Artist Profiles: Vocal Sampling

Vocal Sampling in 2005

Vocal Sampling is a band where all the instruments are sung instead of played. In addition to the lead vocals and the background choruses, all the instruments of the Cuban orchestra are vocally reproduced: percussion, horns, keyboards, bass, and all the other instruments. There is no technical manipulation and no other instruments are used.

The group is comprised of six Cuban men, all accomplished instrumentalists and arrangers, who met at music school. What began as an amusing after-school game has become their full-time career.

For those new to Latin music, Vocal Sampling is a highly entertaining introduction to the rhythms and styles of Cuban music: guaracha, boleros, rumba, son and swinging salsa. For those familiar with this genre, the group always brings amazement and a smile of delight. Similar to the doo-wop groups of the United States, Vocal Sampling was formed after school and between classes, standing on the sweeping lawns of Havana’s National Superior Institute of Arts. Poney Gross, of Belgium’s Zig Zag World, met the group in Cuba while they were still students, and encouraged them to continue this approach. He arranged several European tours for them.

Very soon they began to be noticed by artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Peter Gabriel and David Byrne. Gabriel brought them to his Real World Studios in Bath, England, where they recorded two songs and Byrne included one of their earliest recordings on his Luaka Bop compilation, Diablo Al Infierno.

In 1992 the group met producer team Sammy Figueroa and Rachel Faro, who arranged for them to be signed to Paroli/BMG Music of Cologne, Germany. Faro Figueroa Productions produced the group’s first album, which attracted the attention of Sire Record’s president Seymour Stein, who immediately began steps to acquire the master. The first album, Una Forma Más, released in 1995 on Sire/Elektra Records and Warner worldwide, was a musical journey through Cuban musical culture, demonstrating several styles of classic Cuban music.

In 1995 the group made an historic tour of the United States where they were an instant success in San Francisco, New York and Puerto Rico, attracting the attention of luminaries such as Paul Simon and Carlos Santana. Since then, they have continued to tour throughout Europe and Latin America, invariably garnering multiple encores and rapturous receptions.

In the summer of 1996 they were invited to appear at the 30th Montreux Jazz Festival as the special guests of Quincy Jones for his 50th anniversary. In 1997, they were invited for a 3 weeks tour in Japan. Vocal Sampling released their second album, De Vacaciones (East West), produced by Rachel Faro and the band. De Vacaciones is almost totally comprised of original compositions and arrangements in a modern salsa style and is sure to be recognized as one of the most amazing a cappella achievements in many years.

In late 1997 the band, created by René Baños, Abel Sanabria and Reinaldo Sanler, included Jorge Núñez, Renato Mora and Oscar Porro. This artistic restructuring was executed in order to increase the musical quality of the band and to widen their potential, for example in the field of classical singing.

In 1999, the band went to Japan, Venezuela, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Isle of Reunion, Canada, Mexico and all over Europe. In October they made a special concert for the first “World Music Award” at the World Music Expo (Womex) in Berlin.

In February 2000 they recorded a new CD called “Cambio De Tiempo” and created a new show under the direction of Katina Genero (Italy). In August 2000, Vocal Sampling had a sold out performance at the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms late night concert. In December 2000, the band signed with Decca records for the international release of “Cambio de Tiempo” in 2001.

Discography:

Una Forma Mas (1995)
De Vacaciones (1997)
Live in Berlin (1998)
Cambio de Tiempo (Decca, 2002)
Akapelleando (2008)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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