ORQUESTA AKOKAN - 16 RAYOS VINYL (LP)
Release Date: 5th November 2021
"Orquesta Akokán is ready to unleash 16 Rayos on the world's dance floors, via Daptone Records. Recorded in Havana’s famed Egrem Studios, the group displays a cohesion forged by an intense performing and touring cycle. The musical conversation that began in the Areito studios three years earlier blossomed into an easy, intimate dialogue between good friends - allowing full, fearless musical expression and risk-taking outside of their comfort zones. Building upon Perez Prado’s dissonant, near avant-garde vision of the mambo, and highlighting the Lucumí subtext of Cuban rhythms and styles, the band continues to explore, develop and expand the island’s rich rhythmic palette and repertoire - pushing the conventions of what is considered “mambo” - and drawing deeply from folkloric and religious traditions seldom heard in popular music. 16 Rayos is here to shine its musical rays on us, warm our hearts, and irresistibly move our bodies. When Orquesta Akokán burst onto the global music scene a mere three years ago, their no-holds-barred 21st century take on the venerable Cuban mambo lit up stages around the world with a fierce and unremitting joy. Singer José "Pepito" Gómez, Chulo Records producer and multi instrumentalist Jacob Plasse, and arranger Michael Eckroth joined forces with a carefully curated selection of Havana’s most extraordinary musicians as Orquesta Akokán, polishing Cuban mambo’s golden sound to a luminous, contemporary sheen. Along the way Orquesta Akokán imbued these legendary Cuban grooves with a renewed vitality and powerful sense of akokán ---the Yoruba word used by Cubans to mean “from the heart” or “soul.” On the Cuban side of the equation the Orquesta boasts some of the island’s greatest instrumentalists culled from members of near-mythical groups such as Los Van Van, NG La Banda, and Irakere (notably César Lopez, Orquesta Akokan’s point man in Havana). The ensemble for 16 Rayos shines a light on Cuba’s musical families and multigenerational legacy with the participation of two fabled Vizcainos on percussion - Roberto "Tato" Vizcaino Jr. and his father Roberto Vizcaino Guillot, a member of Chucho Valdes’ seminal 90’s quartet. Another family duo added their masterful legacy to the recording, with trumpeter Reinaldo “Molote” Melián bringing in his son, Reinaldo Melián Zamora, to play trumpet on several tunes alongside lead trumpet Harold Madrigal Frías. The winds and brass are rounded out with a rich saxophone section made up of young lion Jamil Shery and Germán Velazco (musical director for Pablo Milanés)on tenor, with Evaristo Denis on baritone and César López on alto, along with Yoandy Argudin and Heikel Fabián Trimiño on trombone. Coros were sung by Eddie Venegas and Luis Soto. Significantly, Orquesta Akokán added strings to the ensemble for the first time, with the participation of violinists Amelia Febles Díaz, Jenny Peña and Anabel Estévez Acosta, whose virtuosity stems from the classical training for which Cuban musicians are so renowned. The power and grace of Pedro "Tata" Francisco Almeida Barriel’s vocals lead the way on “4 de Octubre” and “Llegue con mi Rumba,” evincing why he is considered one of the Cuban rumba’s premier exponents. Another highly recognized singer, legendary guarachera Xiomara Valdés - who’s shared the stage with legends such as Beny Moré and Omara Portuondo and received the Ministry of Culture’s Distinción por la Cultura Nacional de Cuba as a significant contributor to Cuba’s musical legacy - is the featured guest on the title track."