Building on the success of their Juno-winning album, OKAN are set to return with another inspired effort called Okantomi.
The third recording by the Toronto-based duo of Elizabeth Rodriguez and Magdelys Savigne melds Afro-Cuban forms including sacred Lacumi chants and rhythms with virtuosic jazz and classical performances.
Watch the music video for “La Reina del Norte”:
Having continued to mature as both composers and performers since their 2020 album Espiral won the Juno Award for world music album of the year, the duo uses their latest recording as an opportunity to explore the tensions between their love of their homeland, the heartbreak of witnessing how the country’s continued political and economic crises affect the island’s population, and their experiences as Latina immigrants to a country with its own set of inequities and contradictions when it comes to racism and human rights.
Okantomi features guest appearances by Cuban heavyweights spanning multiple generations, including vocalist Daymé Arocena, guitarist Elmer Ferrer, pianist Miguel de Amas (of NG La Banda), and bassist Roberto Riveron (of Klimax and Cubanismo). The recording also features the renowned classical violinist Lara St. John.
Produced by Canadian pianist Jeremy Ledbetter, Okantomi moves between global jazz, classical, tropical and pop, with a spirit of adventure that remains grounded in the powerful West African, European and Indigenous fusions that have shaped the musical development of Cuba since the 16th century.
“Like with all our compositions, the songwriting process for this album was very organic,” Rodriguez says. “Each track began with a melody or line that came to my mind and wouldn’t leave me alone until I got it out. After I captured the initial idea, often on my phone, Mags helped me with the arrangement and the rhythms of the piece. Most of the songs were composed and developed over the course of the pandemic and reflect the personal growth that in retrospect we can see that we’ve both undergone as we’ve dealt with miscarriages, disappointments and just the general struggle to survive as artists.”
Here’s the track listing:
- Trail Blazer
- Tender is the Night
- My Foolish Heart
- The Kicker
- Jessica’s Birthday
- Spring Regardless
- Last of the Rounders
- Is That So?
- Napoleon’s Prelude
OKAN’s Okantomi is out Oct. 9, 2023, via Lulaworld Records.