Daymé Arocena, Rumba, Jazz, And The Rhythms Of The Saints

Arocena LGR GCF 2016-6

Cuban singer and songwriter Daymé Arocena. Photo by Tony Martinez, courtesy of Fundarte

In the music of Cuban singer and songwriter Daymé Arocena Santeria rhythms brush against rumba and samba grooves. She has a rich, caramel-toned contralto voice, both powerful and expressive and from song to song, her phrasing may hint now at filin’, now at classic soul and R&B, or she may break out into her own style of jazz scatting  — and yet the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
She has an irrepressible, engaging personality and makes it all sound as her birthright.

Her approach can be heard on recordings such as Havana Cultura Mix: The Soundclash! and the EP One Takes. and on two albums under her own name, Nueva Era ( 2015), and Cubafonia (2017). A third one, Sonocardiogram is scheduled for release in a few weeks.

Arocena and her quartet, are part of a promising double bill with Cuban singer and producer Cimafunk (aka Erick Alejandro Iglesias), perform as part of the Global CubaFest 2019, at the North Beach Bandshell, Miami Beach, Saturday, March 30 at 6 p.m.

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Cuban Music With a Classical-Pops Twist


Pianist Joachim Horsley performing with the NuDeco Ensemble Nucleus conducted by Nu Deco Ensemble co-founder and co-artistic director Jacomo Bairos at The Light Box, Miami.

The second of three nights of Global Cuba Fest 2019, presented by Miami Light Project and Fundarte at The Light Box in Miami, delivered an entertaining evening of classical-pops takes on Cuban music.

Impeccably anchored by the slimmed-down, Nucleus version of Miami’s chamber group NuDeco Ensemble, the concert featured Cuban multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Yusa, and German pianist, composer and arranger Joachim Horsley in a program that included music by Ernesto Lecuona, original songs; a rumba version of  “Close to You;” Danzas Cubanas 2.0, a sort of Cuban music sampler by Nu Deco Ensemble co-founder and co-artistic director Sam Hyken; and several of Horsley’s What-if Mozart/Beethoven/Saint-Saens had-been-born-in-Havana? confections.

Will classical music lovers in attendance last night be intrigued now into finding out more about Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Arsenio Rodríguez or Los Van Van? Will hardcore Cuban music fans want now to hear a full-bodied reading of Mozart’s “Lacrimosa”? Who knows? It’s hard to tell what’s the ultimate impact of these hybrids, but in the meantime, a good number of music enthusiasts in Miami kicked back last night, put preconceptions in their bags and back pockets, enjoyed themselves, and rewarded players and presenters with a standing ovation.

Purists beware, you might have a good time.


Global Cuba Fest 2019 continues tonight. For more information and tickets check here.

Diego Guerrero: Jazz, rumba and the sound of Nuevo Flamenco


Diego Guerrero Photo by Alejandro Lopez, courtesy of Fundarte

Like jazz, perhaps a distant cousin, flamenco began as regional music of a displaced, desperately poor and disenfranchised people. And like jazz, flamenco began as fusion, a mix of new sounds and instruments and whatever memories had been saved and brought along. It was music shaped by survival strategies.
The one constant was change.
In spite of it, perhaps because of it, arguments between ”purists” and innovators in flamenco has been, as it was in jazz, part of the tradition.
The music of singer, guitarist, composer, and arranger Diego Guerrero, 37, is firmly rooted in flamenco but informed by elements of Afro-Cuban music, jazz, salsa, and pop. His debut recording, Vengo Caminando (2016), was nominated to a Latin Grammy.

Dealing with the purists “is easy: I don’t care for them and they don’t care for me,” he said in a recent interview. “Think of Andalusia under Islamic rule. For 800 years Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived side by side. It has been a place for Africans, Arabs, gypsies, Castilians. Think about the history of flamenco. To argue that flamenco must be kept pure it’s a contradiction in terms.”

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