Not since the early records of Fela Kuti and Teddy Osei has there been an album with such extraordinary excitement as Africa. The music features rhythm of such purity that I can only think of the elemental roots of polyrhythm, that shamanistic celebration that is so powerful it sounds secretive and almost forbidden. Visualise a darkened lit only by the moon. Suddenly woodwinds whip up a storm, egged on by thundering batá, screaming cymbals and castanets, maracas and frame drums. Then out of this shadowy crepuscule, a guitar, then a bass and finally voices join in the perfect storm and you are transported to the Cuba of Africa, of vivid and mind-expanding rhythms. This is the music of rhapsodic dreams where the mystery of mysteries seems to unfold. It is music by Los Hermanos Arango.
There is visceral rhythmic excitement at work here. It starts at the beginning of the album and does not let up until the proceedings are done. This is an ensemble that is definitely steeped deep in the heat of the blood of the Afro-Cuban Diaspora. The musicians led by the Arango siblings really get under the skin of these long-limbed masterpieces. The rustic nature of African rhythms is certainly present, but at the same time there is nothing forced or exaggerated or overly mannered: tempos, ensemble and balance—all seem effortlessly and intuitively right. Sensitive to their percussive surroundings, the guitar, bass, brass and winds move with great vitality weaving a melody and harmony of utter beauty and great tensile strength. It does not matter what name you have for the music on this disc. It is passionate, raw, and ecstatic.
And yet the relationship of those foreign instruments seems to have an enigmatic relationship with the Afro-Cuban percussion and the incantations. The result may be tonality in a language that is more linear and austere. However, what could be a dry piece is lifted off the page by the passionate chants of the nonet, which bring accuracy and iconic tone colours to the music, heightened by an enhanced, lively recording. There is, for instance, something vivacious about the wide range of sonorities that fire up pieces such as the two chants to Ochún – “Canto a Ochún No. 3 Yeyeo” and its bookend, “Canto a Ochún No. 4 Alabioyo”. Your speakers will feel as if they will catch fire once the mighty drums collide with guitar, bass, brass and winds.
Much of the allure of this music has to do with the crisp nature of the recording. Cuba has not been known for recordings of a premier nature. Somehow, however, Los Hermanos Arango has managed to overcome this drawback and the result is a disc that is particularly rewarding in the engineering mixing and mastering departments. You would be remiss if you did not buy this one.
Track List: Canto a Ochún No. 3 Yeyeo; Oyá; Yewá; El Barracón; Changó; Sabor Natural; Obatalá; Canción para Yalode; Doña Martha; Canción Para un Niño Feliz; Canto a Ochún No. 4 Alabioyo.
Personnel: Ignacio Arango: guitar and vocals; Feliciano Arango: bass and vocals; Cristina Arango: percussion and vocals; Eugenio Arango: percussion and vocals; Lazaro Aguiar: percussion; Jesus Lara: percussion; Jose Castellanos: percussion; Julio Valdes: keyboards; Peter Green: trumpet; Gabriel Sundy: saxophones.
About Los Hermanos Aranjo
Los Hermanos Aranjo (The Aranjo Siblings) was created in 2003 as a result of the increasing popularity of the musical concept expressed in their CD “Oro Negro” released in 2002. They play a mix of Afro Cuban jazz and folklore, combining their musical talent with their rich cultural background. The group has an insuperable rhythmic strength and a harmonic richness. The instrumental format integrates harmony, Afro-Cuban percussion played by folkloric drummers and horns, creating a unique experience that embodied in the divine world of the Afro-Cuban religion, adorned with tasteful jazz harmonies, and over solid grooves. Read more…