Charlie Dee Diaz has been in the rave scene since before it was even called rave. With a love for house music spanning nearly 50 years, Diaz has released a number of recognizable tracks under several different monikers and ranging in style from tech house to pop house to disco house and everything in between. The common thread that binds them all, however, is drums.
As all good EDM should, Diaz’s music has a foundation in drumlines, whether they be heavily syncopated, flourishes at the end of a phrase or the steady, heavy 130 beat of house and techno. Having learned that, it’s no wonder Diaz, of Afro-Cuban descent himself, recently started a new project rooted in Afro house. It is, after all, one of the drummiest of drum-based electronic disciplines, and Diaz aims to make it even more so.
Diaz sees Tribal House Crew, the project he began with his wife, vocalist Maria (Mariella) Giambanco Diaz, as a collective into which he plans to bring more and more artists who fit his style, flavor and love of drums. As is he’s already conscripted a number of his favorite jazz, house and Afro-Cuban artists to contribute to his releases thus far, and he’s released most of them, up to his upcoming single “Afro-Acid” on Miami house Legend Oscar G’s Made in Miami label.
But there’s even more in store for Carlie Dee Diaz, as he gears up to launch his new label and release even more under both Tribal House Crew and his solo label. With Afro house, Diaz may truly have found his niche after all these years. But we’ll stop prattling on, because he tells his own story best, and what a story. Let the drum worship commence.
First things first, how did you get into Afro house?
I was always into Afro rhythms since I was young. My father was a musician and he had a pair of LP bongos that I used to play when I was really young. Some of my first memories are of me banging on the bongos. There’s a video somewhere of me on my first birthday playing drums so I guess from birth!
Going back, all my drum programming in the 80s was percussion based in Afro Cuban rhythms and when house music became the music playing in the clubs, I adapted and made house music with more percussion. At that time there was no genre of Afro house and labels that I sent my music to, rejected it. Some said it was too Latin not house enough etc. So I kept making my tracks and enjoying them myself.
Then I saw a video of Oscar G on Instagram and I liked the music he was playing. So I said, finally, someone that plays music that I like! So I went down to Miami to Coyo Taco, a spot in Wynwood where he DJs with live percussion by Oba Frank Lords and his son Ngo Lords. I introduced myself, and that’s how I got into knowing Afro as a genre. Since then, Oscar’s released 4 of our tracks on his label, Made in Miami. I’ve been in love with the genre since, because it allows me to express myself in beats.
What do you think makes the new Tribal House Crew project different from your other solo work?
With my solo work, I felt like I had to show excellent production. Everything has to sound sonically good and have a kind of pop appeal, like my stuff in the 80s. My album, Liquid, had really good tracks but by trying to perfect it and listening to it over and over, I lost what I was going for. It had no direction. It was a whole bunch of genres mixed together, trying to please everyone.
The Tribal House Crew project is being made with the mindset of “just do what you like and people who like it will find it.” I got tired of trying to make music everyone would like. It’s much easier to do what comes naturally.
At this point in my career, I’m pretty confident in my abilities to make fire beats.
Also, the Tribal House Crew allows me to bring in outside musicians to participate in the project and be part of the tribe/crew.
You’ve said you want the THC work to have a heavier world music vibe to it versus the syncopation and rhythms of more standard Afro house, and that really seems present with “Afro-Acid.” How do you think you achieved that?
Well, Maria is Italian and writes and sings in Italian, and I bring the Afro Cuban elements from all over the world. All the different tracks that we have coming out in the next year have world instruments like flutes, strings, and percussion, with lyrics in Italian, English and Spanish. We’ve traveled all over the world and I realize that people everywhere love percussion. Many of the Afro house tracks out now use a formula but like I said before, I don’t like to use formulas.
“Afro Acid” is definitely different. One of the elements that I used that makes it very different from standard Afro house is the Acid feel of a Roland 303-type plugin throughout the song. I’ve been told by a dj that the original mix is Raw! Plus, my percussion playing and programming, brings a different feel than a standard Afro track. I don’t play standard rhythms.
Do you see “AfroAcid” as more than just a single? Like perhaps a new genre?
As Afro house develops, I think it will have many different styles. We don’t need more genres. My style in particular leans towards something I call Afro-tech, which, to me is a combination of Afro house and tech house. Not a genre. Just my style. I see Afro heading into organic sounds combined with techno rhythms and patterns.
Your wife, vocalist Maria (Mariella) Giambanco Diaz is working with you on this project as well, and she’s listed as an artist on “Afro -Acid.” What was her contribution to this track? Do you see Tribal House Crew as a duo or collective?
I definitely see the Tribal House Crew as a collective with me at the head. Kind of like the Salsoul Orchestra, different artists contribute different parts. For example, I used sax player Ronald Rodriguez on “Make Me Feel Good,” out on Made in Miami, and vocalist/percussionist Oba Frank Lords on a new track coming out soon. I consider them friends and part of the crew. There will be others.
Maria’s contribution usually consists of lyric writing, and melody making during the process of making a track. When we play live she occasionally will dj as I play percussion live. On this track is she assisted in recording percussion and part of the Acid house melody.
Back to the single: the vocals on this track seem to be what really give it that recognizable world music feel how did you create those vocals? Did Maria contribute her vocals on the track?
Originally Maria had laid down vocals very similar to what we ended up using. That was the vibe I had in my mind. But I felt the vocals she did went better with another track I was working on. I ended up going through my vocal sample collection and found the samples, strung them together to make a cool rhythm that sounded legit like a phrase. I think it worked!
You’ve got a few ancillary projects going around Tribal House Crew and your other music. Can you talk bit about Breakout Beats and Underground Rhythm? How do you see all of these projects growing together?
Breakout Beats is a collection of tracks more on the percussive/breakbeat side of club music that I plan to release on my label Underground Rhythm Records. I plan to use the label to showcase and grow my style of house music, which uses a lot of percussion and less instruments. My favorite things are bongos, beats and bass. I want the label to be known for bangers.
What’s next for Tribal House Crew? Are you planning to release under Charlie Dee Diaz in the future as well?
What’s next for Tribal House Crew? Well right now, we’ve taken advantage of the pandemic and we have close to ten songs done and waiting for a final mix. I also have the Liquid remix project that I’m going to release on Underground Rhythm as Charlie D Diaz plus some songs by another alias of mine, Digital Meltdown. We might even release a follow up track to “Throw em the Chicken” by Crowd Control, an alias I used back in 1989 for the Black Havana album on Capitol Records.
What’s one thing you really want listeners to know or feel when listening to your music?
The one thing I want is for people to feel like dancing. That’s it.
“Afro-Acid” will drop on Diaz’s new Underground Rhythm label on February 25. He’s debuted the track early with its three mixes exclusively on Traxsource, where fans can also pre-order. Check out the other tracks released by the project on Spotify.