Mezcla has been an integral part of the Cuban music scene for the past decades. They perform frequently at Havana’s premier jazz club La Zorra y el Cuervo and the Havana Jazz Festival (Jazz Plaza). The ensemble has constantly reinvented itself, highlighting its members’ musical strengths and interests. A multigenerational ensemble, Mezcla brings together several veteran masters with some the best of young jazz players on the scene today, united in their desire to play great music, mindful of their roots, ever looking forward and always joyful. They have a number of recordings under their belt including Akimba! (Khaeon, 2003) and I’ll See You in Cuba (Zoho, 2010).
Born in Oakland, California, Pablo “Mezcla” Menéndez is the son of blues and jazz singer Barbara Dane. Living in Cuba since 1966, he has been involved in many Cuban music projects over the past decades: the Nueva Trova movement (GES with Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés), the jazz world (Sonido Contemporáneo at the old Club Rio with Gonzalo Rubalcaba and others), Afro-rock and progressive rock group Síntesis (with Carlos and Ele Alfonso) and more.
On the basis of this rich experience, Pablo founded Mezcla in 1985 and has led Mezcla to the present day on countless gigs in Cuba, many international tours to Europe, Latin America and the United States, and on several critically acclaimed recordings.
Pablo has also released a solo project on Zoho Music titled Havana Blues Mambo and has led a United States-based Cuban All Star ensemble for performances at venues such as Regatta Bar in Boston and Yoshi’s in Oakland, California.
Los Muñequitos de Matanzas is a distinguished Cuban rumba group. It was created in 1952 under the name of Guaguancó Matancero. Los Muñequitos de Matanzas is one of the essential Cuban bands dedicated to preserving Cuban folkloric traditions.
Some of its albums include El guaguancó de Matanzas (1988), Los Muñequitos de Matanzas (1990), Rumba caliente (1992), Óyelos de nuevo (1993), Real Rumba (1994), Vacunao (1995), Po Iban Eshu (1996), and Live in New York (1998), among others.
La rumba soy yo won the Latin Grammy Award in 2001, and Tambor de Fuego won the Cubadisco Award in 2007.
El guaguancó de Matanzas (1988)
Rumba Abierta (WS Latino 1958), reissued in 1999
Cantar Maravilloso – Rumba Original (Globestyle 1990) Rumba Caliente 88/77 (Qbadisc Records, 1992)
Guaguancó — Vol. 2 (Antilla, reissued 1993)
Real Rumba (1994) Congo Yambumba (Qbadisc Records, 1994)
Oyelos De Nuevo (Qbadisc Records, 1994) Vacunao (Qbadisc Records, 1995)
Po Iban Eshu (1996) Ito Iban Echu: Yoruba Sacred Music of Cuba (Qbadisc Records, 1996) Live In New York (Qbadisc Records, 1998)
La rumba soy yo (2001)
Rumba De Corazón (Bis Music, 2002)
Rumberos de Corazón- 50 Aniversario (Bis Music, 2003) Tambor De Fuego (Bis Music, 2007) De Palo Pa’ Rumba (Bis Music, 2009)
Leyanis López Luque was born in Guantanamo on the 8th of October 1971. She started out at the age of seven as a member of the Guantanamo province Fabio Rosell del Rio Primary School choir, directed by art instructor Miguel Angel Duran. Her natural gift for singing soon singled her out and she became a solo singer for different musical groups within the Pioneers organization. During all this period, she performed in various cultural events.
From 1980 onwards, she constantly participated in the Jose Marti tribute youth festivals, Pioneers Trova festivals and summer festivals organized nationally, allowing her to perfect her artistic qualities. In 1984, she was a cultural representative at the forum of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), a non-governmental organization, held in Havana.
In 1985, accompanied by the excellent Ismaelillo group, she won first prize in the Summer Festival, with the support from her teacher Maria Balan and lessons from Angel Savin, an arts instructor.
In 1986, she took her first trip abroad, representing Cuba at the International Festival of Amateur Artists organized in Hungary in July, then touring the German Federal Republic and Czechoslovakia.
In 1988, she was ranked in the highest category of amateur artists. Her career as a professional singer began in 1989 when she performed at different guitar trio festivals, at the Boleros de Oro Festival and the Rafael Inciarte Brioso Festival of Popular Music. She gave concerts as a singer with orchestras or trios in theaters, community arts centers and open-air events in parks, going on tours throughout the country and appearing on the radio and television in Guantanamo and other provinces. She also recorded at the EGREM studios in Santiago de Cuba for the CMQ International channel and Japanese television.
In 1994, she was ranked in the higher category of professional singers. She then studied singing at the Guantanamo Further Training Centre for Professional Artists. In 1995, she was awarded her singing-category intermediate-level diploma with distinction.
She recorded her first CD in 1998 for the French label Lusafrica. Her repertoire, which includes different types of popular music, romantic ballads, bolero, cancion, waltz, guajira and Cuban son, allows the listener to appreciate the effect of more complex music on popular music since the beginning of the century in Eastern Cuba, as well as the influence of 1950s music. It also adopts a present-day innovations in terms of harmonies and tones.
Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita’s album Transparent Water (Ota Records, 2017) is the Transglobal World Music Chart’s number one album for March 2017.
Transparent Water elegantly combines world music and jazz. The album features Omar Sosa (Cuba) on piano and Seckou Keita (Senegal) on kora along with traditional Chinese flute player Wu Tong, Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles, and Japanese koto player Mieko Miyazaki.
The Krakow appearance of the Arturo Sandoval Sextet at Centrum Kijów kicked off spring, which, thanks to Letni Festiwal Jazzowy Piwnicy pod Baranami (http://www.cracjazz.com/pl/) [Cellar under the Rams Summer Jazz Festival], arrived unusually early this year. Cuban and afro rhythms warmed us and infected us with dance fever throughout the two-hour performance.
Arturo Sandoval had such a great time onstage with music and rhythm that it would have been a shame for us to enjoy ourselves any less.
The performance also featured several jazz ballads, performed solo by Sandoval, on the piano; reminiscences of Dizzy Gillespie, a great friend and mentor of Sandoval’s who died in 1993.; a short but comical and substantial lecture, “What is bebop?”; and Sandoval’s excellent sense of humor. Thus no element of jazz was lacking.
Sandoval also returned to his classic repertoire, from which he had departed on Eternamente Manzanero, his latest album, recorded with Jorge Calandrelli, which was dominated by romantic ballads and even pop sounds.
Anyone wishing to be reminded of the mood of the Krakow concert would be well advised to dig To a Finland Station (1982) out of his or her vinyl collection.
In Krakow starring:
John Belzaguy – bass
Tiki Pasillas – percussion
Dave Siegel – keyboard
Johny Friday – drums
Kemuel Roig – piano
If you haven’t heard yet about Daymé Arocena, her new album Cubafonía is a great opportunity to listen to one of the best voices that has come out of Cuban in recent years.
Winner of the significant Marti y el Arte award in 2007, Daymé Arocena demonstrates her formidable talent by crossing musical boundaries with her voice. She shows her mastery at Cuban traditional genres like mambo and changüí, Afro-Cuban chants, and ballads, as well as the more modern timba. However, her repertoire is more extensive as she explores American soul and jazz effortlessly.
Cubafonía is Daymé’s second album and very different from her debut album. While her debut Havana Cultura Sessions focused on electronic dance music culture, Cubafonía features an irresistible acoustic rhythm section and more conventional instrumentation.
Most of the songs are in Spanish, although Daymé also sings a couple of songs in English and has a trilingual song titled “Valentine” where she inserts some English and French.
In recent months, Cuban musicians have released a series of dazzling piano-based albums. Cubafonía focuses on vocal talent and Daymé Arocena is one of the best and equally spectacular.
Jesús ‘Aguaje’ Ramos was born in 1951 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, where he began his musical studies in the National School of Arts. He started playing the trombone in local groups until 1979 when he moved to Havana and began playing with the great female quartet Los D’Aida. That same year he took part in the Estrellas de Areito recordings.
Aguaje has played on the World Circuit Records recordings of the Buena Vista Social Club and Afro-Cuban All Stars, and the solo albums of Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez and Omara Portuondo. He was Ruben Gonzalez’s musical director and toured extensively since 1997 with the various Buena Vista Social Club projects.
Entre Colegas – Andy González (Truth Revolution Records)
Madera Latino: A Latin Jazz Perspective On The Music Of Woody Shaw – Brian Lynch & Various Artists (Hollistic Musicworks)
Canto América – Michael Spiro/Wayne Wallace La Orquesta Sinfonietta (Patois Records)
30 – Trio Da Paz (Zoho)
Born in January 28, 1974, in Las Tunas, eastern province of Cuba, daughter of a singer father and a stylist mother, Haila Maria Mompie Gonzalez felt passionate about music since her early years and although she started dancing first, she always felt a deep passion for singing.
After many years studying dancing, as legend says, in 1991, a young dancer raised her voice with an amazing tuning and a very special melody in such a way that Yaquelin Castellanos, famous Cuban singer, was astonished and proposed that this girl, named Haila, be part of her group. In this way, Haila a singer of Tradition Septet, cultivating Cuban traditional music.
A year later, she debuted as solo artist at ”Las Avenidas” Cabaret and later on, she became a member of Habana Son, a group directed by saxophonist ”El Chino Lam”. Also that year, she was requested to participate at the ”Guajira Habanera” show, touring Mexico for the first time.
On September 1994, she joined the renowned band Bamboleo. There, she rose to the top thanks to her excellent vocal qualities and high improvisation level, becoming one of the greatest soneras of her generation.
As vocalist of Bamboleo she recorded two CDs, Te Gusto O Te Caigo Bien and Yo No Me Parezco a Nadie, performed internationally and achieving great popularity in Cuba.
After that experience, she decided in 1998 to join the project of musician and composer Leonel Limonta, known as Azucar Negra. With this successful group, Haila topped the Cuban radio charts. The song “Andar Andando,”from the album Andar Andando, became an hymn not only for dance lovers but also for many others.
On 2001, after returning from a tour around Europe, Haila decided to start a new stage of her artistic career, as a solo artist. She recorded a solo album conducted and musically produced by the famous Cuban musician Issac Delgado.
Haila appeared as a singer on various albums by outstanding Cuban musicians and in the famous record La Rumba Soy Yo, winner of Latin Grammy Awards in 2001, she demonstrated her huge versatility.
2002 was a great year for Haila. Besides touring the United States with Issac Delgado and his orchestra, she was selected as guest figure of Tropicana Cabaret. She also toured various European countries as part of ‘Festival Son Cuba and as member of Cuban Grammys Project together with Eliades Ochoa, Juan Formell, Vocal Sampling, Chucho Valdes, Los Papines and Ernan Lopez-Nussa.
Copa Room Cabaret witnessed in April 25, 2003 at Riviera Hotel various remarkable events in Haila’s artistic life. That night, the ”Diva del Son” featured her orchestra with high-quality musicians in a concert attended by special guests from Culture Ministry, Artex, Musicalia, Bis Music, E-Commerce Agency, journalists, T.V and radio directors, critics and the general public.
In this concert, full of surprises, Haila unveiled her contract as exclusive artist with the Musicalia booking agency, her Haila Live CD on Bis Music, with a concert she made the previous year at National Theater of Cuba, having the notable appearance of Chucho Valdes, Issac Delgado, Mayito Rivera, David Calzado y su Charanga Habanera. The CD was under the musical production and direction of Juan Manuel Ceruto.
In June of the same year, Haila made an important tour around European countries and in July and August, she performed along with David Calzado y su Charanga Habanera in various Japanese cities.
La Diva del Son, as she is well-known in Cuba, gave priority to the national and international promotion of her new recording in 2005. Haila joined Charanga Habanera at some live performances.
Haila was also part of the Cuba le Canta a Serrat CD, recorded in Havana at the Abdala, Ojala, PM Record and Frank Fernandez studios to honor the peerless Spanish singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat. This set, previously conceived for 12 tracks ended up a double album.
Haila’s Diferente CD, under the production of the notable David Calzado showed a new stage in Haila’s professional career, popular not only among young fans, but also with people of all ages.
Haila Maria Mompie is considered one of the great Cuban contemporary soneras.
Edited from an original article by Marianela Dufflar.
Music fans should settle in and enjoy the sumptuous ride that is Transparent Water. Co-creator Omar Sosa, the Cuban-born composer, bandleader and pianist, has such recordings as Eggun – The Afri-Lectric Experience, Jog, Ile and Calma under his belt, while Seckou Keita, the Senegalese kora master, has released albums like 22 Strings/Cordes, Afro-Mandinka Soul with his own Seckou Keita Quartet and Clychau Dibon. Joining forces under the Ota Records label, Transparent Water, set for release on February 24th, pairs Mr. Sosa’s Afro-Cuban and jazz sensibilities with the lush African traditions of Mr. Keita’s long musical legacy of his griot family.
Transparent Water is where world music meets world jazz, where tradition meets improvisation and where the lines of spiritual and earthy meet. The result is stunningly evocative.
With Mr. Sosa on piano, Fender Rhodes, sampling, microKorg and vocals and Mr. Keita firmly enticing listeners with his kora mastery, as well as talking drum, djembe, sabar and vocals, listeners are treated to the interplay between these two musicians and composers. But as luck would have it, Mr. Sosa and Mr. Keita turn the music on its ears with the additions of Chinese musician Wu Tong on sheng and bawu; Japanese koto master Mieko Miyazaki; Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles on bata drums, culo’puya, maracas, guataca, calabaza and clave; Korean geojungo player E’Joung-Ju; and Rajasthani nagadi player Mosin Khan Kawa.
Cuban rhythms, African melodies and Asian influences pile up, separate and mesh together in an expansive musical tapestry where it’s impossible to pull at one musical thread and undo the lot.
Like water, Transparent Water flows easy from the jazzy opening track “Dary” into the delicately piano and kora interplay of “In the Forest.” Lush track flows into lush track with goodies like the sheng laced “Black Dream,” the catchy African influenced “Mining-Nah” with Mr. Keita’s vocals warming up the track and mysteriously moody “Another Prayer.”
Listeners can’t help but be charmed by tracks like sassy offering “Fatiliku,” the dreamy musical landscape of “Oni Yalorde” with Mr. Tong on the bawu or the piano lines of “Zululand.” Transparent Water is one of those recordings that requires listeners stop and really listen and it’s best if you just go with its flow.
Mr. Sosa, Mr. Keita and company have conjured up a truly brilliant collaboration on Transparent Water. Mesmerizing, evocative and sophisticated, Transparent Water begs for a listen.