On a recent trip to Havana, Cuba we had the opportunity to attend an intoxicating Sunday rumba session at Callejon de La Hamel. Walking down this backstreet alleyway was like stumbling into a portal that leads to Africa. The music, the percussion instruments, the dances and the orisha religion (most practitioners have come to reject the Santeria label) were all strongly rooted in the continent. However, this influence has never been one sided. This cultural dialogue has been going on for a while. Cuban music at one point was the most trendy and influential “international” music in Africa and you can still hear that latin influence in African music today.
Grammy nominated Afrocubism is a group that fuses the sounds of Cuba and Africa by uniting musicians from Cuba and Mali. This supergroup was apparently the impetus behind the wildly successful Buena Vista Social Club – in fact both groups share some of the same players. These types of groups tend to sound great on paper but forced in execution. Afrocubism manages to sidestep the jinx by simply letting the players play around within overlapping musical motifs from both cultures. The Kora (West African harp) sounds perfectly at ease gliding over son and guaracha rhythms from Cuba. You can check out the studio clip below or better yet if you’re in Toronto you can see them live tonight! They are playing for free as part of Luminato in Toronto. 9PM. 55 John Street. Free!
Bonus: Malian songstress Fatoumata Diawara is also performing at 8PM.