At 24 it’s pretty undeniable that Daymé Arocena has talent by the bucketload. Her latest release ‘Cubafonía’ on tastemaker extraordinaire Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label does a damn fine job of showcasing that talent.
The styles represented are strongly influenced by her Afro-Cuban roots, with splashes of rumba rhythms and vocal scats punctuating the first half of the album. Super-fun ‘Mambo Na’ Mà’ lifts you with it’s escalating up and down opening riff before breaking into claps and layered vocals from Arocena. As the song tails off into its close the album shifts direction.
From here we move to more Western styles. Soul slow jam ‘Cómo’ is rich in luscious strings and horns and presents vocals in both Spanish and English, evidencing that the Cuban songstress is equally adept at penning powerful lyrics in a second language too. Her command of the words she sings and the fashion in which she delivers them sweeps you away into her musical world with ease. The effortless simplicity of the arrangement on ‘Ángel’; vocal, piano, upright bass and just the subtlest tap of percussion may be sparse, yet you still find yourself wrapped in a cloak of her sound.
Things return to more traditional styles, get a little more playful and, dare we say it, pop on ‘It’s Not Gonna Be Forever’. The latin rhythms and scats remain, but with the chorus of backing vocals echoing the songs title it feels like there’s a light commercial sheen.
To us it seems Daymé Arocena is near to finding her sweet spot. We don’t think this will be the crowning glory of her career as a singer and she’s already at a damn high point. Our worry is that we mortals won’t be able to handle the thinning air as we continue on the musical journey she is taking us on into the musical stratosphere.