To film the music video for their Miami-proud single "305," the Latin funk band Suenalo took over Mater Academy Charter School in Hialeah. Against a backdrop of Miami Heat-jersey-wearing fans and a marching band in the school's gymnasium, the group performed a fusion of rumba and hip-hop, with tight-sounding rap verses delivered by longtime vocalist Amin De Jesus. At one point, De Jesus, who names Miami-Dade locations from Calle Ocho to Carol City, produces a flask longer than his arm, and swigs from it.
That music video, De Jesus says, is the band's first. If "305" reveals the same playful funkmakers that have toured Miami nightclubs for a decade, the Suenalo of today, he says, is more serious than ever. And more businesslike.
"I've even had people try to do a Wikipedia [page] for us. It's been impossible," says De Jesus, whose band will perform Saturday at the Stage in Miami. "So many members coming and going. Traditionally, we'd drop the album on iTunes or whatever. Now, we're doing it more strategically. We're working on a second music video right now. We've stepped up the sponsorships. We hired a marketing team. It's not something we had ever considered before."
Suenalo will debut the music video "at some point" after the concert, which will function as an album-release party for their fourth album, "Keep It Groovin'." Recorded more than a year ago, the album's first half is bilingual and includes another Miami-adoring anthem, "MIA," while the second half contains a blend of Spanish lyrics and Caribbean-flavored grooves.
De Jesus' tenure in the nine-piece Suenalo began in 2003, and he has survived several changes to the group's ever-rotating lineup. If the album carries a musical duality, he says it's accidental, and influenced by the addition of trombonist Chad Bernstein, pianist Adrian Gonzalez and returning singer Michelle Forman.
"I try to look at Suenalo as less like a band and more like a technical school. Other members have gone on to better things. Our last percussionist, Manuel Papayo, is now in Pitbull's backing band," he says. "A nine-member group is really difficult to package to a record label. How do I sell that? But Suenalo is still a very demanding group. We gig hard. We gig all the time. And I love rapping about my city, because not enough of it is done in good form. For us, Miami is something really personal, very passionate and familiar."
Suenalo will perform 9 p.m. Saturday at the Stage, 170 NE 38th St., in Miami. Tickets cost $18-$47 and include a copy of the new album. Call 305-576-9577 or go to TheStageMiami.com.