Omar Sosa is a 7-time Grammy-nominated Cuban pianist, composer, and bandleader. His regular percussionist is Venezuelan Gustavo Ovalles.
Cuba’s Role in Slavery
Cuba played a central role in the African slave trade. Havana was the main transatlantic port of the Spanish Americas. It was the end of a dangerous and terrifying journey of slaves from Africa to the Americas, and the start of the journey of riches stolen from the Americas back to Spain. So Cuba was a major intersection of African and Hispanic culture.
Africans were then shipped from Cuba across the Americas, including to New York City at the end of Wall Street. They carried Afro-Cuban culture across the Americas, including to New Orleans. In New Orleans, the drum was banned, so we got the Blues, the root of American Jazz and Rock and Roll.
African religion was also banned in the Americas. It survived through Santería, an Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian (as Candomblé) religion that blended the beliefs of the Yoruba people of west Africa (centered around Nigeria) with the saints of the colonial Roman Catholic religion.
Santeria is often depicted as something scary in American movies, but it is not. The religion plays a very active role in the health of the people, and lives deep in the human psyche. The pantheon of Santeria gods is very similar to the Greek gods who are our western heritage. They suffer from human failings, but things always turn out well because they are gods. Allowing the holy spirit to enter your body is an ancient form of healing.
Transparent Water is not Santeria, but as an Afro-Latin creation, it carries that spirit.
Seckou Keita is a Senegalese kora (harp-lute) master and singer. He is known as a charismatic live performer.
Keita is part of Baka Beyond, a popular world music group. He does a lot of collaborations. From his African roots, Keita sees natural connections with the music of Cuba and India.
Senegal, as a French colony in west Africa, played a role as an exit point for the slave trade. The House of Slaves and its Door of No Return on Gorée Island, just off the coast of the capital Dakar, is a infamous relic of the trade.
Transparent Water (OTA Records, 2017) brings Cuban and Senegalese traditions together. How beautiful is that? This is a spiritual music of the angels, and it fits perfectly together.
The African instrument is the drum, and the piano is a percussion instrument. How wonderful that on this album, the percussion comes from the Americas and the harp notes come from Africa.
If we are to move forward as a healthy society, we must embrace the dark side of our traditions and turn them upside down. Artists like Sosa and Keita show us the way. It’s as natural as breathing. It’s as vital to humanity as water.
The album’s players include Chinese sheng master Wu Tong, and Japanese koto player Mieko Miyazaki.
Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita in NYC
Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita bring their Transparent Water tour to Roulette in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn (near Downtown) on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 8 pm. $26 – $30
509 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Boerum Hill (Downtown, Brooklyn)
Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita Tickets
Roulette Box Office: (917) 267 – 0363