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Cantos a los Orishas

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Album Review

Far removed from his usual Latin jazz releases, 2002's Cantos a los Orishas focuses on the other side of percussionist Francisco Aguabella. The title translates to "Songs for the Orishas," or the gods of Afro-Cuban Santeria religious practice. These 11 tracks, performed by Aguabella on bata (the sacred drums of this tradition) with a percussion and voice ensemble, Sus Tambores Bata named with Aguabella, who are strictly known for their Cuban music, with no American jazz influences at all. The captivating, hypnotic polyrhythms (known as bembe) and chanted vocals sound even to the world music novice like ceremonial music; the mood is solemn, though never dirge-like or bleak, and celebratory throughout. This CD release combines five older recordings previously released on small-circulation cassettes with six brand-new tracks.


Born: 10 October 1925 in Matanzas, Cuba

Genre: Latin Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Drummer/percussionist Francisco Aguabella emigrated to New York City from his native Matanzas, Cuba -- where African music was a tradition -- in 1957. He followed a long line of Cuban drummers who made their mark in America: Chano Pozo, Patato Valdez, Candido, and Mongo Santamaria. Aguabella's music fuses traditional African and Latin rhythms with smooth jazz/soul for an electrifying sound. His proficiency on the bata (talking drums of Yoruba origin) made him a wanted man. He first worked with Dizzy...
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