Mon 26 Mar 2018

by Orquesta Akokán


Listening to the new LP by Orquesta Akokán, you can't help but feel the spirits of Cuba's musical giants radiating from the speakers. But honouring and caring for these spirits is not easy work, nor is it a task to be left solely to one generation. It is a collaboration of young and old; the elders know the traditions, the gestures, the incantations, but it is the younger generation that have the duty to learn, the strength to carry on, and the fire and soul to make new songs for new spirits.


In November of 2016, Michael Eckroth travelled to the hallowed Areito studios in Centro Habana with a stack of charts tucked under his arm. Arriving in the cavernous wood-panelled room, he took stock of the players assembled by producer Jacob Plasse: a dozen or so of Cuba’s most ferocious and pedigreed wind and rhythm players from storied groups including Irakere and Los Van Van, the sensational veteran vocalist José “Pepito” Gómez, and a handful of seasoned young New York latin music freaks.

The end result being this record. The arrangements carry the exquisite beauty, pathos, and playfulness of the renowned dance orchestras of the 1940s and 1950s who had recorded in this very room, evoking the ghosts of Arsenio Rodriguez, Perez Prado, and Beny Moré. The robust, time-tested musical architectures of son cubano and mambo are present and skillfully honoured through all nine of these original compositions. Yet there’s something unequivocally fresh present on this record.

Akokán is a Yoruba word used by Cubans to mean “from the heart” or “soul”, so it comes as no surprise that a recording like this would find its way back to Brooklyn’s Daptone Records. For nearly a generation, the venerable label has brought us soulful music in a myriad of styles, made in the present, but with all the craft and flavor of the classic recordings of the past.


This week's Top 10:


Orquesta Akokán - Orquesta Akokán
Rocket Science - 'Lipstick Red'
Laura Jean- 'Touchstone'
Gabriella Cohen - 'Baby'
Meshell Ndegeocello - 'Sometimes It Snows in April'
Animistic Beliefs - 'Sinuous Gullies'
Shit Bitch - 'Royal Heady'
Archie Roach - 'Dancing with My Spirit'
Dr. Octagon - 'Area 54'
Lindi Ortega - 'The Comeback Kid'