It’s 7:30 in the evening on a random Wednesday and Little Woodrow’s at Southpark Meadows is rocking. As smokey Colombian rhythm mainlines into my ears, my right leg refuses to quit jumping to the beat. A perma-smile is plastered to my face. With a quietly attentive Black Fret crowd behind me, everyone seems transfixed by the soulful, haunting sound of cumbia, salsa, and Latin jazz.
The source? Superfónicos, an infectious blend of range, power, and unbridled enthusiasm distilled into a sound that begs to be experienced in a live setting. And with a new pair of singles out in the world, ready to turn your garden party into a dance-a-thon, there’s no better time to fall in love with this crew of sensational musicians.
Superfónicos formed in the summer of 2014 as a four-piece side project. Focused on blending Afro-Colombian rhythms with their personal loves and influences, the group of Austin natives found themselves incorporating Afro-beat, funk, and rock into the cumbia-centered sound.
The final ingredient arrived summer 2016: Jaime Ospina. A life-long resident of Colombia, veteran performer of cumbia music, and expert gaita player (hybrid flute), Ospina easily fit in with the group. But bassist Nico Sanchez saw something special.
“Jaime started playing the gaita and I was like, ‘Whoa, that sounds awesome!,'” shared Sanchez. “Then I asked him if he could sing. He responded, ‘Yeah, I’ve never been a front man, but sure’ and I said, ‘You got the job!'”
A week later, the band launched into a three-hour jam session and the chemistry was impossible to ignore. From there, the sky was the limit.
Superfónicos Live Performance
When seen in person, Ospina looks and feels like an experienced bandleader. Blessed with an electric energy, soaring voice, and incredible chops, he’s a sensational focal point for the Superfónicos sound to weave its magic.
During both the aforementioned Black Fret event and stirring showcase during SXSW 2019, the band transformed both venues into steamy Colombian dance parties.
During the Little Woodrow’s show, the pared-down lineup played a trim six-song set comprised of new and classic tunes. The opener, “Rio Negro,” was the perfect party starter. Beginning as a shuffling samba number that morphs into a salty, sensual cumbia, the song’s change in vibe and flow blended the stoic listening room into a foot-tapping club gig.
During “Merecumbe,” Ospina invited the crowd to jump as the band launched into an inferno of Latin jazz guitar leads, tight percussion, and soaring trombone solos courtesy of Cilantro Boombox’s Christopher “Zumbi” Richards.
“El Miedo” featured Ospina’s soulful, haunting gaita, while “Sigue Pa’ Lante” added a touch of hip hop to the song’s body-moving groove and jam.
New Music Now and on the Horizon
In the middle of the set, the band performed its new single, “Cumbéalo.” Recorded in one session straight-to-tape with no overdubs or post production, the song’s true-to-form cumbia is warm, lush, and packed with musical flavor. The unique recording environment made for an authentic expression of the Superfónicos sound.
The second half of the recording session, “Tropidélico,” introduced a smokey funk vibe to the Superfónicos formula. Big on horns, flush with percussion solos, all backboned by a luxuriously slick bass line, the song proves the band has room to grow musically. And for an unabashed fan of Latin percussion, a timbales solo is pure ear candy.
Both songs have a consistent theme of unity and a return to spiritual connection lost in our digital world. The very process of recording directly to tape heightens that sense of awareness, something Superfónicos attempts to tie into every song.
“We’re activists in our lyrics, but we approach it in a positive way,” shared Ospina. “Move forward, everything will be alright, and dance through it instead of fighting the system. It’s not Rage Against the Machine. It’s a watery resistance that flows around everything that’s happening and opens us for a good moment. The more we can get back to a sense of unity, the more we can be strong enough to not be overwhelmed by those who do the wrong thing.”
Band That Must Be Seen to Be Believed
The final tune of the Black Fret showcase was the stirring “Suelta.” Opening with scorching guitar and brassy horns, Ospina commanded the audience to give up and let go. The breeze seemed to pick up the vibe, whisking away the worries and tensions of the once calm, now jamming crowd. Grins were plastered on faces, lost in an evening fading to dusk, awash in beautiful music played with power and passion.
And if I had to pick one buzzword to describe Superfónicos, that would be it. Passion. With a heart for uplifting a weary world through a stirring blend of Colombian cumbia, Latin rock, and percussion designed to move mountains, the members of Superfónicos lay their souls bare with every performance.
The resistance doesn’t have to be a violent expression of anger and defiance. Sometimes, the best counter-attack to the old and awful is beautiful music played in intimate settings by people who care.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Have you checked out Superfónicos live yet? If so, tell us about your experience!