Brownswood and Havana Cultura are delighted to announce this new EP from Cuban singer, composer, arranger, choir director, and band leader Daymé Arocena. At just 22 years old, Daymé is already a skillful, charismatic presence in Cuban music.
Daymé first came to the attention of François Renié, Communications Director at Cuban rum maker Havana Club and founder of the Havana Cultura platform (which co-produced the Havana Cultura album series with Brownswood Recordings) in 2008. He recalls: “Gilles and I met Dayme for the first time on Gilles’ first trip to Cuba, with Edrey [from Grammy nominated Cuban project Ogguere] improvising a rumba session at a friend’s place. She started to sing and we were amazed. She was just a teenager.” She already knew and listened to the singers, rappers and musicians involved in the Havana Cultura project, but was considered too young to join in. But, just a few years later, her time came with the Havana Cultura Mix project, which saw Gilles Peterson mentoring selected producers from around the world to make a record in Cuba with local musicians. She auditioned, prompting all the producers to decide they wanted to work with her. In the end, she sung on three tracks on the album, including the massive U Knew Before. Seeing huge potential in her, Gilles invited her to London to perform at the album launch event, where she enchanted the packed out audience, and it was decided she should record a solo project for Brownswood Recordings and Havana Cultura. The announcement brought out a loud, rich, infectious laugh instantly recognizable as Dayme’s deep and chocolaty voice. “My first record, here,” she squeals. “It’s a crazy dream.”
Recorded in just a few days in London and Havana, The Havana Cultura Sessions EP is a great introduction to Daymé’s broad ranging musical talent. Drama showcases her trademark mix of jazz and Latin styles. El Ruso is what Dayme calls ‘a funny song.’ Its story covers her mother’s enforced study of Russian during the heyday of Cuba’s relationship with the Soviets. “Life never says it; does truth tell a lie?” she sings. On Sin Empezar Daymé glows with the range and use of tones in a superb song. Mellow and slow, its moving and stunning inclusion of the trumpet playing slowly with elongated notes. The sharp and crisp drumming and the piano’s impressively subtle phrasesall work in harmony with the chorus and Dayme’s unusually delicate voice in response to some lyrics. A deep ruumba re-imagining of the American torch song Cry Me a River completes the package.