Daymé Arocena Opens a Window to Her Santería Spirituality on ‘Trilogía’ EP

Lead Photo: Photo by Feli Gutierrez. Courtesy of Carnaval de Bahidorá
Photo by Feli Gutierrez. Courtesy of Carnaval de Bahidorá
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Jazz singer and composer Daymé Arocena’s star has risen high since debuting in 2015 with her Havana Cultura Sessions EP, and she’s now ready to take her next step. The Cuban musician recently announced her upcoming album Sonocardiogram, out on September 6 through Brownswood Recordings, but before that, she compiled three songs from the album into an EP aptly called Trilogía, so we can get a taste of what’s coming.

Arocena has extensively explored her Santería spirituality on her music, and this is precisely the topic Trilogía is built around, as it comprises three movements are praises dedicated to the orishas they’re named after.

These compositions aren’t exactly new. Arocena wrote Trilogía when she was only 17 years old to participate in a music competition in Cuba. In an attempt to enrich her jazz and classical craft, she dug deep into old Afro-Cuban music, deeply rooted in religious drumming, and her connection was so strong, she ended up becoming a Santería practitioner. This means Trilogía represents both a musical and spiritual awakening for Arocena, and she has finally found the right time to share this work.

Recorded in Havana like the rest of Sonocardiogram, Trilogía is a jazz EP which borrows from classical music and Afro-Cuban rhythms like rumba. Sacred batá drumming is expertly translated using regular drum kits, and more impressively, through Arocena’s exquisite choral arrangements, performed by herself with help from Jorge Luis Lagarza, her go-to keyboard player.

In many ways, the music on Trilogía references the three orishas. Oyá’s strong character manifests through Arocena’s bold delivery on the opening track, and its tempestuous drumming punctuated by cymbal crashes mimic the thunderstorms the goddess is associated to.

On her Primavera Sound set this year, Arocena dedicated “Oshún” to all the women in the world, including “everyone who feels like a woman.” The song overflows with feminine energy, balancing between a pastoral choir and African percussion; between praises in Spanish and Yoruba, showcasing Santería’s syncretic nature with the Catholic religion.

Arocena is a Yemayá devotee, so the closing track feels a little more special. She turns to the mother orisha’s softer side, using delicate piano strokes to mimic drops of the water the goddess represents. Its repetitive chant invites us to join in, sing along and heal our souls.

There’s no doubt Sonocardiogram will be a document of Arocena’s strength as a singer and composer, but Trilogía is a beautiful window to her spirituality to which we’re thankful to be invited.

Listen to the EP here: