Words by Chris Moss
The soulful young voice of a Cuba in flux
In Cuba it’s all about a nueva era right now. With Fidel Castro convalescing, his younger brother Raúl rubbing shoulders with Obama and tourists flooding in over the Florida Straits, the island is zinging with hope, hubris, confusion and creativity. Daymé Arocena, 22, is an exciting new voice. Classically trained, she can do Santería chanting, scat, soul and – on ‘Don’t Unplug my Body’ – funk-infused pop. This debut album comes on the back of a long period of performance – on the streets, fronting her own band and at international showcases – and there’s a remarkable technical and emotional maturity to everything she touches. ‘Madres’ has a strong African signature; ‘Drama’ is a taut jazz song; and ‘Come to Me’ is sultry and sophisticated. Arocena likes a joke, too: ‘El Ruso’ satirises the days when her mum was obligated to learn the unloved lingua franca of the Soviet Union. ‘Dust’ recalls unswept houses she visited on a visit to Canada. You can hear echoes of Alicia Keys, Sade and Nina Simone, but Arocena possesses a singular control and authority. Credit should also go to the versatile musicians who provide the calm, clear backing that allows this extraordinary young talent to display her wares.