Daymé Arocena is a Cuban singer, composer and band leader who mixes her African roots with a Classical music education into Jazz. Robin Denselow of The Guardian (a global English newspaper) called her “Cuba’s finest young female singer.”
Daymé Arocena was born in Havana, Cuba in 1992. When she was nine, she entered one of Cuba’s prestigious music schools.
Cuba has an exceptional classical arts education system. It’s a positive legacy of the Soviet era. Getting an arts education in Cuba is like going to Juilliard. You have to prove yourself every year or you are out. It’s tough, but produces outstanding artists.
Arocena was raised in Santería, the Afro-Caribbean religion that blends Catholic saints into West and Central Africa’s Yoruba religion. In the same way that a Catholic might pray to a saint for help with a problem, a Santería practitioner might pray to the Orishas (Yoruba saints) for help.
Santería prayer is done through drumming, singing, and dancing, all of which can have a wonderful spiritual and healing aspect. Cuban Rumba comes from this. Rumba can be a party or it can be a spiritual celebration. The spirit connects through the rhythm and the movement. Our ancestors come through the drum. It’s why singing and dancing is so important to us.
Santería is the dominant religion in Black communities from Cuba to Brazil. Priests and Hollywood moviemakers made it seem scary, but it’s not. We are getting past our fears now, so Santería is more accepted. Celia Cruz, the artist most responsible for popularizing Cuban music around the world, connected with Santería too, but held the spirits gently because they wouldn’t have been broadly accepted in her time.
Arocena combines Rumba and her Classical music education with an amazing voice. NPR compared her to Celia Cruz and Aretha Franklin. Wow!
From Cuba to the World
Arocena became the lead singer of Cuban big band Los Primos when she was just 14 years old. Great Jazz artists like Wynton Marsalis and Jane Bunnett noticed the young singer.
François Renié of Havana Club rum brought her into the Havana Cultura initiative where BBC radio host Gilles Peterson also began supporting her development.
Arocena is still in her twenties, but her music has made her a global phenomenon. An artist like Daymé Arocena couldn’t have come before, so it is wonderful to hear her now.
Daymé Arocena Albums
Nueva Era (New Era) refers to the reopening of relations between the United States and Cuba in 2015. It is a Jazz album with Afro-Cuban flavors.
It was a wonderful moment to hear President Obama speak about how as a nation we could make mistakes, but could also correct them.
Also in 2015, Arocena worked with Gilles on the Havana Club Rumba Sessions, his survey of Rumba culture.
Cubafonía (2017) represents a maturing of Arocena’s art. On the album, she got to work with the best musicians and production team. This enabled her to craft an even richer mix of styles.
Having toured a bit, Arocena missed home, so she made her sophomore album about Cuba. It’s a Rumba album with Cuban and Jazz flavors.
Daymé Arocena in New York City
The World Music Institute presents Daymé Arocena at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn on Saturday, April 7, 2018 at 8 pm. General admission $30 – $35
Daymé Arocena Tickets
$30 in advance. $35 at the door.
Visit Pioneer Works
159 Pioneer St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
(at Conover St)
Red Hook, Brooklyn
(F) (G) to Smith-9th St. It’s a 15-minute walk to Pioneer Works.
B61 to King Street
South Brooklyn (SBK) Ferry to Red Hook/Atlantic Basin.
Walk straight up Clinton Wharf St and take the walkway to Conover St / Pioneer St.
For more information, visit pioneerworks.org