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Noted musical tastemaker Gilles Peterson has a well-documented love affair with Cuba, and he has become a champion of local artists thanks to collaborative project Havana Cultura. Here are some of the Cuban musicians that Peterson loves.
Twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz were raised in France by their father Anga Diaz, a famous percussionist who was once a member of Buena Vista Social Club. They variously sing in English, French, Spanish and Yoruba, a language their Nigerian ancestors spoke prior to their arrival in Cuba as slaves to the then-ruling Spanish in the 18th century. “Ibeyi” is the Yoruba word for twins. Their music is loosely defined as electronic soul, and it’s caught the attention of many music critics of late.
Rapper and singer Danay Suarez draws on jazz, hip hop and reggae in her work, such as 2016 album Palabras Manuales. Her earlier album, Polvo de la Humedad is also a good listen.
Signed to Gilles Peterson’s own Brownswood Recordings label, Dayme Arocena continues to grow as an artist. Since teaming up with Peterson she has been on tour in the US and Europe, drawing rave reviews for her neo-soul music.
As a stalwart of the Havana electronic scene, Wichy de Vedado has been around for years. He is known for making tracks that blend folkloric Cuban music with electronic beats, and in the early years of his career he had to struggle by with minimal equipment. Look out for his DJ sets in the thriving Havana club scene.
Born to an Ethiopian father and a Cuban mother, singer Arema Arega was featured on Peterson’s Havana Cultura Anthology. Her song “Ay” drew serious plaudits in the music press, and she is also known as a painter.
Since 2000, the Swiss-Cuban singer Canizares has lived in Europe, where she moved to finish her study of the violin. Originally trained as a classical musician, she now sings in a number of styles including jazz.
Pianist and composer Eliane Correa leads the En El Aire Project, which has become another favourite of Peterson. The project began in London in 2011 as a way of involving Cuban jazz and funk musicians in performing Correa’s compositions. Check out the Rumba con Flores album.