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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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