Rum & Coke, the Miami-based Afro-Caribbean Latin dance party and DJ collective, have a monthly residency at Dante’s HiFi, were they play all vinyl sets. Gathered from thousands of hours of digging for records and childhood memories spent in the sunny tropical climes of the Caribbean, their song selections span classics and rare grooves from Cumbia, Salsa, Merengue, Afrobeat, Soukous, Latin Funk, Zouk, Compas, and other genres, with a particular focus on the 1960s-80s “Golden Age” of Latin music. No matter where you’re from, Rum & Coke’s sounds of Caribbean nostalgia are meant to make you feel like you’re coming home.
Having existed in various configurations for five years, Rum and Coke’s current “lineup” includes Jesus Rodriguez (Dominican Republic), Harold Fandino (Colombia) and James Alvarez-Bacon, better known as DJ Kumi (Nicaragua). The three of them have a mission in common: to raise awareness of and pay tribute to the classic, obscure, and forgotten sounds of Latin and Afro-Caribbean popular music. Their next party at Dante’s will be on Sunday, February 26. Hosted by fellow Dante’s resident and Technique Records associate CaroZilla, this event will be the first Rum & Coke to feature guest DJs, bringing La Rumba Buena from Toronto. They will also have a limited edition T-shirt available designed by local artist Mondo Bizarro.
We had the chance of catching up with DJ Kumi, Harold and Jesus, ahead of their next party. Check the interview below.
You just celebrated your first year at Dante’s HiFi, but Rum and Coke has been around for a while! How did the party start?
KUMI: The party originally started at a venue in Miami named Gramps about 10 years ago by a DJ named Patrick Griffin aka Action Pat. Pat would sometimes do a tropical edition of his Southernmost Soul Party, where DJ Le Spam and I would always be invited to play. After Pat decided to make it a permanent monthly party, he asked me to join him in 2016, and that’s how I became a part of it. He later moved to Chicago and asked me if I’d be interested in taking over the party, and of course I said yes!! Very soon after, I felt it was only right to bring Harold and Jesus on with me.
What’s the spirit of the party?
KUMI: The spirit comes from the music and cultures of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa. We gravitate with a more vintage sound when pertaining to those countries.
HAROLD: At a Rum and Coke Miami party, the spirit is connecting all the cultures together and transporting them back to that family jam. You know, those family jams when you learned how to dance with your Tia or another family member. Unless you were the kid who fell asleep early and missed out on all the incredible music. We want you to feel like you wish you hadn’t done that, so now you’re front and center and moving those hips all night with us.
JESUS: The spirit of a Rum & Coke party is about reconnecting yourself to home (wherever that place is for you). It’s the idea of coming back home and finding your center. So many of us leave our homelands completely disconnecting ourselves from our culture, which is such an important source of our joy and vitality. We find ourselves just wandering, getting a quick high from whatever the next thing is, knowing damn well something is missing.
We all need to come home. Even when we can’t go to that place physically, we still need to find a way to connect to that source. Once a month, this party provides a full musical immersion to be able to do that.
Tell us about the dynamic between the three of you. Do you take turns / you do b2b?
KUMI: We always rotate hourly and then do some b2b as the end of night. The order doesn’t matter.
HAROLD: Our dynamic is unique which contributes to such an excellent experience when you are at a Rum and Coke Miami party. Like most things, it’s taken time to get us to where we are. We are music fans of not only the sounds we play at a Rum and Coke Miami party but of other music genres. We are big fans of each other and are equally excited about the individual projects that we are also a part of. For example, when Kumi does his Brainville thing or is setting the mood for a live act, we are definitely excited to check it out. This makes its way into the Rum and Coke dynamic in which we root for each other, challenge and learn from each other. For one night of programming, we each take about one hour to develop a set and then switch. It keeps things fresh. However it is not uncommon to allow each other to play longer if the set is firing just right.
JESUS: One of my favorite things of the party is actually enjoying Harold and Kumi’s sets. All of us have a sound and an interpretation of what a Rum and Coke party is, and it’s a beautiful thing when you see it all come together. And that’s not only during the party, but also on our radio show, Radio Karibe. I’m always curious about their selections, and always bothering them about what they’re playing hahaha.
During the party, we’ve been doing hourly rotations. Since we started at Dante’s Hifi, I’ve been starting things off for the listening session (based on our radio show), and then Harold or Kumi go next and we just stay on that same rotation for the rest of the evening. The order doesn’t really matter, the range of this crew is so deep that we’re ready to throw down at any particular moment of the evening.
What’s the main thing you want to transmit to the crowd during your sets?
KUMI: We’d like to transmit the same joy we get from the music.
HAROLD: A celebration of our Caribbean culture with a tip of the hat to our African roots. Because all these rhythms all have a direct line to the mother continent–Africa
JESUS: I want to transmit the sheer beauty of our cultural legacy and the joy it gives us. The vastness of it all. Part of what’s exciting for me is to play these incredible records and sharing the awe of their very existence with the crowd. Whether it’s zouk that was recorded in Brazil, bossa nova recorded in Haiti, Latin Rock from El Salvador, or a Latin funk cover of a Ray Barretto tune recorded in Ecuador, there is something really harmonious in this musical dialogue of the Americas and Africa. This synergy is experienced at the highest level at a Rum And Coke event.
Your next party is going to be pretty different from the ones before, since it’s the first one with guest DJs. Tell us a bit more about that.
JESUS: Yes, we’re very excited to have the Rumba Buena crew out of Toronto, Canada as our debut guests for the party. They’re celebrating the seventh-year anniversary of their party this month, so February is a big one for them as well. Rich Medina, co-owner / musical director of Dante’s Hifi and master sensei, actually played the Rumba Buena party a few years ago, and they have recently hosted heavy hitters such as DJ Timber and Aki Abe, owner of the legendary record shop, Cosmos Records. These guys are very well respected in the Toronto music community.
I can’t wait to see what they’re going to cook up for their Rum and Coke debut. I’m pretty sure escaping that Canada cold for a few days won’t be a bad thing either.