Daymé Arocena: Cubafonía

Daymé Arocena - Cubafonía

The rise and rise of Daymé Arocena is quite the Cinderella story, sans the proverbial ‘glass slipper’. She performed for some time in Joaquin Betancourt’s big band and went on to create the all-girl band, Alami. In 2013 Arocena and Alami were performing at the Jazz Plaza Festival. Fairy Godmother and Canadian icon, “Havana” Jane Bunnett, and her producer and trumpet-playing husband, Larry Cramer heard her singing and with a wave of an invisible wand, Maqueque came into being with Bunnett fronting the sextet on soprano saxophone and flute, and Daymé Arocena on vocals. The band achieved near mythical status after just two discs and a global tour. Meanwhile, Gilles Peterson already had his eyes on her and snapped her up for his Brownswood Recordings. And the fairytale continues…

The vivacious, go-getting and indefatigable Daymé Arocena, in addition to performing with Jane Bunnett and Maqueque has since developed a burgeoning solo career, toured Europe and the USA with Brownswood Recordings and after a wonderful debut on the label with Nueva Era (Brownswood, 2015) she has released Cubafonía, an ambitious production that sling-shots her star into the world music stratosphere and it seems only a matter of time when she will be one of the most recognised Afro-Cuban singers on the planet. And when that happens, this disc will have had everything to do with it.

Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Cubafonía

Cubafonía is a lavish production. Gilles Peterson has not spared the horses on this venture. And Daymé Arocena has returned the favour many times over. She comes across at every turn as a veritable force of nature as her vivid illumination of the Afro-Cuban experience – from her happily crowded childhood home, to the ubiquitous Cuban comparsa; from the conservatoire to the infectious power of montuno, changüí, mambo and guaguancó, Daymé Arocena blows past Afro-Cuban horizons to create a sort of musical anthropography of her own. She has a powerful voice, virtually exploding in the lower registers.

But she can also turn on the sensuous charm, which often brings the sheer poetry of her music to life as she free-wheels into a sweet upper range, reaching up for high notes, exquisitely, without sign of strain or wobble. Her phrasing too is magically rich and flexible. In short, her vocal colouring is incredibly fresh and young-sounding. There are eleven examples of this on Cubafonía from the husky invocation of “Eleggua” and “Mambo Na’ Mà’ to the glorious curtain call, “Valentine”. Her English repertoire is pitch-perfect and Latin inflections are barely audible. All told, this is a vocal performance that excels all expectation promised by her 2015 recording.

Not surprisingly the extraordinary group of musicians that support Daymé Arocena respond to her feisty performance with great gusto. The core group of pianist Jorge Luis Lagarza, bassist Gastón Joya and drummer Ruly Herrera are the lead-architects of the album’s sound as is percussionist Yaroldy Abreu. Add to that an incredibly sharp horn section, guitar and tres that together and separately raise the ornamental bar several notches. This album will give continuing pleasure and is sure to turn Jane Bunnett and Larry Cramer’s debutant into the belle of the ball.

Track List: 1 – Eleggua; 2 – La Rumba me llamo yo; 3 – Lo que fue; 4 – Maybe Tomorrow; 5 – Negra Caridad; 6 – Mambo Na’ Mà; 7 – Cómo; 8 – Todo por Amor; 9 – Ángel; 10 – It’s Not Gonna Be Forever; 11 – Valentine.

Personnel: Daymé Arocena: vocals and string recordings; Jorge Luis Lagarza: piano (1 – 7, 9 – 11), backing vocals (1 – 3, 5, 7, 10, 11); Gastón Joya: double bass (1, 2, 5, 8, 9,), electric bass (7), marimbula (11); Rafael Aldama: electric bass (3, 4, 6, 10); Ruly Herrera: drums (1 – 7, 8, 9, 10), güiro (11); Yaroldy Abreu: percussion; Marcos Yosvany Diaz: percussion (1); Mayquel González: trumpet ( 1 – 3, 5 – 7, 10, 11), backing vocals (1 – 3, 5, 7, 10, 11); Emir Santacruz: tenor saxophone (1 – 3, 5 – 7, 10), clarinet (11); Yuniet Lombida: baritone saxophone (11 – 3, 55, 6, 10); Heikel Fabian Trimiño: trombone (1 – 3, 5 – 7, 10); Robert Luis Gómez: guitar (4, 5, 7, 8); Lino Lores: três (11); Barbara Llanes: vocal (1); Dreyser Durruti: vocal (1); Leonel Ernesto Lastres: backing vocals (1 – 3, 5, 7, 10, 11) Daniela J Barreto: backing vocals (1 – 3, 5, 7, 10, 11); Loreta Zerquera: backing vocals (1 – 3, 7); Dexter Story: backing vocals (7, 10); Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: sting arrangement and performance (7); Uncredited: additional percussion probably on (2).

Label: Brownswood Recordings
Release date: March 2017
Running time: 40:35

Raul Da Gama
Raul Da Gama
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.

More from author


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related posts


Featured Posts

Omar Sosa’s 88 Well-Tuned Drums: A Film by Soren Sorensen

Anyone approaching this film about the iconic Cuban composer and pianist Omar Sosa, by the award-winning filmmaker Soren Sorensen will be almost immediately struck...

Danilo Pérez featuring The Global Messengers: Crisálida

Danilo Pérez began forming his worldview - and aligning his music to it - ever since he came under the sphere of influence of...

The Feeling Messengers, Past and Present (Part II)

Miguelo Valdés & The New Messengers Of Feeling Miguel Valdés, or “Miguelo”, as he has since become known, was born in the province of La...

The Feeling Messengers, Past and Present (Part I)

Preamble Within the current renaissance of popular Cuban music, coupled with the seemingly eternal presence of its first cousin American Jazz, we are once again...

In Conversation with Carlos Cippelletti

Pianist, composer and arranger Carlos Cippelletti, is a promising young Spanish, Franco-Cuban artist from the last generation of Afro-Cuban jazz musicians born outside the...

Celebrating Jane Bunnett: Spirits of Havana’s 30th Anniversary

After dark they gather, the spirits of Havana. Is that a ghostly, but fatback-toned rapping down in the barrio where the great composer and...

Piazzolla Cien Años: Lord of the Tango@100

There is a now famous photograph of the great Ástor Piazzolla that is iconic for so many reasons. Chief among them is the manner...

Omara Portuondo, Multifaceted Gem of Cuban Music

My moon app announces that in 14 hours the Supermoon of May will be here. During a full moon I often get inspired to...

Ray Barretto · Barretto Power

Barretto Power: A Celebratory Reissue on its 50th Anniversary It was 1970 when Fania Records released Barretto Power, one of a series of seminal albums...

El Gran Fellové: Part 3- When my Parents…

When my parents bought their home in 1968, Sunset Beach was just another sleepy little beach town It spanned about one mile in length, sandwiched...

Join our mailing list

Participate in contests, giveaways and more