Tag Archives: Dayme Arocena

Interview with Daymé Arocena

Daymé Arocena

There’s a revolution happening on the music front in Cuba led by a visionary group of millennials that’s banging down post-Buena Vista Social Club doors with an intoxicating mix of Santeria/Afro-Cuban roots, jazz, hip-hop, soul and funk.

In the vanguard of this new movement, alongside such as Roberto Fonseca, Danay Suarez and the project Havana Cultura, is Daymé Arocena.

In her mid-20s, this smoky voiced young songstress follows a 60-year conga line of Cuban musicians influenced by Caribbean Yoruba traditions. As she explains: “We have had limited information about musical activities internationally, so we’ve had to research our roots to create something new.

Now, she declares, her generation is looking for a link with the world: “We wanna make Cuban music universal again by mixing the traditional with our young spirits. This new era is mixed and fresh.”

Arocena is both saddened and perplexed by the fact that international audiences and reviewers seem to expect all Cuban musicians to be in the old school mould.

The Buena Vista Social Club represents the music of the pre-revolution period, but it’s crazy to think that we haven’t done anything else since 1959. We’re a little island full of music, because Cuba is a country with a mix of races, languages, religion and culture. People can’t just talk about Cuban music being in Spanish with one clave.”

The fast-rising diva – a disciple of Nina Simone and Marta Valdés — is on a mission to change preconceived ideas about Cuban music, but insists she’s not alone in that aim. “I just got the opportunity to do it with an international response, but there are a lot of us fighting.”

While Arocena’s acclaimed albums, Nueva Era and Cubafonía, contain a range of styles, she says her master plan is simply to make “Cuban jazz music for everyone“.

Her self-composed songs are imbued with the spirituality of Santeria: “It’s really the national religion of Cuba because it’s the only one that was born here. It’s the result of the mixing of Yoruba and other West African roots and Catholicism with other Cuban native, Asian and European influences. I’m crowned Yemeya — the saint of the sea — so I’m a practitioner and my music and my life are connected with it.”

Arocena proudly wears the traditional dress of Santeria and is bare-footed on stage: “It’s my way of keeping protected,” she informs.”

The singer, arranger and composer regards English producer Gilles Peterson, the man behind Havana Cultura that helped launch her international career, as part of the family. She says that Peterson and the Havana Cultura project gave her the freedom to be herself.

Music has been Arocena’s calling since the tender age of four, when she performed on dusty street blocks across Cuba.

At age 9 she was accepted into one of the country’s most prestigious music schools, where she studied choir directing rooted in Western classical tradition. By 14, she was the principal singer in the prestigious Cuban big band Los Primos, impressing the likes of jazz heavyweight Wynton Marsalis.

Arocena ascribes her love of jazz and hip-hop to the southern US, where rappers and musicians alike have affiliations to the Afro-Christian Church. She describes hip-hop as the urban spirit of the street. “As a creator and performer you have to be plugged into it; it’s the best way to understand the worries of the people.”

Daymé Arocena namechecks Herbie Hancock and Kendrick Lamar as musicians she’d one day like to work with. If her international profile continues to grow at its current rate, she may soon be able to cherry-pick her collaborators.

• The above interview first appeared in Rhythms, Australia’s only dedicated roots music magazine.

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An Excellent Black Atlantic 2019 Festival

The second edition of the Black Atlantic series brought an excellent sampling of African and Afro-rooted music to Durham, North Carolina.

Kinobe, Derek Gripper and Jaja Bashengezi – Photo by Angel Romero

The first concert featured South African musician Derek Gripper, Congolese guitarist Jaja Bashengezi and Ugandan multi-instrumentalist Kinobe. Classically-trained Gripper has adapted the kora technique to the guitar. Kinobe played a fascinating Baganda harp called ndongo. This was a relaxed, virtuosic concert, focusing on the melodic side of African music. Derek Gripper has two albums related to his kora reinterpretations: One Night on Earth (2012) and Libraries on Fire (2016).

Fatoumata Diawara – Photo by Angel Romero

One of the highlights of the festival was Malian artist Fatoumata Diawara. I had seen her a few years ago when she was a rising artist. Years later, she has blossomed into one of the finest acts from West Africa and the world music scene in general. Her sold-out concert featured an explosive mix of modernized Malian traditional music, Afrobeat and Afro-rock. She speaks English very well and engaged the audience easily with her charisma and charm.

What surprised me (and the audience) the most is when she picked up her electric guitar several times and started soloing, ranging from Malian desert blues to Afro-rooted rock. Clearly spectacular. Fatoumata’s recent albums include Fatou and Fenfo.

Noura Mint Seymali – Photo by Angel Romero

The third concert in the series featured the captivating, trance-like Western Saharan sound of Mauritanian singer and ardine player Noura Mint Seymali along with her electric band. Her discography includes Tzenni (2014) and Arbina (2016).

Daymé Arocena – Photo by Angel Romero

Next was another highlight, spectacular Cuban singer Daymé Arocena. She also expressed herself in English very well, encouraged dancing and call and response interaction with the audience, and explained how Cuba is proud of its African and Spanish roots. Daymé bridges traditional Cuban, Afro-Cuban and American jazz. Her dazzling band featured world class Cuban instrumentalists, who obviously love jazz-rock fusion when they get opportunities to jam. Daymé’s highly recommended albums include Nueva Era (2015) and Cubafonía (2017).

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Friday and Saturday concerts, although a colleague reported that the Dafnis Prieto Big Band concert was stunning. The show featured a 17-member big band performing Afro-Cuban jazz and ballads. This format appears in Dafnis Prieto’s album Back to the Sunset.

Kudos to Duke Performances for this highly successful series and special thanks to Eric Oberstein and King Kenney for their support.

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Black Atlantic, a weeklong Series in Durham celebrating the music of Africa and the African diaspora

Noura Mint Seymali, one of the artists scheduled to perform

Throughout March 2019, Duke Performances will be presenting some of the finest world music acts from Africa and the African diaspora with Black Atlantic. The series is a week-long festival that will take place at Durham’s iconic Motorco music club (and one addiitonal concert at Duke University’s Baldwin Auditorium).

Black Atlantic will feature artists from South Africa, Mauritania, Mali, Cuba, Brazil and the USA.  The concert by Nigerien band Tal National was cancelled.

Black Atlantic Schedule

Black Atlantic: Derek Gripper & Africa Strings
Monday, March 25, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. (20:00)
Motorco Music Hall

Black Atlantic: Fatoumata Diawara
Tuesday, March 26, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. (20:00)
Motorco Music Hall

Noura Mint Seymali: Public Demonstration and Q&A
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at 12 pm

Black Atlantic: Noura Mint Seymali
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. (20:00)
Motorco Music Hall

Caique Vidal: Public Demonstration and Q&A
Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 3 pm

Black Atlantic: Daymé Arocena
Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. (20:00)
Motorco Music Hall

Black Atlantic: Dafnis Prieto Big Band
Friday, March 29, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. (20:00)
Baldwin Auditorium

Black Atlantic: The Campbell Brothers
Friday, March 29, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. (20:00)
Motorco Music Hall

Black Atlantic: Danilo Brito
Saturday, March 30, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. (20:00)
Motorco Music Hall

More information and tickets at dukeperformances.duke.edu/event-category/black-atlantic

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Artist Profiles: Daymé Arocena

Daymé Arocena

Vocalist, composer, arranger, choir director and band leader, Daymé Arocena was born in Havana. She is a superb and charismatic vocalist. Her style combines Afro-Cuban influences, jazz and Cuban neo-soul.

The Cubafonía album includes a loose, steady-moving changüí titled “Valentine.”

Discography:

Nueva Era (Brownswood Recordings, 2015)
Cubafonía (Brownswood Recordings, 2017)

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World Music Central Announces the Best World Music Albums of 2017

Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet – Ladilikan

We announce the list of best world music albums of 2017. The selection was made by a panel of editors and contributors from World Music Central and its affiliate Spanish-language world music magazine Músicas del Mundo.

The list includes 11 albums because 5 recordings were tied for 7th place.

Top World Music Albums in 2017

1. Trio da Kali & Kronos Quartet – Ladilikan (World Circuit Records) – USA/Mali

 

Raúl Rodríguez – La Raíz Eléctrica

2. Raúl Rodriguez – La Raíz (Boa Musica Editorial) – Spain

 

Magín Díaz – El Orisha de la Rosa

3. Magín Díaz – El Orisha de la Rosa (Noname) – Colombia

 

Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita – Transparent Water

4. Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita – Transparent Water (Otá Records) – Cuba/Senegal

 

Daymé Arocena – Cubafonía

5. Daymé Arocena – Cubafonía (Brownswood Recordings) – Cuba

 

Rahim Alhaj – Letters from Iraq: Oud and String Quintet

6. Rahim Alhaj – Letters from Iraq (Smithsonian Folkways) – Iraq/USA

 

Yasmine Hamdan – Al Jamilat

7. Yasmine Hamdan – Al Jamilat (Crammed Discs) – Lebanon

 

Msafiri Zawose – Uhamiaji

7. Msafiri Zawose – Uhamiaji (Soundway Records) – Tanzania

 

The Expanders – Old Time Something Come Back Again Vol. 2

7. The Expanders – Old Time Something Come Back Again Vol. 2 (Easy Star Records) – USA

 

Omar Faruk Tekbilek – Love Is My Religion

7. Omar Faruk Tekbilek – Love is my Religion (Alif Records) – Turkey

 

Jean-Luc Thomas & Ravichandra Kulur – Magic Flutes

 

7. Jean-Luc Thomas & Ravichandra Kulur – Magic Flutes (Hirustica) France/India

Our list reflects the diversity of the world music scene and our panelists. Our writers are based in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia,” says World Music Central’s Managing Director Angel Romero.

World Music Central is an international online publication with readers worldwide that includes news, reviews, artist biographies, glossaries and other resources. Genres featured include traditional and contemporary folk music, world fusion, global electronica, flamenco, tango, bluegrass, salsa, reggae and any other genre rooted in traditional music.

World Music Central’s 2017 panel includes Daryana Antipova, Tom Orr, Rafael Mieses, Madanmohan Rao, Dorothy Johnson-Laird and Angel Romero Ruiz.

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Cuban Star Daymé Arocena to Perform at Skirball Cultural Center 2017 Sunset Concerts Series

Acclaimed Cuban vocalist Daymé Arocena is set to perform on Thursday, August 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. A singer, composer, and choir director, Arocena’s inspiration comes from jazz, soul, classical music, and Cuban musical traditions. This is a free admission concert available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Her most recent recording is Cubafonía

The evening will begin with DJ Carlos Niño of dublab at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, August 17, 2017, at 8:00 p.m.
Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepúlveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 440-4500

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A Remarkable New Voice from Cuba

Daymé Arocena – Cubafonía

Daymé Arocena – Cubafonía (Brownswood Recordings, 2017)

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.

Buy Cubafonía in the Americas

Buy Cubafonía in Europe

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Cuban Musical Roots Propelled Into the Future

Gilles Peterson’s Havana Cultura Band – Havana Club Rumba Sessions (Brownswood Records, 2016)

The British DJ, record label owner and producer Gilles Peterson is mastermind behind such recordings as the Jazz Juice Street Sounds recording series, Acid Jazz and Other Illicit Grooves, Black Jazz Radio, Gilles Peterson Digs America: Brownswood USA and Gilles Peterson Presents Sonzeira Talkin’ Loud, as well as countless other recordings including remixes Raphael Gualizzi ‘Reality & Fantasy,’ Seu Jorge ‘Burguesinha,’ Meshell N’Degeocello Friends and Chambao Duende Del Sur. If that weren’t enough, Mr. Peterson has worked with such artists as Mala, Ghostpoet, Lefto, Simbad and helped advance the careers of Jamiroquai, Roni Size and Erykah Badu.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Mr. Peterson has launched a new series called Havana Cultura, this three CD set comes complete with a feature length documentary directed by Charlie Inman. Opening the series with Havana Club Rumba Sessions, out on his own Brownswood Records label, Mr. Peterson kicks off this series with a kickass selection of remixes that is savagely cool.

Remix fans get more than the standard worked over tracks where the soul of the original is lost. No, these remixes walk that razor’s edge of maintaining original integrity and fashioning something new. Exploring the guaguanco, yambu and columbia roots of the rumba, Havana Club Rumba Sessions pools a collection of tracks by some of Cuba’s premier rumberos and turns them inside out with an equally impressive set of remix artists. Of course with the Cuban percussion supplied by the likes of Joel Driggs Rodriguez, Barbaro “Machito” Y. Crespo, Ramon Tamayo Martinez, Yovani Diaz and Lucumi, it’s hard to go wrong.

Opening the sultry and delicious “Yambu” with vocals provided by the lovely Dayme Arocena and remixed by Japanese masters Daisuke Tanabe and Yosi Horikawa, the Rumba Sessions delves deep into the meaty richness Cuban music has thrived and flourished on with its dazzling array of African rhythms and roots.

Motor City Drum Ensemble takes on “La Rumba Experimental” that is just crazy good with sleek jazzy sensibilities and plushy keyboards. Havana Club Rumba Sessions just gets better with additions like quick paced, vocal studded remix of “La Plaza” by Poirier, the thrumming goodness of “Havana Sessions” laid down by Pablo Fierro and the sizzling “Rumba Version” by Al Dobson, Jr. Tenderlonious’s remix of “Rumba Tierna” is indeed a standout, as is the richly worked “Yuka Music” by Mo Kolours.

Havana Club Rumba Sessions makes the masterful remix a thing a beauty. These remixes bridge the gaps between tradition and innovation without losing a single thread of the music’s very roots, where the past’s musical roots are propelled into the future without losing the very music traditions that was so captivating in the beginning.

Havana Club Rumba Sessions allows for the Cuban to shine through brilliantly against the riches the remix artists bring to the table and the combination is stunning.

Buy the digital version of Havana Club Rumba Sessions

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