Simons brothers returning to their roots this summer
Bermudian boy band The Simons Brothers fell in love with Panama on a holiday there with their parents in 2019.
Within ten months, Jonathan, 23, Solomon, 21, and Leonardo Simons, 17, moved to the Central American country with their parents, Winelle and Ondre Simons.
It was all part of their plan to see the world.
“We wanted to expand our roots musically,” Jonathan said. “We wanted to experience some of the Latin culture and fuse that into our music.”
Since then, they have made a music video, Dancing All Night, which has had more than 430,000 views on YouTube, released a single, Swing, on streaming platforms and performed at many events in Panama including the British Chamber of Commerce’s Day at the Races in March.
They have not forgotten their roots, however.
Next month they will be back on the island for the first time since moving overseas. They will perform The Simons Brothers in Concert on August 18 and 19 at City Hall in Hamilton.
“We are really excited to be performing at home again,” Leonardo said. “The Simons Brothers in Concert will be a two-hour musical journey of our music, and time in Panama. We will be playing our original songs, and also putting our own twist on timeless music.”
They describe their music as a “playful, technical mix of genres”.
“You would not hear very typical authentic salsa with our music, but you would hear something a little different,” Solomon said. “We like to say we make music that sparkles. We want people to feel that sparkle.”
They like “old school” music.
“The Eighties and Nineties were the good old days,” Jonathan said.
In Bermuda they were strictly an instrumental band, but since moving overseas have added lyrics.
“We are starting to sing some of our cover songs,” Jonathan said.
Jonathan plays the guitar, Solomon the keyboard and Leonardo the drums. They started out taking lessons at Simons Music School in the Old Berkeley Building in Pembroke when they were little.
Jonathan admitted that when he started taking guitar lessons at the age of 6, he was not always enthusiastic.
“At that age you just want to go outside and play,” he said. “Now that we have grown up we enjoy it a lot.”
The brothers started playing individually, then formed their own band 11 years ago.
Their dream is to take their talent on the road, and Panama seemed a good place to start. The official language of Panama is Spanish, but many Panamanians also speak English. That meant they could practise their Spanish, but not be in the deep end linguistically.
“It also follows the American dollar,” Jonathan said.
Now they perform at least once a month in Panama, frequently in popular restaurants such as Frank’s Place in Panama City, an eatery themed around famed crooner Frank Sinatra.
“Things are starting to get back up to speed after the pandemic,” Jonathan said. “The music scene is bouncing back. People want to go outside and have fun. We have played at a bunch of different festivals. We learnt a bunch of Colombian songs for Colombia Fest. We also took part in the Travel Festival Expo.”
Covid-19 erupted only a few months after they arrived.
“Panama was one of the first countries to implement strict lockdown rules,” Solomon said. “No one was allowed outside for a few weeks and then they started allowing people to go out for a short time. You were given times to go out based on your identification number or your gender.”
You had to be over 18 to go out, which meant that Leonardo, the youngest brother, had to stay at home.
They were living in a high-rise apartment building at the time.
“Because everything was new, l did not feel as trapped,” Jonathan said. “If we had been in Bermuda, we might have felt that way. We were allowed to be outside for two hours every day, so I would try to walk for as far as I could and see what was around me.”
They started performing again last September, when restrictions on holding large events lifted in Panama.
Their goal to learn Spanish was a little challenging at first because many of the Panamanians they met wanted to practise their English with them.
“We wanted to speak Spanish to them,” Jonathan laughed.
He and Solomon have become conversant in Spanish, but Leonardo is still getting there. They now have a couple of songs, such as Sound of the City, which are a mix of Spanish and English lyrics.
“It is our Latin take,” Jonathan said.
They live in Clayton, a suburb of Panama City, and find everyone to be very friendly. They never feel like outsiders.
“It is extremely hot and very tropical,” Solomon said. “Just like at home, people say good morning or good afternoon when they pass you on the street. People are very polite.”
There has been lots of new wildlife to see.
“We have two toucans that sit in our garden every day,” Jonathan said. “Sometimes they fly into the window. I think they see the reflection. I never thought I would live anywhere with toucans.”
Jonathan has found Panamanians to be very patriotic.
“Everyone has the Panamanian flag hanging from the windshield in their car,” he said. “They wear Panamanian shirts.”
One day the brothers kept hearing cheering coming from their neighbours. They eventually figured out that the World Cup qualifiers were going on.
“So we attached ourselves to that and started watching it,” Jonathan said. “It was very exciting to be a part of that.”
It was too late to see any games in person; the limited number of tickets was gone. They will go to the matches next time.
Leonardo goes to school online while his older brothers study independently.
“We are just trying to get better at it and put on more shows,” Jonathan said.
Their dream is to put together an album that has musical flavours from around the world.
“Panama is the first step,” Jonathan said. “I don't know where we are headed next.”
Before they left Bermuda, they were working on a charitable endeavour called Inspire.
“We toured almost all the primary schools, playing for the children and talking about the importance of music,” Jonathan said. “We wanted them to pick up an instrument and really be inspired.”
Now they are hoping that any children who took their words to heart, will get up on stage and perform with them.
The Simons Brothers in Concert will be held at the Earl Cameron Theatre at City Hall in Hamilton on August 18 and 19 at 7.30pm.
Patron tickets are $80 per person. Patrons can arrive an hour early, witness a sound check and come up on stage to meet the brothers. Tier 1 seating is $62 and tier 2 seating is $44, available at www.ptix.bm.