Albums of the Year: 'Cubafonia'

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Wednesday January 03, 2018


Albums of the Year 2017: Daymé Arocena – Cubafonia
Sumptuous Survey of Cuban Song Wears its Learning Lightly
By: Matthew Wright

It is very likely Daymé will still be loved, listened to and learned from in 2042 as a model of intelligent, creative music-making. Arocena has classical training from one of Cuba’s prestigious academies, yet sings as if she has grown up with Cuban folk and pop. Cubafonia isn’t ostentatious, yet extends capaciously from slick, bubbly Cuban pop into Latin jazz and more specialised areas of Cuban traditional song such as changüí, in which the original blend of Spanish guitar and Bantu percussion can still be heard.

The musical and religious practice of santería are evident in, among others, the opening track ‘Eleggua’, a Yoruba greeting to the orisha, a divine spirit. This is followed by ‘La Rumba Me Llamo Yo’, a form with a range of African traditions. There are reminders, too, in tracks such as ‘Mambo Na’ Mà‘, with its smouldering, funky swing, that Cuban traditions are cousins of New Orleans. Arocena has assimilated such an impressive range of musical cultures into an entirely plausible and engaging vernacular that it doesn’t feel like a work of ethnomusicology, even though it some respects it is.

We are still at the launchpad stage of what will inevitably become a stellar singing career, with potential for astonishing collaborations. 2042 here we come!

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