Gio Chamba & The New Houston

Photos by  Julien Carr

Photos by Julien Carr

It’s rare for a touring band to tear the roof off a room of 400 people, but that’s exactly what happened at ¡Pachanga! back in January. Gio Chamba is the wild duo of Coffee Guzman and Giovanny Alejandro, and their infectious musical blend and raucous performances give them an edge hard to find in many bands. Fresh and exciting, yet there’s a celebratory sense of familiarity and warmness in their performances. Three years into making music together, they only see more potential. 

Gio Chamba’s success and sound emanates from the cultural melting-pot that is Houston. The city’s fast growth and integration of different ethnic communities is turning Houston into a place with deep cultural cache. Much like Chicago celebrates its amalgamations, Houston’s diverse communities support each other, and the strong economy makes the music business more sustainable than ever. “There’s more infrastructure for people like us to be able to do this for a living, which was unheard of 10 years ago.”

This rapid development is opening the doors for a new generation of artists to  blend their cultures with popular music from the area. Both Coffee and Giovanny love Houston hip-hop and embrace its ubiquity. “I remember when my friends and I were printing out album covers from people like Z-Ro and trading them with each other. That was the music social media in a way. Almost like baseball cards.” Everybody in Houston knows the anthems of artists like UGK and Slim Thug, and Coffee and Gio heard these staples every time they went out. 


At home though, their family life was rooted in the Mexican culture of their parents. Gio Chamba’s music is dotted with vicious raps and intense guitar lines from Giovanny, but the driving force comes from Coffee’s fantastic percussion, rooted in the wide-spread genre Cumbia. Cumbia is the comfort-food of Mexican music, that familiar, simple beat that anyone can pick up on. Coffee smashes the congas like a punk rocker, but keeps the beat going in perfect time, serving up an infectious pulse for the crowd to feed on. It’s a potent combination and the groove hit so hard that you can’t help but dance. 

This infectious nature of their music was discovered by accident. Coffee and Giovanny happened to meet while they were both on a lunch break. Giovanny had heard that Coffee was a great drummer, so he invited him to play with him. When they saw the reactions of the crowds, they knew they were on to something. “There would be all kinds of people in these little places and they wouldn’t want to leave. It would be 2AM and the door people would have to push these people out, and they wanted to party hard. It really doesn’t matter if you’re latin or not. You’re vibing to it.”

Gio Chamba understand their culture and, in many ways, is making music that truly represents a time and place. The music is distinctly American in its fusion of punk, electronic, Houston hip-hop, and cumbia, and the appeal is wide-ranging. They are showing the musical potential resulting from the growing Houston, and may be able to break into markets throughout all the Americas. They’ve got a groove too good to ignore.