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Sunday, January 06, 2008

A little bit Latin, a little bit Reggae, a little bit Rock 'N' Roll

written by Alfredo Flores
On Tap magazine January 2008
Photo credit Jota Trelles

It was a typical Friday night gig for Nayas at Bossa Bistro and Lounge in Adams Morgan. The lounge's resident reggae, ska and rock band drew their typical large crowd with them — fans who've know them on a first name basis by hanging out with them after shows through the years, put up online postings on their MySpace page and who crave the unique blend of Latin party dance music the band brings every time they perform in the DC area. "This seems to be working," says Bossa co-owner and partner Wagner Depinho with a chuckle as he looks over the packed crowd at a mid-December Nayas show at his lounge. He's known band rhythm guitarist and singer Soy Lopez since 2003 and has allowed them to practice upstairs every Tuesday rent-free since then. They've improved and fine-tuned their music from their early mostly-rock music days playing in the smaller upstairs floor of Bossa, and now are the featured downstairs lounge performers that play every other Friday. "They've moved into the downstairs 'Primetime,'" Depinho says. "Nayas has diversified their sound a lot since when I first met them, and you can tell it by the crowd they typically bring in. It's the type of crowd we definitely feel is good for business." The crowd is mostly young, attractive, enjoy Bossa's famed mojitos and caparinhas, and dance to a variety of salsa and cumbia, and head-bob to reggae — all depending on the type of song Nayas plays. Even Nayas' name is a great fusion of sorts — a play on the word Niyabinghi, which are chants from the Rasta religion that have become the basis of reggae music, but also, coincidently, means 'warriors' in the Quechua indigenous language of South America. Among their most requested songs is the riddim reggae 'heartbeat'-type beat and rock heavy–infused track "Malas Manera" ("Bad Manners") from their upcoming 2008 album where bass guitarist and vocalist Luis Torrealba shouts out the catchy and soulful chorus, "Si tu tengas malas maneras… Ooh uh ooh… Ooh uh ooh." Another popular song is "Lady Dada (Ella)," the lead track from their 2006 debut self-titled album. This is a great mix of deep base guitar strums with an infectious cumbia beat with percussionist Joey Carrasquillo (better known as Joey C) doing a rap solo and using the unique flexotone handheld instrument. It creates an eerie, sawblade-like sound, and Lopez bolting out the chorus, "Nooo hagas lo que quieres… nooo hagas plata." Most of their lyrics are about love, relationships, friendships, community and the values they all believe in sung in a mix of English and Spanish, with some Portuguese thrown in. But mostly it's about having a good time through fun party beats. They've also been known to do great cover versions of Manu Chao, one of Nayas' major influences, along with Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Ozomatli, Bob Marley, Black Uhuru and Israel Vibrations. Nayas has long-time DC roots that go back way before the band's formation in 2001. Lopez is a 1994 graduate of Washington's Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Carrasquillo is from Arlington's Washington-Lee High School Class of 1993. Both drummer Names Thompson (a Haitian / Jamaican Detroit area native easily recognizable for his blue eyes and long dreadlocks) and Torrealba (a native Peruvian) have been in the DC area for about a decade. Lilo Gonzalez, lead guitarist for DC area-based Salvadorian hard rock band Machetres, is subbing in for Nayas while the band finds a full time third guitarist. It's no surprise that Nayas members often smile and point as they pick out their friends while they perform on stage, shake hands and hug their supporters after shows, or even join in for a salsa dance like they did after opening for Richmond-based salsa band Bio Ritmo at their mid-December concert at the Black Cat. While the band has played at just about every single DC-area venue, including Nissan Pavilion, Merriweather Post-Pavillion, 930 Club, Gazuza lounge and Love the Club, it's always Bossa where they feel most at home, where there are even photos of themselves hanging on the wall. "This is definitely our house," says Joey C. "We've always felt welcomed here and we love the vibe from the people that come here. They really dig our fusion of so many world sounds. We feed off their energy and we give that same energy right back." Their aspirations run high. They've performed for a radio station in Spain in the past, have had gigs in New York and Baltimore, and want to make similar trips out West as well as South America, but first comes their new album, which they'll record this year and hope to release by late 2008. "The new album will be like a re-birth for Nayas," says Lopez—who, along with Torrealba, are the only two original members that remain in the band, which once numbered as many as seven. "I've been here since the conception and we've gone through a lot of turnover, trying to find our way through the years. But now we feel we've got a great mix of like-minded musicians and we're ready to go to the studio, make this thing happen."
CD Review
En Lo Claro

On Tap
magazine January 2008

With a nickname like "voltage" in Spanish — given to him after getting shocked while working as an electrician — Voltio certainly knows how to bring electricity to everything he touches. In previous albums he plugged into the reggae and salsa of his native Puerto Rico. Now in his third studio release, he has deftly expanded his repertoire to include more gruff-sounding hard core Spanish rap, funk, cumbia, and even punk rock. The album's first single "El Mellao" has a catchy accordion tune combined with DJ scratches for a great party beat, as Voltio fondly remembers his electrician days cat calling girls on the street. Other notable tracks are the synthesizer-driven "Pónmela" featuring Jowell & Randy, a hot song with a hot beat about girls in mini-skirts, and the soulful R&B crooner song "Un Amor como Tú", which makes great use of featured guest Arcangel's vocal chops in the chorus. — Alfredo Flores