The Miami-based group PALO! compares their music to the traditional Cuban stew ajiaco: It's a “mash up of stuff." Their sound combines Cuban, African American funk, Colombian and Puerto Rican sounds.
The Afro-Cuban funk band was started by musician and Miami Dade College business professor Steve Roitstein back in 2003. They’ve been playing in South Florida for over 15 years and have become an integral part of the Latin music scene. They were nominated for both a Grammy and Latin Grammy in 2014 and were featured in the PBS documentary “Miami Boheme.”
PALO! is the latest installement of WLRN’s music series Live From the 305, where we highlight the artists shaping South Florida's music scene. On Sundial, Roitstein and the band's singer Leslie Cartaya discussed the group's origin, the venues keeping Latin music alive in South Florida, the Sundial theme music and more. PALO! will play at Ball and Chain in Little Havana on Friday, Jan. 11.
ROITSTEIN: The Miami Latin sound has a story. It goes back a long way to people like Carlos Oliva, Los Sobrinos del Juez, Willy Chirino and of course we can't forget version 2.0, which was Gloria Estefan, the Miami Sound Machine and it all has something in common. It takes the Cuban sound, Latin sound and fuses it with pop. And PALO! is part of this movement.
WLRN: If you talk about it with anybody who's not from here, how do you describe and define what the Miami sound is?
CARTAYA: I would say it is a mash up of stuff. It's like ajiaco. In Cuba ajiaco -- it's just anything inside a soup. Anything that you can put in there that you have, you throw it in there and it tastes amazing.
ROITSTEIN: We limit the ingredients. We don't throw in everything, but we definitely count on a lot of Cuban sounds. Every once in a while throw in a little bit of a Puerto Rican beats or Colombian beats but it's mostly Cuban sounds mixed with African-American funk and jazz. That's pretty much our ingredient list.
Take us back to the beginning of PALO! How long did it take before you knew we got something and there's long term here?
ROITSTEIN: I think it was the first or second show. There's a song that we had written called Lengua Larga. That was one of the first songs that we wrote.
[Regarding] live performances, is there a good variety of places [to play in Miami]?
ROITSTEIN: There could be more, but I know a lot of places that have closed. I think it was about four years ago a friend of mine who's a musician in San Francisco came and visited Miami for a couple of weeks. And after four days, he said you know compared to San Francisco and Los Angeles this scene is vibrant -- as far as the kind of original sort of music.
Watch PALO! perform their songs, "All Monte, Lenga Larga and La Habana Buena" live at the WLRN studios.