Free DJ Afro!

Have you ever listened to music that made you feel you were some place else? At least, wishing you were some place else?

I feel a warm breeze, smell water in a distance and hear palm trees rustling all while on a CTA bus in Chicago. You should have seen where I was in the last song: in a dark lounge, circular booth in the middle of all my friends, hashing out the benjamins and, to top it off, I was thinner.

Who can possibly make me feel this way, while we Chicagoans are asking for just a tad bit of sun and 45 degree weather? DJ Afro, better known as Jose Luis Pardo, better known as Cheo, also known as the lead guitarist from disco-funk band and Venezuelan Grammy-winners, Los Amigos Invisibles, who’ve been around for 20 years. He recently released his solo album titled ‘Free‘ from Nacional Records.

For some reason when I hear or read D-J I think of booty-bumpin’ house music; a repercussion of being from Chicago, no doubt. But this stuff, for lack of a better term, is so chill. It’s sophisticated. You can listen to it at a lounge or while you’re doing the dishes or, like me, when it’s snowing outside and you feel like being creative with your photos.

The album starts off relaxed eventually growing to quicker-paced songs like Quedate A Dormir (Sleep Over) where DJ Afro actually sings the song for himself, the first time ever in his career. “It’s honestly very weird to hear my own vocals on a track,” Pardo explains through a Nacional Records press release. “I recorded that vocal track to show the melody to whoever was going to sing it. Then I invited a couple of singer friends to try the track and I just didn’t feel it was right.”

The only part of this album that says “I belong to LAI” is his name and a  song called Recuerdo featuring Pedro Perez. It’s only because that classic dance beat found in so many of their songs is clear as day. The syncopated rhythmic guitar, that’s so vital to the disco sound is there, taking me back to that super hot day at Bonaroo where I saw them perform for the second time.

Rata featuring Gianko throws a little cumbia into the mix. The classic feel that cumbia has shines through, but all of a sudden there’s a heavier dance beat bringing back the contemporary, modern day feel.

“Every musician, every guest and singer in this record was going to be there for his love of music and was going to be able to do whatever he or she thought it was in the best interest of having a good song,” states DJ Afro.

The creative juices were definitely flowing with this album, which he started on after LAI’s ‘pop’ album Commercial. The first two songs remind me of something out of a Pulp Fiction/Kill Bill soundtrack. Classy, clean and mysterious. Heather Buck’s voice in Este Bolero Es Para Ti gives the song an almost eerie feeling. It’s gorgeous and, I can only describe it as, Phantom of the Opera-esque.

I know, I know, I’m not the first person to write anything on this album, mainly because I got the music late and because I wanted to listen to it over and over in order to make a proper call on what I thought and felt about the music. Trust me, I’m not music critic but I know what I like. This might be definitely be too soft for some people, but overall, it caters to a wider set audience and it works. The music is a nice branch off of what LAI do.

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