Dynamic duo Gio Chamba released a new album today inspired by Houston’s creative cultural melting pot called TEJAS and told us all about its creation.

Gio Chamba is quickly gaining traction as one of the most exciting acts a person could go see in Houston. Winning the 2015 Houston Press music award for “Best Dance Music Act,” producer and musician Gio Chamba has now joined forces with “conguero” (conga player) Coffee Guzman to form a group that took on Gio’s name, as he had already been solo for so long.

Gio Chamba perfectly blends live and electronic music and is inspired by international sounds from hip-hop to cumbia to create music that will appeal to any listener, dancer, or music-lover. The group has performed at Free Press Summer Fest, as well as Untapped Festival and CMJ Music Conference (NYC), and has opened up for Los Lonely Boys, Making Movies, and Hurray for the Riff Raff, as well as numerous other touring acts. This year, Gio Chamba (the group) teamed up with Producer/DJ Svani Quintanilla, also known as “Principe Q” from Corpus Christi, to co-produce their newest album, TEJAS.

Gio and Coffee sat down with me to talk about the creation of TEJAS and what it tells us about the creative climate here in Texas.

Hope Carter: First and foremost, where does the name “Gio Chamba” come from?

Gio Chamba: My middle name is Giovanni, so all my family calls me Gio, so I wanted it to be kind of a familiar name for people, kinda like your cousin: you’d call him “primo” so it’s kinda like, “Hey! Gio!” And

L to R: Coffee Guzman and Gio Chamba (Photo: Collin Ross Films)

L to R: Coffee Guzman and Gio Chamba (Photo: Collin Ross Films)

“chamba” is a slang word for “hustle” or “grind.” It just came to me one day as I was cooking and my mom and dad were leaving and I heard my dad tell my mom to hurry up and she complained that he didn’t help her with this or that, and he was like, “Well, that’s your chamba!” I thought it was funny, but also it’s really phonetic – it’s something that everybody can say who speaks any language. Then I started researching it and other than a slang word, it’s also a province in India, and it’s also a slang word for a different type of ganja…I started going by that on my own. I was in a band that was doing pretty well and out of nowhere the members stopped being passionate so I started to do stuff by myself – I bought a computer and started producing by myself. I had all these ideas and the concept of multicultural music really intrigued me. Eventually I was playing shows for a whole year by myself for free just to put this new music out there and see if it even caught on with people and other musicians. And eventually I built up a monthly party at Alley Kat where I would play that style of music, and that’s the same time I met Coffee.

HC: Oh! Upstairs at Alley Kat! I’ve been there. I played the tambourine for them one night when they handed it to me!

GC: Oh yeah! See, at first it was just a whole year of me doing it by myself and after a while I thought, “It would be great to jam with other people,” and around that time I met Coffee randomly. We went to the same restaurant on our lunch break – we happened to work in the same area. I knew who he was because I had seen him online and he was a drummer, and he had all these awesome, professional-looking photos, so I was like, “Man, this guy is the real deal.” I knew he played congas and I told him if he wanted to come jam on the congas to come through, and he came through and was really enthusiastic. When I saw him play there I was like, “That’s what’s up.” He was really energetic and matched the energy I was putting in and the crowd, and I decided to ask him to come play with me because I had just gotten booked to play at Free Press Summer Fest. We were gonna do a full band but it didn’t work out so we decided to keep going with the Gio Chamba brand because we both put a lot of time into it. So now, it means to us what we do every day – hustle and grind. That’s why people can feel this music, that’s what they do, too.

HC: Coffee, your performance is super dynamic. Where does that fire come from?

Coffee: I started playing drums when I was 16 years old. I’ve been performing all my life – I was a martial artist and I also performed music and did art. I had the benefit of being able to do many things when I was young. When I got serious about doing music, I took all that drive and all the knowledge and put it into my passion when I’m performing. I’m really comfortable being on stage – goofy, funny…whatever I am at that moment, I use it on stage. I use the energy on the stage to project all my passion to communicate to the audience. In martial arts, you’re in an environment where you’re not only doing forms, you’re also sparring people head to head. The energy and mentality you have when you do that is the same you have when you’re on stage.

HC: Tell me about the inspiration for TEJAS.

GC: The inspiration is friendship; that’s why it’s called TEJAS, or Texas, which comes from “teysha” which means “friendship” or “allies” or “those who are friends.” It comes from that because we hit it off as soon as we met, and everyone identifies both of us as Gio Chamba now. We met Svani Quintanilla, “Principe Q” and we were just vibing and he was throwing beats at us naturally, just like we would if we were 16 or 17 and just jamming. He was living here (he’s originally from Corpus) and he was like, “Let’s experiment with this,” and we were down. All of us had a bunch of ideas and we wrote it all together.

C: There are so many different dynamic moments that shape everything that’s happening. Meeting our manager –

GC: RE-meeting…

Gio Chamba's album "TEJAS" is about friendship. Photo: @userofreality)

Gio Chamba’s album “TEJAS” is about friendship. (Photo: @userofreality)

C: Oh yeah…I’ve known her since elementary school. There was a really long period of time where we were separated. I moved and she stayed here and was doing her thing and developing her reputation, and when I met Gio and we got to a certain point where we felt like we needed a manager I thought of her. We felt like it would be amazing to have a woman manager to balance the vibes and we thought of her, and she was down for it. I can’t believe that somebody I knew when I was eight or nine years old is now a part of our passionate pursuit. Then without Svani, this album would be very different. There’s so much of Svani on this album that it’s hard not to mention him when we’re talking about this album.

GC: Yeah, just like the feeling of being young, having friends there, and improvising – it felt like we were going with the flow. Nothing was forced, even with him wanting to work with us. He was a producer on his own, and we were already working on Gio Chamba stuff. We didn’t think to invite him at all, but he invited us. We also wrote some full band stuff and we have all kinds of ideas. When Athena (Gio Chamba’s manager) came in, she was helping us, telling us which songs were good. Having someone who’s not a musician come in and be down for and believe in the movement is cool. That’s what we needed.

HC: So what’s next for Gio Chamba?

C: Playing internationally, trying to broaden our reach and connection to people by accessing larger platforms is happening rapidly and we’re working really hard to make that even more of a reality, and more music!

GC: After this album, we want to do all different kinds of music. Still focusing on the electronic stuff – dance and cumbia – as well as another full-length which will include more live instrumentation to balance it out. We come from playing in bands so this is our first electronic/dance album. We have lots of different ideas because we like to see music and different types of experiences. You’re not always gonna want to be in the club, you know? We want to also get into the field of directing and acting – any type of visual stuff. We want to know more. There’s so many possibilities as far as creation goes. It’s a vehicle to people’s hearts and lives. We’re never going to stop creating; it’s just going to different levels. We’re making our own unique contribution to the tapestry of the human experience.

C: It’s with the camaraderie of the creatives all around us that we can all pursue what we want to pursue individually. It’s all inclusive. You can tell through the music because it’s all genres; it’s all cultures. We want that because we feel Houston is a melting pot. Texas is a melting pot. You drive over here and see this culture, you drive over there and you see that culture. It inspires us because when we connect to the people that are around us, man, great things happen when it’s mutual! Why not go beyond? In our pursuit with this band, we’ll reach the people we might not have ever reached in our lifetime. That’s our mindset, and it all stems from where we grew up here in Houston. Nothing is perfect, but the culture is there, and it’s in us.

HC: Essentially…it’s TEJAS.

GC and C: EXACTLY.

Check out TEJAS on Apple Music and look out for a release party and availability on streaming services and iTunes.

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