Afro-Latinas sing to the santos, the ancestors, and the tradition

Within the West African Yoruba custom, which survived in numerous locations within the New World, all ceremonies are opened with homage paid to the orisha Elegua (or Eleggua), identified additionally because the Voudou lwa Papa Legba, the proprietor of the crossroads and the opener of paths. 

And so I’ll open right this moment’s story with songs to him, beginning with Afro-Cuban jazz singer Daymé Arocena, from her album Cubafonia.

In a 2017 interview with Okay Africa, Arocena speaks to the album’s opening. “Eleggua begins and finishes the whole lot in Santeria,” she mentioned. “He’s the God of the 21 Methods and for us it is actually essential to all the time take the suitable path. That’s the reason [I] began this album enjoying for him, ‘trigger we’re searching for the important thing of the most effective ‘approach.’ In Cuba we name this type of rhythm ‘Afro’—we adopted many traditions from Africa that are actually a part of the folklore and tradition of Cuba.”

Arocena opens “Eleggua” by pouring a libation and praying.

Omi tutu (Recent water)

Ana Tutu (freshen the highway)

Ache tutu (freshen my religious energy)

Ile Tutu (freshen my house)

The highly effective tune facilities round a refrain of “Moyuba.” 

When Arocena sings “Moyuba” (or “Mo’juba”) to the orisha, she is giving reward to them. Many ethnolinguists have acknowledged that the foundation of the time period “mojo” we use right here within the States (and right here on Each day Kos) comes from “mo’juba.”

The Yoruba of West Africa have a sacred phrase, Mojuba which implies merely Thanks. The origins of the phrase Mojo lie right here. The Mojubas are prayers which are uttered to the divine thanking them for his or her glory and highly effective steering. Through the years this has drifted in direction of a extra trendy definition that means energy and magic usually.


Mojo is all over the place.

In 2016, Shanna Collins profiled Arocena for VIBE journal.

Raised in Havana, she was hailed a musical prodigy, changing into a educated composer, arranger, choir director, and band chief, along with singing. At eight, she started performing semi-professionally; six years later, she turned the lead singer of Los Primos. Her charming demeanor has captivated audiences worldwide, notably with Grettel Jimenez Singer of Paper, in an interesting interview piece.

The Cuban songstress is an avid practitioner of Santería, an Afro-Caribbean faith based mostly on Yoruba beliefs, often dressing in a turban, complimented by an all white ensemble, symbolizing the religion. “”Madres”, the primary tune within the Nueva Period album is supposed to be a prayer for my two religious moms, Oshún and Yemayá, who’re additionally moms to the rivers and the seas. It’s basically about moms and daughters on the planet and the power we’d like from one another.”

She credit the religion for serving to her to ship an otherworldly efficiency onstage: “My head is unquestionably Yemayá, sensible, but nourishing and forgiving, however very protecting of these I really like. My physique nonetheless is a hundred percent Oshún. She is the orisha of affection, magnificence, femininity, and sensuality. Her physique is voluptuous and it carries pleasure identical to mine. I wasn’t all the time keen on my physique.” With the observe of Santería got here a blossoming of confidence. “I wasn’t all the time keen on my physique. I was ashamed of how I regarded, how quick I’m, about my pores and skin coloration. Because of this, my spirit was crushed and my presence on stage was tarnished by my very own judgment. That’s prior to now now. I’ve mastered the artwork of not simply loving however adoring myself. As ladies, we should perceive who we’re and what we’re product of, settle for what nature has given us, and be comfy with our sexuality. No person can resist that,” says Arocena.

Right here is Arocena’s tune to the orisha moms, Yemaya and Oshún.

Additionally from Cuba, the vocal group Sexto Sentido sings to Eleggua, with the drum and clavé rhythms supplied by hand clapping.

Gemma Wilson wrote about Sexto Sentido for ISingmag in 2017, describing the group as “a Cuban vocal revolution.”

The group consists of Arlety Valdés, Yudelkis LaFuente, Eliene Castillo, and (new lady) Wendy Vizcaíno and they’re simply a power to be reckoned with. Think about if Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, and Alicia Keys had been born and raised in Cuba, and had been associates since 13 years previous. As a result of that’s basically the story of Sexto Sentido. The 4 associates (which included their authentic singer Melvis Estevez) met at one in all Havana’s elite conservatoires that was designed to select up rising expertise from a younger age and nurture it regardless of the kid’s background. They fashioned their band quickly after and have become unstoppable, receiving quite a few awards and being despatched by the Authorities all around the world in addition to working with legendary Cuban musicians akin to Chucho Valdés.

Their work has been a big cultural success, typically bringing in expertise from different elements of the world. Their first album, “Bossa Cubana”, had a Russian producer and was supported by the Brazilian musician João Donato. It gave them their first hit (title observe) and was a mixture of worldwide covers, in addition to their very own authentic items.

The second album “Mi Feeling” was rooted in Cuba’s indigenous jazz motion (‘fílin’) of the 60s and though it was a distinct segment album, it was rated as the most effective jazz CDs within the USA that 12 months (2008). The songs can nonetheless often be heard on rotation in sure US markets.

Not all songs to the orishas use African rhythms or Yoruba (Lucumi) language. The aforementioned Celia Cruz, with La Sonora Matancera (The Sound of Matanzas), salutes Elegua on this well-known bolero. The lyrics reference numerous rituals and attributes of Elegua: knocking on the ground thrice for him (3 and 21 are his sacred numbers), in addition to getting him sweet and toys. Elegua is commonly seen as each a playful trickster youngster and an previous man. 

Although La Reina Celia sang a number of the music of Santeria, the lady most well-known for her information of Afro-Cuban spiritual music was Merceditas Valdés, whose nickname, given to her by Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz, was La Pequena Aché de Cuba (The Little Aché of Cuba). 

Valdés was born within the Cayo Hueso neighborhood in Havana on 14th October 1928. When she was twelve years previous, and with out her mother and father´consent, she utilized to compete in “The Supreme Court docket of Artwork” (a programme that launched the careers of many musicians); she sang two items: “Babalú”, a theme popularised by Miguelito Valdés, and “La negra Mercé” by Ernesto Lecuona. She was granted an award, the primary of many.


On the finish of the 1940s she recorded ritual music for the Victor firm, and within the 1950s her voice was recorded by the Panart label. This final decade was essential for her creative life: she made intensive excursions as a part of essential productions of the famend Tropicana cabaret, performing in Paris, Venezuela, and different South-American international locations. At Carnegie Corridor in New York she gave the primary live performance of Afro-Cuban music, with an eighty-strong orchestra performed by Gilberto Valdés. Their success was so resounding that the they had been employed, along with Tito Puente, to make a tour throughout the USA that prolonged to Canada. She additionally sang on the Apollo Theatre in New York.


Through the years that adopted she continued working, often acting on radio and tv, providing live shows each in Cuba and overseas and making information.  Along with the Yoruba Andabo, Oru (directed by Sergio Vitier), and Los amigos teams (the latter directed by Guillermo Barreto, her life companion), Valdés carried out essential work rescuing and disseminating African music.

Right here, Valdés pays homage to Yemaya. YouTuber Habana Harlem notes that the 1991 live performance on the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires “paperwork an essential interval of collaboration between Merceditas and Yoruba Andabo” and “options Pancho Kinto, Roman Diaz, Chan, Fariñas and Olga Lydia dancing the a part of Yemaya.”

In Brazil, Yemaya is written as Iemanjá, which I wrote about here in 2014. Yemaya is the priesthood I’m initiated to within the Afro-Cuban custom of worship, and one of many singers I love who pays homage to her is Brazil’s Virginia Rodrigues. 

World Music Central presents this 2018 profile of Rodrigues.

Virginia Rodrigues was born in Salvador, Brazil, December 31, 1964. Virginia Rodrigues is a lady of humble origins who grew up in Salvador de Bahia. She spent her youth singing in church choirs and Afro-Brazilian candomble ceremonies. She was invited to take part within the Olodum Theater, a musical theater open to younger individuals from the favelas (shanty houses), the place legendary artist Caetano Veloso first heard her. Captivated by her voice, he instantly requested her to file for his label, Natasha Information, with the assistance of Olodum director Marcio Meireles.

Virginia’s first live shows in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo had been an incredible success. Subtle Brazilian critics and media had been left speechless and sometimes in tears. Her visits to Expo ’98 in Lisbon and New York Metropolis left these audiences equally amazed on the energy and fantastic thing about her voice.

Caetano Veloso wrote about producing her debut album, “That is our wealth: the love that in Brazil those that love music dedicate to 1 one other. Nobody takes this from us. And the voice of Virginia is because the expression of this loving substance in a pure state.”

Belinda Acosta wrote a couple of 2003 efficiency Rodrigues gave in Texas for The Austin Chronicle.

When Rodrigues’ enchanting voice wafted from the One World stage throughout the second of two units final Sunday, it was as if the gods mentioned, “Sure, that is the place the divine comes to go to Earth.” Singing completely in Portuguese, Rodrigues’ stunning voice is comprehensible in any language. Whereas it looks as if overcooked reward to say her voice is incomparable, on this case, it is merely the reality. Singing picks from her new disc, Mares Profundos, Rodrigues delved into the traditional Afro-Samba tune cycle first made well-liked within the Sixties by Brazilian music legends Vinícius de Moraes and Baden Powell. Backed by cello, guitar, percussion, and a flute/sax participant, Rodrigues’ profound voice moved from majestic contralto in “Lapinha” and “Canto de Xangô” to an ethereal soprano in “Canto de Iemanjá” with jaw-dropping effortlessness. Sung solely with flute accompaniment, “Iemanjá” was maybe probably the most gorgeous show of her celestial excessive notes. Contrasted with a moody cello accompaniment on “Lamento de Exu,” Rodrigues electrified the house along with her otherworldly glide from deep, mossy notes, to that pinprick sharp soprano that breaks by means of the sky like a shaft of daylight by means of menacing clouds.

Try a studio recording of the “ethereal” and “gorgeous” “Canto de Iemanjá” beneath.

Yet one more Afro-Brazilian singer who pays homage to African custom is Mariene de Castro, who was born in 1978 in Salvador, Bahia, which is likely one of the main houses of Afro-Brazilian faith. Her web site has a short biography in Portuguese; I’m posting a unfastened translation.

On the age of 5, she already carried out in dance reveals at Teatro Castro Alves, in Salvador, her hometown. In her teenagers, she launched her voice as a member of the group Timbalada, by Carlinhos Brown and, in 1996, she had the chance to carry out her first solo present, in Pelourinho. That day, French producers had been within the viewers who had been enchanted by Mariene, and invited her to a tour of 20 cities in France. On the time, she was even in contrast by native critics to the legendary singer Edith Piaf, as a result of power of her interpretation and the distinctiveness of her vocal timbre.

On this video she sings to the orisha Nana, who was dropped at Brazil by the Fon individuals of Benin and Dahomey. Nana is a water deity, however not of the turbulent waters of the ocean represented by Yemaya, or the waters of the rivers which are Ochun’s area. Nana is the deity of the nonetheless water of lakes and muddy swamps—in essence, she is the primordial ooze. Nana is previous, walks slowly, and makes use of a keep on with assist herself. 

Past faith, Afro-Latinas additionally pay tribute to total cultures which might not exist had been it not for the historical past of the slave commerce and colonization.

Probably the most superb figures in up to date Afro-Cuban music is Omara Portuondo, who’s presently 90 years previous. Angel Romero wrote her profile for World Music Central in 2017.

Omara Portuondo Pelaez was born in Cayo Hueso (Havana) in 1930. Omara’s mom got here from a wealthy Spanish household and was anticipated to marry into one other society household. As a substitute she ran off with the person she cherished, a tall, good-looking baseball participant from the Cuban nationwide crew. Furthermore he was black and in these days blended race marriages had been nonetheless frowned upon in Cuba. “My mom all the time hid the truth that she had married a black man. In the event that they ran into one another on the street they needed to ignore one another. However at house they recreated what society denied them – a haven of peace and concord. They cherished one another very a lot,” Omara recollects.


American musician Ry Cooder had first come throughout Omara when he was in Cuba in 1995 recording with The Chieftains. The next 12 months, when Cooder returned to Havana with World Circuit’s Nick Gold for the Buena Vista periods, Omara was by coincidence within the Egrem studios on the identical time. Cooder instantly invited her to sing the bolero ‘Veinte Años’ with Compay Segundo, and it turned one of many highlights of the album.

Omara went on to grow to be a part of the legendary Buena Vista performances in Amsterdam and at New York’s Carnegie Corridor, and appeared on the follow-up album, Buena Vista Social Membership Presents Ibrahim Ferrer. Her personal Buena Vista Social Membership Presents Omara Portuondo, was the third launch within the sequence.

Her video “Sabanas Blancas” (white sheets) paints a visible and aural portrait of Havana, Cuba.


Whereas most music followers readily place songs in Spanish into the Afro-Latino class, we regularly neglect that French can be derived from Latin, and the Creole languages of the Caribbean are additionally Latino.

The Creole dialect spoken by the most important group is heard in Haiti. Outsiders assume that French is the first language of Haiti, however that is much from the reality: Only about 10% of the population speaks French.

Probably the most well-known songstresses of Haiti really needed to spend a lot of her life in exile from her homeland. Her identify was Martha Jean-Claude.

Born on March 21, 1919 in Port-au-Prince, Martha Jean Claude was an actress, dancer, singer, author, compositor, philanthropist, an activist and maybe probably the most revered Haitian artist within the worldwide scene. Martha Jean Claude was very profitable from the start of her profession, as a result of her extraordinarily stunning voice and the deep connection she had with the individuals by means of her folkloric and Voodoo lyrics. An avid speaker towards the abuse of the lots by authorities, led to her arrest in 1952, beneath then President Paul Eugene Magloire, after the publication of one in all her play “Anriette” which officers deemed to be towards the federal government. She bought imprisoned whereas pregnant. Had she not been launched when she did, she would have given beginning in jail, as a result of simply 2 days after her launch, her first youngster was born. Fearing for her life, Martha Jean Claude exiled to Cuba, on December 20, 1952, becoming a member of her husband, Victor Marabal, a Cuban Journalist whom she had met in Venezuela at one in all her live performance, previous to her incarceration. Martha was already identified within the Spanish talking neighborhood, and her fame simply risen much more. She went on to make look on many TV and Radio present in Cuba.


After practically three a long time in exile, and clearly being house sick, as she expressed by means of lots of her singing. Martha Jean Claude got here again to her beloved land after the autumn of Jean Claude Duvalier in 1986, the place she would have one in all her most acclaimed live shows, in entrance of 1000’s and 1000’s who had been pleased and wanting to see her.

Right here is Jean-Claude’s full album, Chante Haiti, A Voodoo Expertise.

It by no means fails to amaze me how a lot music we miss out on just because we are likely to restrict our listening to songs in English. Identified worldwide, although not as nicely right here within the U.S., is Haitian chanteuse Emeline Michel.

Named the “Joni Mitchell of Haïti,” Emeline Michel has emerged because the reigning queen of Haitian tune. Her songs merge native Haitian compas and rara with jazz, pop, bossa nova and samba. A charming performer, versatile vocalist, completed dancer, songwriter and producer, Emeline sings in French and Haitian Creole, and her world-wide live shows and 7 CD recordings have catapulted to worldwide acclaim. 

Right here’s a 2021 add of “Fò’m Ale.” 

Right here’s a part of Michel’s biography, from her official website.

Haitian songstress and Pink Cross Ambassador Emeline Michel is internationally acclaimed for fusing pop, jazz, blues, and conventional Haitian rhythms into deeply shifting, joyful music delivered with a charismatic dwell present.

A grasp entertainer, Michel has shared her message with audiences for greater than 20 years, together with appearances at Carnegie Corridor, The United Nations, Milan’s Teatro Manzoni, Florida’s Kravis Middle, Pageant Worldwide de Jazz (Haiti), Ontario’s Luminato Pageant, Montreal Worldwide Jazz Pageant, New Orleans Jazz Fest, Tasmania’s Ten Days On The Island, Zimbabwe’s Harare Worldwide Arts Pageant, and MTV’s Hope for Haiti Now: A International Profit for Earthquake Reduction.

Hailed by the New York Instances as a “diplomat of music” and “the dancing ambassador with a voice serene and heat just like the breeze,” Michel started singing with the gospel choir within the church of Gonaïves, Haiti. After finding out on the Detroit Jazz Middle she returned to Haiti, the place her profession blossomed. Now based mostly in New York Metropolis, she runs her personal manufacturing firm, Manufacturing Cheval de Feu, and is a cherished voice for social points surrounding ladies and youngsters worldwide. Her most up-to-date album Quintessence captures the reverence and gratitude for the current second, showcasing Michel’s virtuoso vocal, singing in Creole, French and English, with finger-picked guitars, soulful backing vocals, a youngsters’s choir, Haitian percussion, lush strings, playful trumpet and accordion strains.

Some artists with Haitian roots who began out performing in English have gone again to discover their heritage. One such performer, who now sings in each English and Creole, is Haitian-Canadian Mélissa Laveaux.

April 2016. Singer, songwriter and guitarist, Mélissa Laveaux heads to Haiti in quest of her roots and on a mission to honour her ancestors. 20 years have passed by since she final set foot on the island when she was 12 years previous. She appears like a stranger and but, on the identical time, she experiences the fun of an exile returning house, for Haiti is an intrinsic a part of her identification.

Born in Canada to Haitian mother and father and armed with a patched-together vocabulary of Creole  from the metaphor-laden expressions and vibrant catch-phrases she’s heard her mom commerce along with her aunts over long-distance  cellphone calls, she doesn’t know what is going to emerge  musically from her pilgrimage. However as she dives in and discovers the people songs that bred and nourished Haitians artists for generations, she is seduced by the depth and opulence of her extraordinary heritage.

She returned house from Haiti with a head full of sounds, melodies, moods and tales of distant occasions, as a track-list emerged, wealthy within the multi-layered allegories and symbolism which are attribute of Haitian poetry and tune, like a coded language of resistance.

Right here’s Laveaux, performing at Radio Nova Stay in 2018.

One other elder songstress of Haiti was Emerante de Pradines. The video beneath presents a quick biography.

De Pradines’ most famous song invoked Papa Legba. “Legba Na Console” interprets as Legba, We Console Ourselves!” Since we opened the highway on this Sunday’s music journey with Elegua, we’ll shut it with him as nicely, with Mélissa Laveaux’s model of the de Pradines traditional.

I hope you have got loved this musical journey to the Afro-Caribbean and South America. Please be part of me for extra Afro-Latin music within the feedback beneath, and be happy to share your favorites.

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