Photographs, posters of bands and concerts, toys, gadgets and art cover the walls of the recording studio called The Shack North in Hialeah.
Instruments lie around: antique organs, accordions, guitars, bass and a set of drums that overlooks the music sanctuary of the band called Humbert.
Members Ferny Coipel, on the guitar and clarinet; Tony Landa, bass; Rimsky Pons, guitar; and Izo Besares, drums, who had been replaced the past year by Cesar Lavin but is back, spend much of their time at the studio producing songs.
Although each plays his designated instrument, all members are versatile when it comes to music, filling their songs with a rich sound.
The musicians of this experimental, low-fi pop group, who all have Cuban backgrounds, grew up in Hialeah playing in bands from the area. They have been part of a community of local artists which they have helped promote since 1989 when they opened their first warehouse studio, The Shack, followed in 2004 by The Shack North, where many local artists record every day.
''The Shack North is a mecca for the arts in Hialeah,'' said Besares, who graduated from Hialeah-Miami Lakes High in 1986. ``We try to create and be part of a music community and this place has been one of the ways in which we have done it.''
Another way is Sportatorium Records, a small label created by Humbert which has recorded artists from all over South Florida, but prefers to help expose and promote Hialeah talent.
''We have always said we are from Hialeah,'' said Landa, a 1987 Hialeah High graduate.
Added Besares, ``Hialeah to me is brutally homey, even though 90 percent of the time I am cursing it. Maybe that is what we love about it.''
Same from Coipel: ``It is just the way Hialeah is, you know; you carry it with you.''
In February 2006, when the band was invited to the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, the members insisted on being registered as a Hialeah band, instead of from Miami or South Florida. At that time, they wrote a letter to Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina letting him know that Humbert were the proud emissaries of ``La Ciudad que Progresa.''
Coipel, also a Hialeah High graduate, calls Humbert ''the artistic voice of Hialeah,'' not only for having a place where bands can record and play, but also because of the way it has influenced the youth.
In 1997, Humbert decided to bring its music to Jose Marti Middle School, where Besares taught English for 12 years. The band played a benefit concert for the school's Parent Teacher Student Association and it has become a tradition for eight years.
Each year, Humbert chooses two local bands from a middle school as its opening act, giving young artists a venue to express their music.
''It was great,'' Besares said. ``The kids were very interested in the band and it stimulated them to do music and art. We would have more than 500 kids go watch us every year and a long line of Hialeah bands who wanted to participate in the show.''
The band also played for Barbara Goleman High School students.
''A lot of those kids keep in touch with us and they are still playing music,'' Coipel said.
Humbert also organized the Hialeah Music Festival, which has been taking place at Churchill's Hideaway, 5501 NE Second Ave., every year since 1992. The festival started with four bands from the area and has grown to include more than 18 for the next show on Sept. 8.
At the festival, Humbert will perform some of the slow tunes from its 2003 CD Plant the Trees Closer Together, such as Hugo (the elephant), or The Ladybug and The Beetle, the type of songs that embody the band's philosophy that ``a minute worth of something inspiring outweighs a lifetime of mediocrity.''
The purely instrumental Vuscalli (The Porcupine) is another song from that album and is filled with the cozy humming organs representative of Humbert. All the members of the band wrote songs for this and the other albums, such as Floating Legion of Joy, a 2006 limited edition promotional disc, and their first album, Humbert, Humbert, which was released in 1999. The next album is due out at the beginning of 2008.
''For now we just want to write songs that . . . make you feel creative, that make you want to hug someone, or that make you feel like you are for the for the first time listening to the universe,'' Coipel said.
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