Orquesta Akokán: Songlines Music Awards 2019 – winners! | Songlines


Orquesta Akokán
Orquesta Akokán

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Akokán is Yoruba for ‘From the Heart’ and it is the perfect fit for this Cuban supergroup featuring the dynamic New York-based singer José ‘Pepito’ Gomez, virtuoso pianist César ‘Pupy’ Pedroso from Los Van Van, a percussion section drawn from members of NG La Banda, and a sax team from the legendary Irakere. A soulful, life-affirming tribute to the brass-driven orchestra’s classic mambo and son Cubano styles of the 1940s and 50s, this debut is a shimmering gem that evokes the golden age of Beny Moré and Pérez Prado. Yet if it’s full of nostalgia, it’s also full of vitality and a ripe Latino humour – all cheeky ‘Tequila’-style bass, plinky-plonky piano guajeos (ostinatos), flatulent blasts of brass and tongue-twisting wordplay. Recorded as live at Havana’s Estudios Areito with arrangements by Michael Eckroth, the other eight originals are a joyous reminder of the loose, life-affirming music of the pre-revolutionary era with a groove like a runaway train. As our reviewer put it: ‘If you want a taste of Cuban cool, take a mental flight back to the 50s with Orquesta Akokán and try to stay belted in to your seat.’

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