Duo explores multicultural beat fusion

Gloria 'Glo' Lou and Jonwalter 'J20' Lewis comprise The Glo.

Courtesy The Glo

Gloria "Glo" Lou and Jonwalter "J20" Lewis comprise The Glo.

After doing an interview with one of Memphis' Spanish-language newspapers this week, Gloria "Glo" Lou, one half of the eclectic Latin-funk duo The Glo, sat at her computer and opened files for some fliers for the group's upcoming CD release show.

"I have to translate some of our posters so that the Latino community can understand what's going on," says Lou, who co-fronts the group with fellow University of Memphis student Jonwalter Lewis, aka J20.

It's likely that the Latino community was already well aware of what's going on with The Glo, who will mark the release of their first CD, It's the Glo, with a free show May 17 at Mollie Fontaine Lounge. Since debuting their live band last year, The Glo has become a sensation among the disparate and growing Memphis Latino community, and a darling of area Spanish-language newspapers, magazines and radio stations.

"The support that they give us is amazing," says Lou, whose connections in the Latino art and media communities run deep because of her father, University of Memphis art department chairman Richard Lou. "They love us, and I love them for all the support they show. I think it has more to do with a Latino person of color making it or trying to do something positive in the city. There're not a lot of us (making waves here yet), or at least there're not a lot of us being seen."

In a city that more often defines its music in rigid, old terms -- rock and roll or blues or rap -- The Glo are making music for the multicultural 21st century. Latin beats mix hip-hop production, and drum-line beats meet reggaeton grooves.

"It's been in the making for a long time," Lewis says of the group's international flair. "With artists like Pitbull and Sean Paul, a lot of these artists that are incorporating the originality in their culture into commercialized music, I felt it was something that was necessary for us to do: incorporate that rich culture into party music."

Born in San Diego, Lou studied trumpet and violin, playing in the youth symphony and youth mariachi band. As her father worked his way through academia, the family moved to Milledgeville, Ga., where Lou picked up a bluegrass influence and began singing in the high school chorus.

By the time the family moved to Memphis four years ago, Lou was on a neo-soul kick. Then she met Lewis one day when she was working at Oak Court Mall. The Memphis native had cut one R&B album when he was 18, and at the time was in a soul duo called A'drian that was competing in a radio station call-in competition.

Lewis was going around to the stores, asking people to vote for his group, when he met Lou. The two struck up a conversation about music. He told her he was a producer, and she told him she was a singer.

"I wasn't going to say I'm a singer and just leave it at that, so I sang to him in the middle of the store," Lou says.

The two began their collaboration in 2009. Lou says the evolution of their sound came quite naturally.

"I was doing a lot of neo-soul, and when J20 came around, he made me listen to a lot of his music," Lou says. "... He had one that was a hip-hop beat, so I started singing on it. And from there his music started evolving, and my music started evolving, and we just grow together."

Last year, they started the live band, which currently includes Ryan Richardson on drums, Tim "Fatdaddy" Moore on keys, and Matthew Karner on bass.

Soon after, the band was drafted into the Memphis Music Foundation's Latin artist development program, "Cante el Exito."

"Without them, this project probably would have taken five more years," Lou says.


The Glo CD release party

6 p.m. May 17, at Mollie Fontaine Lounge, 679 Adams. Admission: Free. For more information, visit facebook.com/TheGloMusic.


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