Interview
Image courtesy of the artist.

Interview: OKAN Are Telling the Struggles of Afro-Cuban Women

We speak to OKAN, an Afro-Cuban Latin jazz ensemble based in Canada, about their latest record Espiral.

OKAN's new album, Espiral, opens with a Yoruba language chant that invites us to dance and experience a spiritual journey of faith and musical virtuosity. The album boasts 9 tracks that fuse Antillean rhythms, flamenco, bolero, salsa, African roots, and Latin jazz. Their compositions embody instrumental solo improvisations, lyrics, and chants full of color and social commitment using double entendres to talk about Cuban women and the Latino community in Canada.

OKAN, an Afro-Cuban ensemble based in Toronto, are Grammy-nominated and violinist Elizabeth Rodriguez, and Grammy-nominated percussionist Magdelys Savigne. Following their debut record, Sombras, OKAN just released their sophomore album Espiral, a compilation of percussion-driven songs that takes you to Havana or Santiago de Cuba.

The women-led ensemble composes, arranges and plays multiple instruments fusing contemporary Cuban sounds. They feature a generation of virtuoso jazz musicians who add different flavors to this album, like the rapper Telmary Diaz or Hilario Durán, a Cuban jazz pianist. They also dig deep into less known musical genres, like pilón (a traditional Afro Cuban carnival rhythm), combining them in their own ways.

OkayAfrica talked with OKAN about their latest record that is emotional and nostalgic but energetic, and honors the richness of Afro-Cuban rhythms and the legacy of their musicians.

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Here's Some Explosive Afro-Cuban Hip-Hop From La Dame Blanche

We premiere the Cuban artist's booming new single "No Da Para Na."

Cuban singer, flautist, and percussionist Yaite Ramos Rodriguez, better known as La Dame Blanche, pens striking songs that mix cumbia, hip-hop, dancehall, and reggae into a sonic blend you can't ignore.

Yaite grew up in a respected musical household in Cuba. Her father, Jesus "Aguaje" Ramos, is a trombonist who serves as the artistic director of the well-known Buena Vista Social Club and plays with the Afro-Cuban All Stars.

La Dame Blanche is now readying the release of her third album, Bajo El Mismo Cielo, due May 25 from Nacional Records. She's sharing the premiere of her latest single, "No Da Para Na," with us here today.

"No Da Para Na" is a booming track about Yaite's surroundings and environment growing up in Marina Pinar del Río, "where a nest of characters inhabited, nourished, and influenced her life," her label explains.

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