Famed and beloved for his roles in New York’s legendary Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band and Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Mundi, now based in Southern California, is immersed in several projects in his own act of self-reinvention, among them: a forthcoming album, Punk Bopping In The Jungle du Jour; a “pop memoir” book, Don’t Dream And Drive—An Off-The-Wall Memoir By Coati Mundi Hernandez; and a semi-autobiographical feature film, Sugarcoated.
The titles, by way of explanation, evoke both Mundi’s given name Andy Hernandez and Savannah Band nickname Sugarcoated Andy.
“I have to reinvent myself,” says Mundi. ”I’m thinking of doing things I’ve always done, particularly comedy, which has always been the thread in my life, even before music: As a five-year-old kid growing up in Spanish Harlem, I made people laugh.”
So Mundi envisions a new act borrowing from the opposing likes of Lenny Bruce and Henny Youngman, also including Richard Pryor and “a little bit of Danny Kaye.”
“I’m putting all the elements together and writing a one-man performance piece, doing a bit of standup comedy and sitdown comedy--and handicapped comedy, because I’ll be on crutches! But while you can download music illegally and pirate films, you can’t pirate your presence in front of an audience.”
Mundi even threatens—tongue-in-cheek--to come up with a new professional name as well.
“I’m hustling, Brother!” the short, bald Mundi explains. “I’m changing my name for reinvention, and if I win the lottery I might even have plastic surgery and change my whole look--I might have hair and might be taller!”
Mundi’s new album project, Punk Bopping In The Jungle du Jour, will feature new and previously unreleased material including “Mambo Luv,” a duet with fellow New York music hero David Johansen, from Johansen’s 1994 film Car 54, Where Are You?. Mundi will also feature a duet with Jocelyn Brown, and a mambo version of “Sunday Kind Of Love” with former Savannah Band vocalist Cory Daye.
Don’t Dream And Drive, Mundi’s just-completed, self-characterized “creative non-fiction memoir with a pop-culture mix,” is based on his experience inside Facebook, “and how this cyber concoction turned out to be a life saver.” His Sugarcoated film, he notes, is “liberally based on Coati Mundi’s ‘coco loco’ vida as he attempts to return back into the public eye while avoiding jail and keeping his sister’s goldfishes alive.”
The indie film, he adds, is presently in pre-production with producer Zainab Ali.
That the multi-talented Mundi is looking beyond music comes out of his understanding that “unless you’re a big name like Beyonce and Jay-Z, you need a hit record to be in the music business.”
“I’m caught in the middle as a member of bands,” Mundi adds. “Coati Mundi is not a big name by myself, but I have managed to pick out a certain notoriety for what I’ve brought to the groups—but it’s not like I can get on the casino circuit and command any decent fee.”
Still, Mundi continues to perform live at special events. He recently participated in a memorial tribute at New York’s Santos Party House honoring late DJ Mark Kamins.
“It was almost like the old days,” he says. “It was a packed house, and I did three mixed-genre songs: swing, salsa, hip-hop.”
Otherwise, Mundi comes out east annually, primarily for benefits.
“I did one last year for a music school, and the year before I did a 90th birthday performance for a friend’s father in a retirement home in Connecticut,” he says. “So it seems like I’m carving out another career doing benefits: I don’t get paid, but the audience is pure and organic.”
Last time he was in New York he stayed a bit longer for meetings with film people and others involved in his new projects—“and to say hi to friends I haven’t seen in 20 years.” He expects to continue working in film—and performing on select occasions—having appeared last year in On The Road, also starring Kristen Stewart.
“Luckily I didn’t have to carry the film,” says Mundi, “but I got some nice mentions!”
[The Examiner wrote the liner notes to the Kid Creole and the Coconuts compilation Kid Creole Redux.]
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