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Estrella Acosta: Tierra – Songs by Cuban Women



Estrella Acosta
Singer-songwriter Estrella Acosta. Photo: Brenda Ladd.

With each new addition to her list of albums, the Netherlands-based Cuban musician Estrella Acosta not only elevates her position among the premier vocal of our times, but also makes significant additions to contemporary Cuban musical literature. The fact that she does so while based in the [non-Spanish-speaking] country of the Netherlands should not diminish her achievements; on the contrary, it ought to speak to her ability to maintain an almost solitary and loving epistolary between her Cuban Muses and her rapidly growing audiences in Holland and beyond. Tierra – Songs by Cuban Women is a superb mini-scena in its ow right.

The first thing that strikes one about the album – in terms of its repertoire, and apart from the fact that the album seeks to elevate Cuban women-composers – is that none of this music is even remotely recognisable. This means that none of the seven charts have found themselves in common parlance. The same could be said of the rhythmic forms commonly used in Cuban music. By beginning the album with the delightful Mi Tierra es Así – a splendid hybrid merensongo by the so-called Queen of Radio, Radeunda Lima, Ms. Acosta sets the tone for a very lively set indeed. Later in the album we are treated to a vividly dramatic arrangement of Ms. Acosta’s original composition Fontanar, imaginatively rendered as a Venezuelan gaita and joropo, melded in with a Cuban bembé in a fine arrangement by the ever-brilliant Michael Simon.

Estrella Acosta: Tierra - Songs by Cuban Women
Estrella Acosta: Tierra – Songs by Cuban Women

From both examples mentioned above we find that Ms. Acosta is unafraid to experiment with melding the various forms of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean music. Of course, this can only be possible because of the extraordinary pliability of the African-inspired music that spread throughout the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking South American part of the Americas and among the islands in the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the islands that dot the Caribbean Sea. Above all it speaks to her musical ingenuity that Ms. Acosta is unafraid to manipulate traditional forms of her beloved Cuban music, to reinvent dance forms – both compositional traits that enable [Ms. Acosta] to enliven and make contemporary music that is – to all intents and purposes almost a hundred [if not more] years old.

However, this “contemporizing” of traditional material is not a mere gratuitous device. In fact, Ms. Acosta quite clearly respects the tradition – her use of décima, a finely-crafted poetic form is one example. The other is re-imagining son, danzón and most magically, guaguancó-son, in her iteration of Celina Gonzalez’s Que Viva Changó. Miss Acosta was not being presumptuous in bringing her own compositions to this recording either. She is, after all, quite a fine composer in her own right, masterfully relishing [and using] her pounding, vivid rhythmic inflections in the taut verses of two other songs: the dreamy lovelorn, Ay Amor and the longingly lyrical son Guasimal, which adapts a décima by her grandmother.

Ms. Acosta is a natural mezzo with a compassionate, golden timbre. Moreover, she can convey a range of mature emotions using admirably restrained embellishments, and with affectionate communication of the poetry. I love the airy shaping of melodic contours in both, Ay Amor and Amor de Millones. The delightful whimsy of her interplay with the saxophone of Efraim Trujillo and the piano of the incomparable Marc Bischoff also adds to the marvellous aesthetic of this music. The supple bass playing of Samuel Ruiz throughout, and the masterful rhythmic colours of Enrique Firpi make this music so memorable that you will want to return to it frequently, always to derive immense pleasure from the music and to elevate the spirits with every spin of the recording.

Deo gratis…

Estrella Acosta and Esquina 25
Estrella Acosta and Esquina 25

Music – 1: Mi Tierra es Así; 2: Guajira; 3: Ay Amor; 4: Amor de Millones; 5: Fontanar; 6: Guasimal; 7: Que Viva Changó.

Musicians – Marc Bischoff: piano, coros and musical director; Efraim Trujillo: soprano and tenor saxophones and flute; Samuel Ruiz: contrabass and coros; Enrique Firpi: drums; Estrella Acosta: voice.

Special Guests Gerardo Rosales: percussion; Alberto Caicedo: vocals.

Released – 2023
Label – eStar [136]
Runtime – 35:03

YouTube Playlist – Estrella Acosta: Tierra

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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