get their films seen, according to two producers who spent decades in Los Angeles, and have now moved their base to Miami Beach. "From a creative standpoint, there are amazing opportunities for filmmakers today," says producer Kevin Chinoy, who, along with producing partner Frances..

Mark St. Germain has achieved ongoing success with small-cast plays involving historical figures in fictional scenarios, and South Florida has been as welcoming to his work as the rest of the country. St. Germain’s “Camping With Henry and Tom,” about a 1920s camping trip involving Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and President Warren G. Harding, was produced in 1996 by New Theatre in Coral Gables..

Mexico City-based theater collective Teatro Ojo's works are constantly evolving. Nothing is ever really finished. That's because they take from every performance. Whatever the audience experiences, observes, feels, and offers feedback, which they highly encourage, all is used, considered, and included in the evolution of the same piece, or introduced into another new work. Two of the ..

“America’s Greatest and Least Known Playwright.”This is how the Cuban-American playwright Maria Irene Fornes is referred to several times throughout Michelle Memran’s documentary “The Rest I Make Up,” which makes its Florida debut this Saturday as part of Miami-Dade College’s Miami Film Festival. Fornes has been called the “Mother of Avant-Garde Theater.” Theater giants like Edward A..

“Once” has always been touched with magic. And as anyone who has seen the sublime new production of the show by Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables would tell you, the musical’s spellbinding pull is as powerful as ever. When Irish director-screenwriter John Carney first told the tale of a heartbroken Irish street musician and the spunky Czech pianist who reignites his passion, a 200..

Consider the idea of land in Palestine, and conflict may be the first thing to come to mind. But for Jumana Emil Abboud, the Palestinian landscape evokes other, older, associations – with mythological creatures like water spirits and ghouls. “These stories were told way before 1948,” says the Galilee-born artist, speaking by phone from her home in Jerusalem. She suggests looking back ..

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Amirah Sackett came up as a dancer in Chicago’s hip hop scene at a time when women were rare in the mostly male community. But she also visibly stood out as a Muslim. She keeps her hair cover..

Inside the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, where Dance Now! Miami is in residence, there is a hub of activity as the company prepares for its performance on Saturday night of Contemporanea 201..

One of the signatures of the National Water Dance project since its inception seven years ago was that dance troupes, large or small, professional or school groups, were free to perform whate..

Miami City Ballet is in league with Russians – in a good way -- and this promises to make a selection of dances look great again. The company’s final program this season brings back Apollo an..

Hidden behind a busy street in North Miami Beach is the Ancient Spanish Monastery, where Dance Now! Miami will bring the past into the present – and back into the past. Ekphrasis describes th..

Sometimes dance seems as easy as walking down the street. John Heginbotham, founder and artistic director of Dance Heginbotham, describes his dancers as moving in an unaffected, natural manne..

On the heels of a year-plus parade of #MeToo confessions, celebrity shamings and women’s marches, comes Marisa Alma Nick’s female-power-packed “A Rebel in Venus.” “It wasn’t planned that ..

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10 Years in the Making, Spam Allstars Return With a CD and a Party

Photo: Spam Allstars
Written by: Fernando Gonzalez
Article Rating

 

Ask about the Miami Sound to 10 people in South Florida and you’ll get 11 different answers. And yet, for more than 20 years, the Spam Allstars, a group founded and anchored by DJ Le Spam (aka Andrew Yeomanson), has been an unquestionable reference in the Miami music scene. For a city with a notoriously short memory and an insatiable appetite for the latest new shiny thing, it is a remarkable achievement.

The Allstars’ music is an untidy mix of turntable scratches, loops, samples and spirited live playing. It’s built on driving grooves that draw freely from funk, R&B and Afro-Latin music, topped by shout-out-loud, jazz-inflected improvisations. And it’s also music that makes its statements subtly, making you move while threading the needle regarding Miami’s music and social history, with echoes of local labels such as Deep City, Saadia Records and TK, and the layers and layers of sound from the Caribbean and Latin American migrations.

DJ Le Spam and The Spam Allstars are presenting Trans-Oceanic, their new album, 10 years in the making, in a party at the North Beach Bandshell, Saturday, April 29 at 7:00 p.m.

“We had a certain approach, a descarga formula, more or less, and I didn't want to do the same record again, I wanted to break from that,” says Yeomanson, explaining the time between releases in a conversation at his City of Progress studio in North Miami. “I didn't want to just keep churning things out. Then the studio got busy and I would get into the different projects that came in and I loved it. I fell in love with the process of recording and producing. It was great, and I really needed to get away from the routines with the band.”

As it turned out, as the studio continued to expand, adding new instruments and recording tools, the practice of working with a wide range of music styles and an ever-changing cast of players, opened for Yeomanson unexpected possibilities.

“I finally got a Hammond B3 [organ] and I couldn't wait to record with that,” he says, recalling the excitement of the moment. “And when I got a new keyboard I had to get someone to play it and put it on tape. [The music] became more about keyboards and guitar than horns. We didn't have to have horns in all the songs. But I didn't have a concept [for the album]. That was something I struggled with a bit, so it was about sound gathering at first and eventually I kept stripping things down, more and more.”

As a result, the sound in Trans-Oceanic “has much more space, more clarity in it.” As for the overall concept of the record, the theme became the radio, once the primary tool to find out about the world and discover new music — and part of Yeomanson’s personal story.

Born in Montreal to an English father and Venezuelan mother, he lived in London, Tampa, Bogota and Toronto before settling in Miami in 1990. It was in Miami where the once self-described “bedroom-guitarist” with minimal performing experience, found an unlikely opportunity with a popular Haitian band, Lavalas. “I've always wanted to be in a band, playing out with Lavalas was an amazing experience. That was what got me over a lot of the anxiety I had about performing.”

By 1993, the band was “disintegrating.” It was then that Yeomanson, at the time working at a record shop in downtown Miami and already a serious record collector, met saxophonist Robin Carter who was looking for people with which to jam. By trial and error, at a friend’s studio, Yeomanson began to develop a sound built on pre-recorded material, spoken word bits, loops and live playing. He and Carter became the core of the early Spam Allstars.

But in 1995, the project was put on hold as he joined the backing band of local Cuban-American singer songwriter Nil Lara, who was then developing a national following. By 1998, tired of life on the road, Yeomanson settled back in Miami, where he began working at a pirate radio station. His shows included improvised live performances in the studio by the Allstars, by then a trio. It was, he once said, “the genesis of what I’m doing now.”

In fact, those performances led to Pork Scratchings (1999), the Allstars debut CD and a brilliant piece of theater-of-the-mind, constructed from samples, loops, found bits and, oh yes, smart dance grooves. It includes absurdist tracks such as “El Mozambique,” featuring a mocking Fidel Castro impersonator, or “Shiringi shirini,” a collage of snippets of various language recordings, playing all at once. “The way I imagined that song was thinking of me sitting at an international airport listening to all these people around, having their conversations,” he once explained.

The Allstars played around town developing a modest following — but also regularly trying out new material before live audiences. Then in 2001, they got a weekly show at Hoy Como Ayer, a small club in Little Havana. That Thursday-night residency, said Yeomanson, is when “things really clicked and started to evolve quickly.” Word got out and their Thursday night show became a must for locals and tourists. The band and their music, under the label “electronic descarga,” got national attention as the sound of a new Miami in the making. With such success came a fee renegotiation for the band, recalls Yeomanson breaking into a laugh, “and then I could bring more musicians and make it better.” It is an expanded format that he has maintained since, featuring a changing lineup drawn from a solid repertory cast.

Trans-Oceanic looks forward as it glances back.

“The title comes from this model of a Zenith short-wave radio,” Yeomanson says. “When I was 11 or 12 I had a few radios that were from my grandfather and were like my toys and I would take them apart. What I was going to do originally, like I had done in the ¡Fuacata! Live (2002) and the Contra los Robóticos Mutantes (2004) records was to knit something together with bits and pieces that I had recorded from radio over the years. At the end, we didn’t do much with that because of clearance issues, but that’s why we start the record with a snippet of the weather radio.” (Check the title track, “Trans-Oceanic”)

As for the Allstars becoming a Miami institution, Yeomanson’s laughs at the notion.

“I just hope that just as I once discovered TK Records or Deep City Records, one day people will find these artifacts we are creating in a thrift store and say ‘Ah, I see, this goes with this and this and this [that was happening in Miami at the time],’” he says. “MaybeI'll be around to see it, like Willie Clark with his Deep City. For now,I just need to keepworking at it.”

Spam Allstars Album Release Party, Saturday, April 29, starting at 7:00 p.m.; North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; tickets $5; northbeachbandshell.com.

 

 


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Music writer, associate editor of the Latin GRAMMY Print & Special Projects for The Latin Recording Academy

Emmy-winner and GRAMMY®-nominated writer, critic, and editor Fernando González is the associate editor of The Latin GRAMMY Print & ..

About the Writer

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