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Daymé Arocena

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. Aged 24, Daymé’s family background is typically packed with music. Her grandmother, she says, “sings better than she does” and her father has stacks of CDs – littered with the likes of George Benson’s smooth jazz classic ‘Breezin’ – which have trickled into his daughter’s tastes over the years.

She often immerses fragments of rumba rhythms and outbursts of scatting into her songs and performances. “Even though I’m a classical musician,” she explains, “at school I also sang Santeria songs, which is the official Cuban religion for me. I studied its beautiful energy and all the elements from the sea, to the wind and the earth. My saint is Yemaya, saint of the sea.”

Daymé experimented with a series of instruments – violin, trumpet, piano and guitar – before she found that Choir Directing, a route popular with Cuban children, was her niche. Her talent was spotted at a young age, with her winning the prestigious Marti y el Arte award in 2007 and becoming principal singer with big band Los Primos at age 14. With marks of approval soon to follow from the likes of the Lincoln Centre’s teacher and trumpet player Wynton Marsalis and much-lauded saxophonist Jane Bunnett, it wasn’t long before Daymé came to the attention of François Renié.

Communications Director at Cuban rum maker Havana Club and founder of the Havana Cultura* platform, which co-produced the Havana Cultura album series with Brownswood Recordings, he took an immediate shine to her. “Gilles and I met Dayme for the first time on Gilles’ first trip to Cuba,” he recalls, “with Edrey [from Grammy nominated Cuba band Ogguere] improvising a rumba session at a friend’s place. She started to sing and we were amazed. She was just a teenager.” She already knew and listened to the singers, rappers and musicians involved in the Havana Cultura project but was considered too young to join in.

But her time came a few years down the line with the Havana Cultura Mix project, which saw Gilles Peterson mentoring selected producers from around the world to make a record in Cuba with local musicians. Following her audition, all of the producers to decided they wanted to work with her: she sung on three tracks on the album, including the massive “U Knew Before”. Seeing huge potential in her, Gilles invited her to London to perform at the album launch event to enchant a packed out audience and seal plans for a solo record with Brownswood Recordings and Havana Cultura.

Her debut album, Nueva Era, was released to critical acclaim in 2015. With The Guardian declaring her “a rich and powerful new voice from Cuba” and Songlines recognising her as “one of the most exciting new artists to come along in years”, the album was an important first statement for an artist who’s got plenty more to say. With her soon-to-be-released One Takes EP forthcoming and excitement bubbling up around more European live dates and a debut US tour, the future looks bright for an artist who’s spent years building up to this moment.

*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

  • Dayme Arocena at Millenium Park (June 15, 2017) Chicago, IL, US 15 / 06 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at Institute Of Contemporary Art (June 16, 2017) Boston, MA, US 16 / 06 / 17
  • Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival 2017 Croton-On-Hudson, NY, US 17 / 06 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at Highline Ballroom (June 17, 2017) New York, NY, US 17 / 06 / 17
  • Glastonbury Festival 2017 Glastonbury, UK 21 / 06 / 17
  • Rigas Ritmi Festival 2017 Riga, Latvia 29 / 06 / 17
  • Worldwide Festival Sete 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 Skirball Cultural Center (August 17, 2017) Los Angeles, CA, US 17 / 08 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena at Yerba Buena Gardens (August 19, 2017) San Francisco, CA, US 19 / 08 / 17
  • Dayme Arocena, Knower, Gabriel Garzón-Montano, XamVolo, and 3 more… at Muziekgebouw Frits Philips Eindhoven (November 5, 2017) Eindhoven, Netherlands 05 / 11 / 17
  • Pedrito Martinez, Dayme Arocena, and Roberto Fonseca at Valley Performing Arts Center (April 21, 2018) Northridge, CA, US 21 / 04 / 18