Up until now, all of my Music Monday posts have featured Colombian artists. When I discovered the music of Los Amigos Invisibles, a Venezuelan Latin-funk band, I knew they had to be my first deviation. The band’s groovy beats and daring lyrics are irresistible to me (well, at least my booty, which just starts shaking whenever their songs start).
In an NPR interview, the band shares how growing up in the 70s, when Venezuela was experiencing an economic boom thanks to oil production, helped them see the world and culture at a more global perspective. People could afford to leave the country and travel, and brought back gifts to share. That is how they became enamored with funk music, which is a central part of their sound. That sound combined with a bit of luck led to their relatively large international success – David Byrne, frontman of Talking Heads and head of record label Luaka Bop, stumbled upon Los Amigos Invisible’s 1995 debut album, A Typical and Autoctonal Venezuelan Dance Band, in a New York record store. He loved what he heard and gave them a call to invite them to sign to his label.
In the early 2000s Los Amigos Invisibles relocated from Caracas to New York; in the same year they received their first Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations for their third album, Arepa 3000: A Venezuelan Journey Into Space. The opportunity to work with a major US label provided them a chance to gain international recognition and tour globally.
When their 10-year contract with Byrne’s label ended, they founded their own label called Gozadera Records and released their first independent album, Superpop Venezuela, at first only in their home country. With the US release a year later, they received yet another Grammy nomination for “Best Latin Alternative Album.”
Their most recent album, Repeat After Me, received 4 nominations between Grammys and Latin Grammys, and continues the slight change in sound fans started to hear with Superpop. The band commented that living in New York and being immersed in that different world of course influenced how they sounded and the language in which they performed. At this time, the band is still touring – they have a show in Bogota this week that I definitely can’t go to, but hopefully one day I’ll get to see them live!