Cuban vocalist, arranger, composer, and choir director Daymé Arocena makes a soulful mix of jazz and neo-soul, rooted in the West African and Cuban Santeria tradition. Born in Havana in 1992, Arocena was raised in a Santeria household and listened to a broad range of sounds, from traditional Cuban and African music to jazz, soul, and pop. Growing up, she studied classical music and played a variety of instruments before settling on singing as her main focus. By age eight, Arocena was already singing and dancing professionally, and at age 14, she became lead singer with the big band Los Primos. While still in music school, she formed the all-girl jazz ensemble Alami.
After graduating as a choir director, Arocena and Alami were invited to perform at Havana's Jazz Plaza Festival by Cuba's Minister of Culture. It was during that performance that Arocena caught the ear of visiting Canadian jazz clarinetist Jane Bunnett. Bunnett then brought the young singer to Toronto to perform and featured her on her 2014 Cuban jazz album, Jane Bunnett & Maqueque. Also in 2014, Arocena collaborated with British DJ Gilles Peterson on his Havana Cultura Sessions project. She then signed to Peterson's London-based Brownswood Recordings label. In 2015, Arocena released her debut album, Nueva Era, with the EP One Takes arriving the following year. Her sophomore long-player, Cubafonía, arrived in 2017. ~ Matt Collar