The new album, Sonocardiogram, from Daymé Arocena is a vivid return to her Havana roots. Backed once again by a killer band of fellow Cuban musicians, the visionary singer, composer and songwriter has stripped everything back to the core. Holding sessions in a simple, repurposed artist's studio in Havana, Daymé and her band produced the record themselves, with her taking the reins to make Sonocardiogram her most raw and arresting outing yet.
An important voice in Latin music, Daymé has collaborated with influential Cuban peers, like Chucho Valdés and Pedrito Martinez, and US heavyweights like Dexter Story and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. From a recent appearance at Primavera Festival, to sold out tours across Japan and the US, her spectacular live show continues to draw crowds around the world. She's been featured in The New Yorker, as part of a feature on "A New Vanguard of Women in Cuban Jazz," been profiled in gal-dem's second print edition, and featured as the cover star of Boat Magazine. Her last album, Cubafonía, was lauded by Pitchfork, The Sunday Times, The Guardian and MOJO, amongst others. She's performed on Boiler Room, on NPR's iconic Tiny Desk Concert, and been supported on the radio by Mary Ann Hobbes on BBC 6 Music, Jamie Cullum on BBC Radio 2, and Toddla T on BBC 1xtra.
The title is a reference to an echocardiogram, a heart scan; she wanted to mimic that medical procedure with her music. "We wanted to create something that was a snapshot of who we are inside," she says. "We wanted it to capture our personality, our world, how we hear the music." Recording the album outside a traditional studio, ambient noise from outside filtered into the sound of the record, and cats and dogs would pass in and out of the space. The less conventional environment was a means to getting closer to the core of what they do musically.
A jazz record bedded in Afro-Cuban rhythms, Daymé draws on the island's intertwined rituals of family, music and religion. Nodding to Cuban greats like La Lupe, those inspirations carry the sound of Cuba's sun-baked, vibrant daily existence. On "Homenaje" (which translates as "Homage"), she pieces together a collage of musical touchstones that pays tribute to some of her musical reference points: Emiliano Salvador, Lilí Martinez, Arsenio Rodriguez and Merceditas Valdés.
Elsewhere, odes to Santería deities are underscored by the sacred frequencies of the batá drum, and in the "Trilogía" suite -- the tracks "Oyá," "Oshún," and "Yemayá" -- they called on extra drummer, José Carlos Sánchez, to play on a Western drum kit. As Daymé explains, "For the 'Trilogía' we wanted to translate the language of the batá to the trap set so we called on another drummer to recreate and update the dialogue between the three drums."
Over the second half of the album, she tackles her experiences of love. The five track suite "Cinco maneras de amar" sees her survey her experience of romance, looking back from her current vantage point of being recently married. From the flourishes of lovelorn excitement to brushes with rejection, she builds to the positive note of suite closer "Not For Me," where she sings, "Living with sadness forever is not for me." As she explains, "I'm about to get married to my best friend. So no, I'm not suffering. I've learned my lessons. I'm singing to my man and telling him 'I don't want to suffer anymore, I know who I need and who I need is you.'"
Sonocardiogram is an honest, spare picture of where Daymé stands both musically and personally. "What I hope is that the listeners feel that love of life, that embracing life and wanting to succeed -- but not succeeding in the banal terms of making some money or being famous," she says. "I'm talking about being happy by being who we are, doing what we love, and staying open to whatever may come."
6. Porque tú no estás
7. Para el amor: Cantar!
8. As Feridas
9. Menuet para un corazón
10. Not for Me
11. Plegaria a La Lupe
"Trilogía" suite: tracks 2 - 4
"Cinco maneras de amor" suite: tracks 6 - 10
"A difuntos presente" suite: tracks 11 - 12
Vocals and Backing Vocals: Daymé Arocena
Piano, Keys, Vocoder and Backing Vocals: Jorge Luis Lagarza Pérez
Bass: Rafael Aldama Chiroles
Drums: Marcos Morales Valdés (2,3,4,6,7,8,9)
Drums: José Carlos Sánchez (2,3,4,10,11,12)