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Daymé Arocena

www.cubafonia.com

Singer, composer, arranger, choir director and band leader, Daymé Arocena is a skilful, charismatic presence in Cuban music. Dressed always in white, it’s a visible reminder of her induction into the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria: its chants and repertoires are just as important to her as jazz and Cuban neo-soul.

With Cuba poised to become more connected to the rest of the world, the Cuban people’s pride in a unique musical heritage has never felt more vital. Arising from that lineage, Daymé Arocena has returned to deliver an ambitious second long player; rooting her compositions in Cuba’s classic rhythms, Daymé encompasses the rich, diverse musical make-up of her home whilst looking outward too – to the world she has spent the last two years traveling.

It’s her most polished, fully realised project since meeting her mentor (and record label head), Gilles Peterson, in 2012. Benefiting from Gilles’ expansive vision as a DJ, broadcaster and promoter, Daymé has been nurtured to this point by the Havana Cultura project – a platform for contemporary Cuban creativity driven by Havana Club rum.

First, there was 2014’s Havana Cultura Mix album, which introduced her to working with electronic producers for the first time. She then accompanied Gilles in his journey through rumba culture for the expansive Havana Club Rumba Sessions project, which produced a feature-length documentary along with an album – using her distinctive vocals – of rumba reimaginings and sample pack. As a solo artist, she released her debut album Nueva Era to critical and popular acclaim in 2015, with an EP of cover versions, titled One Takes, released in early 2016.

The reception to her music has spurred a whirlwind of opportunities: she shared an off-the-cuff live moment with Roy Ayers and Brazilian superstar Ed Motta to leave Worldwide Festival in tears of joy, jumped on stage with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson at his triumphant Suite for Ma Dukes show at the Barbican, and rung the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange with a delegation from Women of the World. She has played shows from LA to Tokyo, charming audiences with her mesmerising vocal range and earthy sense of humour. She name-checks Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak as artists she would love to work with.

Despite all that, however, it’s not distracted Daymé from a deep sense of seriousness about her art form; born of a uniquely musical culture, she strives to forge a cohesive musical language from Cuba’s distinct musical dialects. Growing up in a two-bed house with 21 other people, every available surface was scuffed from the rumba rhythms which had been played out on them. It’s a childhood typical of a country where children grow up readily exposed to the island’s numerous, particular rhythms.

That immersive upbringing forms the record’s starting point. Entering one of Havana’s prestigious, state-funded classical conservatoires at age 9, that rigorous classical training has informed an interconnected vision of Cuban music, where inspiration comes from the Caribbean island’s different rhythms and styles – from Guantánamo’s fast-paced changüí, to ubiquitous guaguancó and ‘70s-style ballada. Sung mainly in Spanish, Daymé drops into English (and even tries out a little French) when the mood takes her. Produced alongside Soundway artist Dexter Story, with string arrangements from Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, this is heritage music for modern-day citizens of the world.

Interviewing Daymé at the Sound of Cuba showcase at SXSW last year, NPR wrote, “It is hard to imagine a better voice to open her country’s gates” – and it feels like this statement holds true. Ambitious, hardworking, and hungry for cultural exchange that doesn’t compromise the unique flavour of her home country of which she is so proud, it feels like 2017 could be a monumental year for Daymé. She possesses a clear sense of her music’s intermingling influences: “We don’t have this native culture,” she explains. “We don’t have indigenous people, like Maya or Quechua. They made a country with people from everywhere – that’s what makes Cuban culture so different.”


*The acclaimed Havana Cultura album series – fruit of a collaboration between Gilles Peterson, Brownswood Recordings and Havana Club – includes two major collective productions, Havana Cultura: The New Cuba Sound (2009) and Havana Cultura: The Search Continues (2011); the Havana Cultura Sessions EPs featuring Danay Suárez (2010) and Daymé Arocena (2015); and two electronic music albums, Havana Cultura Remixed (2010) and Havana Cultura Mix: The Soundclash! (2014).

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  • ALBUMS

    FORMAT

    DATE

    BUY

  • Vinyl / CD / Digital 08/06/2015
  • The Havana Cultura Sessions CD / Digital 30/03/2015
  • GIG DATES

    LOCATION

    DATE

  • Rigas Ritmi Festival 2017 Riga, Latvia 29 / 06 / 17
  • Worldwide Festival Sete 2017 Sete, France 03 / 07 / 17
  • Motor City Drum Ensemble with Dayme Arocena at Théâtre de la Mer (July 3, 2017) Sete, France 03 / 07 / 17
  • Istanbul Jazz Festival 2017 Istanbul, Turkey 04 / 07 / 17
  • Les Hauts de Garonne 2017 Bordeaux, France 07 / 07 / 17
  • Roberto Fonseca with Eliades Ochoa, Dayme Arocena, and Pedrito Martinez at Jazz à Vienne (July 7, 2017) Vienne, France 07 / 07 / 17
  • Pori Jazz 2017 Pori, Finland 08 / 07 / 17
  • Womad 2017 Malmesbury, UK 27 / 07 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at Locus Festival (July 29, 2017) Locorotondo, Italy 29 / 07 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at Dromos Festival (August 2, 2017) Oristano, Italy 02 / 08 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at AMP by Strathmore (August 4, 2017) North Bethesda, MD, US 04 / 08 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at Musikfest (August 5, 2017) Bethlehem, PA, US 05 / 08 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at West Kortright Centre (August 6, 2017) East Meredith, NY, US 06 / 08 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at SummerStage, Red Hook Park (August 9, 2017) Brooklyn, NY, US 09 / 08 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at Unknown venue (August 13, 2017) San Jose, CA, US 13 / 08 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at Kuumbwa Jazz Center (August 14, 2017) Santa Cruz, CA, US 14 / 08 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at Lan Su Chinese Garden (August 15, 2017) Portland, OR, US 15 / 08 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at Skirball Cultural Center (August 17, 2017) Los Angeles, CA, US 17 / 08 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at California Plaza (August 18, 2017) Los Angeles, CA, US 18 / 08 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at Yerba Buena Gardens (August 19, 2017) San Francisco, CA, US 19 / 08 / 17
  • Moses Sumney, Tank and the Bangas, Dayme Arocena, Knower, and 5 more… at Muziekgebouw Frits Philips Eindhoven (November 5, 2017) Eindhoven, Netherlands 05 / 11 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at Carnahan Hall (November 11, 2017) Lafayette, IN, US 11 / 11 / 17
  • Pedrito Martinez, Dayme Arocena, and Roberto Fonseca at Valley Performing Arts Center (April 21, 2018) Northridge, CA, US 21 / 04 / 18