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Cuba’s Spectacular New Voice

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Thursday June 29, 2017

From Global Grasshopper

Cuba’s spectacular new voice – Daymé Arocena
By: Johanna Derry

‘I’m not the kind of beauty that some people want to see,’ Daymé Arocena states guilelessly. On the release of her latest recording Cubáfonia, the 24-year-old Cuban singer is striking, a figure dressed in her now trademark white, with a serenity and self-composure that belies the power and sumptuousness of the voice she carries.

Since she recorded her first album, Nueva Era, in 2015, Arocena has captured the attention of critics and music lovers from all over the world, singing jazz that references Cuban rhythms like rumba, guagancó and changüí. The Guardian declared hers ‘a rich and powerful new voice,’ and NPR said they found it hard to imagine a better voice to open her country’s gates. It’s a claim that she laughs at before declaring ‘What a responsibility! Oh my God! That’s crazy!’

Now her second album’s out, they’re not going to be the only ones telling you that if you want to know what modern Cuba looks and sounds like, you’d do well to listen to Arocena. She laughs again. ‘For some people I represent Cuba, but for me, I’m just a young girl trying to make real what’s happening in my mind. I like to do what I do and if that represents Cuba, if that opens the doors for more people to listen to Cuban music, that makes me really happy. It’s a beautiful goal.’

Arocena is entirely unpretentious. Yet she has much to be proud of. From humble beginnings growing up in a two-bedroomed house shared with 21 other people, she’s become a young woman confident in her skills. Her commitment to working hard at making the music she loves paid off when she came across DJ Gilles Peterson who was working with the Havana Cultura project, a global initiative developed by Havana Club rum to give a platform to Cuba’s artists, musicians, and creatives. Thanks to her signing with Peterson’s record label, Brownswood, and Havana Cultura’s ongoing support, she now has a growing reputation, and the world is waking up to the new voice of a nation that’s beginning to slowly reopen.

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