4 August, Common Room
by Jamie Macphail

“Where we come from, the people take their saints out into the street”

So much promise in the name alone; Latin Aotearoa.  Grooves and beats and roots. I’m feeling my body swaying in anticipation.

As I arrive at the Common Room the beats have already begun. Bobby Brazuka is on the desk and there’s a flavour to the tunes that promises some heat and passion, it’s already building.

It’s a smooth transition, Jennifer Zea, with blonded afro, takes control of a microphone, and with a little adjustment to the sound desk, her voice becomes a part of Bobby’s mix, accompanied by sublime percussion.

This is a trio. Jennifer, front and centre, singing in a constantly cycling blend of Spanish, Portuguese and English. Crisp tight clean percussion from a master (who’s name, I am ashamed to say, I never caught) and, making up the third member of the trio, Bobby as DJ.

Close your eyes and it’s a full Latin band of at least seven; brass and drums, guitars and bass, it’s all there.  The ingenuity of combining a Dj with a live vocalist and percussion. It works, it’s vibrant and edgy and has that eighties Florida vibe. Clever, slick, sharp. Urban.

For me it taunts and teases. The beats build, the vocals begin to swell, the percussion leans toward passion … but it never quite gets me there.  The songs are short. The rhythmic build tapers away. I’m hungry for some spontaneity, I want the tightness to morph into something unleashed and wild.

It doesn’t take long before the majority of the room are on their feet, but it is with a sway rather than a primal groove.  There’s a dedicated few, right up the front, who are surrendering to the beats and letting go, the rest of us are reserved, moving but not surrendering totally. Close. Eager.  But never quite taken there.

Jennifer has a presence on stage. We want to go there with her, but each song ends just a fraction too soon, nothing quite builds to a point of intensity that we are totally committed.

Oddly, the moment the set ends, the Dj launches into a tune that has all the intensity that we were hoping for. There’s more passion from the few left on the dance floor now that there had been at any moment in the live set.  The eclectic mix that makes up a Common Room crowd thins to those eager for that release that we looked forward to …


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