En España la gente no se baña….and Russian girls are all whores. At least that’s what they say in the Dominican Republic, where the term “sovietica” refers to “sexually promiscuous” women.
This we learned (and mucho más) from the South Bronx band La Sovietika, a 5-piece group that formed a year and a half ago and are funny as hell. We recently discovered La Sovietika online, and they had us at their song “Diablo Morena.” Part Bacilos spoof in their attempt to be romantic, part-Los Amigos Invisibles in their frank horniness, you don’t know if the title refers to a devil called “Morena” or a macho flattery (i.e. Diabloooo, Morena! Si cocinas como caminas….!)
La Sovietika claims to mix merengue, house, salsa, rock, palos, plena, ga-ga, soukouss “and good ol’ rock n roll.” It sounds like satire to us more than anything, reminiscent of similarly exiled compatriotas Miti Miti.
We sent these uptown boys a few questions, and to our surprise, they told us that the k in their name has more to do with merengue than communism, gave us a good history lesson on Afro-Caribbean rhythms of the last 450 years, and recommended some mighty good tacos in El Bronks.
La Sovietika opens for Monte Negro on Tuesday, October 7th at The Trash Bar in Williamsburg.
Names: José Stallion – voz, de Yauco Puerto Rico, Robert Julian – guitar, de República Dominicana, Jorge Subervi – bass, de República Dominicana, Danny Guillén – percussion de República Dominicana, José Madera – drums, de República Dominicana.
Where do you live? South Bronx, El Barrio, Washington Heights & West Harlem
Where are you answering these questions from? Robert & Jorge: Work. J Madera: Home
Day jobs? Jorge: I work for the School of Images. Robert: I work for the devil. J Madera: I work for another Diablo. Stallion: I’m the artist in resident of Japonica restaurant and I also do the deliveries.
Where were you and what were you doing 5 years ago? Stallion: Studying at the University Of Puerto Rico. Robert: I was studying Film Scoring at Berklee. Jorge: Living in Santo Domingo. JMadera: Maybe I was at work with Diablo or maybe drunk.
Current obsessions/addictions: Jorge: Drum & Bass, Electronica, House Music. JMadera: Netflix. Robert: Netflix and my friend’s blogs. Stallion: I don’t want to go to jail.
Guilty pleasure: JMadera: to walk late at night in the South Bronx looking for the last open bodega. Jorge: Chocolate.
Recent musical discovery: Stallion: El album La Inyección de Peña de Casildo y sus Villanos. Jorge: Chic’s Greatest Hits, the bassist was amazing. Robert: La Troba Kung-Fu.
Best recent meal: Robert: Three tacos from Santa Clarita in the South Bronx. Jorge: Salmon, rice & beans from The Last Stop in West Harlem. Stallion: Some leftovers from the restaurant where I work.
Movie that best represents your life: Robert: Dazed & Confused. Stallion: Lunacy. Jorge: hmmm…don’t know, Scarface maybe? just kidding…that movie’s yet to be written.
Last book you read: JMadera: Trilogia Sucia de la Habana by Pedro Juan Gutierrez. Robert: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz Jorge: The Testament by John Grisham; Stallion: Siddhartha
Do you have any tattoos? Nope, nobody.
Where would we find you on a Saturday afternoon? In a basement in the South Bronx rehearsing with La Sovietika
Heroes: Stallion: Tito Kayak. Robert: Fefita La Grande. Jorge: My kids. JMadera: Jack Veneno y un tal Cortázar
When did you start doing La Sovietika? Why that name? Robert: About a year and a half ago. The title comes from a song by Pena Suazo y La Banda Gorda where he says “y llegó la Soviética.” We thought it was the funniest thing in the world because Sovietica is Dominican slang for a sexually promiscuous lady. We also added the “k” to the name because a lot of merengue bands tend to replace the “c” for the “k” so we want to be “kool” like them.
What type of music is “soukouss”? Robert: It’s a music style from the Republic of Congo but we are more into the more modern style popularized in Paris by Diblo & Kanda Bongo Man (among others). A lot of Dominicans, myself included, first heard soukouss in the early 90’s in the music of Juan Luis Guerra who covered Diblo Dibala’s music and invited him to record in two of his albums.
What is palos for those readers who don’t know? Jorge: This is more or less what I’ve gathered over time: When African slaves were brought to the island of Santo Domingo, in order to recreate their music they used to bang on wood and fallen tree-trunks instead of actual drums with animal skins on them (as slaves, they couldn’t kill livestock and weren’t allowed to own anything).
Wood in Spanish can be loosely translated as palo and people started calling their music “palos.” Eventually they became free, research was performed and social investigators determined that there are over 40 different rhythmic patterns in the island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti). Merengue and bachata are the most famous but there are others just as contagious like Ga-Gá, Sarandunga, Palo (it is a specific rhythmic pattern as well), Congo, Bamboula, Prí-prí, Mangulina and Carabiné.
It is important to say that one specific group of descendants of slaves known as La Cofradía De Los Congos Del Espíritu Santo was recognized by UNESCO as Patrimonio Cultural De la Humanidad because after research done in Africa as well as in the Dominican Republic in the late 1990’s, it was established that both their culturez and the way they perform their traditions had been minimally altered nearly 450 years after being brought to the “New World”. La Cofradía are located in the town of Villa Mella, just north of the city of Santo Domingo.
Biggest challenges in the band? Robert: FINDING A PLACE TO PLAY !!! It’s pretty crazy how only 10 years ago Latin rock (or Latin Alternative whatever you want to call it) bands were organizing shows together, playing all types of bars and clubs, but now booking a show almost feels like a mission. Kind of ironic how with all the communication that we have, now it seems like bands and clubs are more distanced from each other than ever…or maybe it’s just me getting old.
What makes someone a “cosmopolatino”? Robert: Someone that while riding an overcrowded train can reach a brief nirvana with a book or with music…but when that person reaches their stop they can push their way out of the train like a linebacker.
For more information on La Sovietika, check out their MySpace page.