“Got it get it on with a sound that’s true,
If there ain’t nothing left let it do what it do.
Got to want to let it all go.
Play the soundtrack on your stereo.“
“Holy funk!” I mouthed in admiration as my head bopped to the first few seconds of ¡ESSO! Afrojam Funkbeat’s new single, “I Want To Be WIth You,” off their just released self-titled full-length debut album. The “Fela inspired Fania blends” ring true across 12 solid tracks that sway from tropical beachside anthems and reggae hip hop to funky cumbia tributes and spoken word cumbia rebajada. It’s Chicago magic all around. Join the band on Friday, June 19 as they celebrate the release of this new recording with a live performance at Double Door.
“Our first EP release ‘ThanksMixTape’ (available on our Bandcamp) was primarily instrumental. The new record focuses our palate on arrangements, songwriting, and lyrics. Adding lyrics offers us the ability to communicate a message, whereas music alone communicates a feeling/emotion. Working with vocals really allowed us to blend our sonic textures with mental concepts. Having a platform for lyrics, we chose to write about things that are important to us and our culture, our people historically and now. Messages of unity, tolerance, experience, awareness, sustainability, love… these are dominant issues to us as we (and our friends) start their own families and look to the future,” explains Armando Pérez, the band’s lead guitar and vocals.
ESSO Afrojam Funkbeat’s new album features plenty of guest musicians and collaborations with artists like Boogat and poet Luis Tubens who snaps on “Mundo Vale.” There’s also a sassy cumbia-styled transformation of Vivian García’s song, “Cold Bed.” And, even though we thought the Afroqbano version of Loc@s was IT (duh, we play it all the time!), well, hot damn they come along and slap us into another atmosphere with this new version. Those horns, the smoky vox and that flute, tho’! ¡Chacho mang!
From beginning to end, there’s a refreshing surprise in every track. From Latin funk, jazz and dancehall to house and spoken word over reggae cumbia, ¡ESSO! is an urban sound amalgam of Latino roots in Chicago. Listen to “Esso Strut” and try not to get up and boogie. It’s too contagious. The same goes for just about every one of the 12 tracks and we haven’t even touched on the complexity and impact of the accompanying words and poetry.
The album was engineered and recorded at Belmont Electric Studio with help from Rollin Weary, IV Labs, Mark Yoshizumi and Ezra Lange. Musicians for the album were Armando Pérez, Kevin Miller, Dan Leiber, Ezra Lange, Vivian García, Greg Spero, Julian Lloyd Harris, Puerko Pitzotl, Erin Marisol Corine, Juan Pablo Lugo, Ryan Schoen, Boleszek Olisnki, Maurice Cade, Diana Mosquera and Peter “Maestro” Vale.
“In short, people can expect conscious lyrics/vocals accompanying the band’s festive musical arrangements, as well as a deeper exploration into the Latin fusion and house music we grew up with here in Chicago,” says Pérez.
After their recent set for “This is Pilsen – Bohemian Past, Latino Present,” at Thalia Hall, where they shared the stage with Ondrej Havelka & his Melody Makers and Katerina Garcia, the band is set to perform at Double Door where they are officially celebrating the release of ¡ESSO! Tickets available here.