D.C. is quite far from anything even remotely tropical, but fortunately, the capital city is a hotbed of “tropicaliente,” a fusion musical style with Latin roots that has taken hold here. Empresarios has been at the forefront of that Latin sound in the District since forming in 2007. Javier Miranda, the Puerto Rican-born frontman of the group, said that he, his brother, and some of their friends got together to remix the sounds of Latin America but give it that unique capital twist.
“Two of my other boys were doing reggae and dub, and another friend of mine was [getting into] Brazilian music,” Miranda said recently of Empresarios’ formation. “And all of these influences…I wanted to put all these things together and see what we could do.”
Miranda, on congas, is joined in Empresarios by guitarist Paul Chaconas, video DJ John Bowen, “Brazilian DJ” Sonny Cheeba, and house DJ Sammy Arsam Khosh. The six-some blends the sounds of reggaeton, house, dub, Latin and other sounds to create a decidedly party-tastic sound.
“The beauty was when you put this fusion together, you [add] the hip-hop and the Spanish influence,” Miranda said. “That’s the beautiful thing about Empresarios: Everybody really has something to bring to the table.”
At their formation, everyone in the band held down various day jobs. The group released their first album, “Sabor Tropical” (in English: “tropical flavor”) in 2011. The band then hit the road for a full year before heading back into the studio for subsequent albums and remixes.
“That’s what artists do, man,” Miranda said, “work and work and work.”
The group’s latest EP, “Warriors,” came out last fall. The band has released three singles this year, with a fourth coming in the fall.
“Now, it works like a machine,” Miranda said. “I bring them the music, they listen to it for maybe a week or two, and then we’re back in the studio making things freely.”
However, their machine couldn’t stop COVID-19, which closed down music performance venues not just in D.C. but around the world in the spring of 2020. But rather than throw in the towel, Empresarios headed back into the recording studio to work on rearrangements of their catalog as well as composing new songs in the interim.
“I knew this thing was gonna pass, so now we have a bunch of music,” Miranda said. “We are just staying busy so we can go on the road again.”
Miranda has been a working musician since his late-teens. Now 45, he said that life on the road is not necessarily different than it was in his youth, but having his friends and bandmates on the tour bus helps him to stay grounded. He also says it’s key to remember that performing music is a job—and, therefore, to act professionally.
“You got soundcheck and a show, [so] make sure you’re at both,” Miranda said, adding “be early. [Also] don’t get too crazy. Know where your place is in the room.”
In addition to chasing the goals of making new recordings and getting back out on the road again, Miranda said it’s important to remind himself about all the success he and his bandmates have already enjoyed.
“I play with my band, I took it out of D.C., we toured, [so] I do feel accomplished, man,” he said. “Whatever God blessed me with at this point in music, I’m happy. I’ve traveled the world, I met the most beautiful people, [and] I travel with my friends, bro! Ain’t nothing that can buy that feeling of being on the road with your friends for years and years.
“At this point in my life in music, I’m accomplished.”
Local shows are upcoming throughout the fall. Miranda says the band is hopeful to return to the road soon, possibly stopping in Miami and returning to his native Puerto Rico for some gigs.
Keeping his successes in mind—while at the same time trying to keep the band and its music relevant—has also helped Miranda through such difficulties as recently losing his best friend to cancer. Music always provides a way to express how you’re feeling—and perhaps reach others who might be in the same position.
“I think music is the most powerful thing that we got, brother,” Miranda said. “We’ve been through a lot these past few years. It’s not easy what we as human beings and we as musicians have been going through.
“When you come down to it, music is the best thing we have,” he said. “And we need happiness [even] more these days.”
A native of New Jersey, Eric Althoff has published articles in “The Washington Post,” “Los Angeles Times,” “Napa Valley Register,” “Black Belt,” DCist, ScreenComment.com and Luxe Getaways. He produced the Emmy-winning documentary, “The Town That Disappeared Overnight,” and has covered the Oscars live at the Dolby Theater. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with his wife, Victoria.
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