Soundbite | MUSIC: Soundbite | Indy Week

From folkloric son diva Bobi Cespedes (known for her work with San-Francisco-based Conjunto Cespedes) comes this hypnotic blending of Afro-Cuban prayers--Rezos--with the rhythms of hiphop, R&B, soca, reggae and electronica. The result is Santer'a music for the 21st century: chants to the Yoruba orishas set in a textured palette of BET-ready backbeats, Afro-Cuban rhythms, swimmy synth-tones and sacred drumming. Cespedes' distinctive voice, deep and cool as well water, unifies the ancient and modern elements.The gamble with her heretofore traditional sound pays off for Cespedes, a Yoruba-Lucum' priestess who brings decades of experience to this shimmering solo debut. Her laid-bare lyrics speak of everything from dream visitations to world events, and musical director Oriente Lopez (piano, flute) helps realize a new, syncretic sound for the modern diaspora of people who, like Cespedes, live across two or more cultures. On "California," a joyous paean to Cespedes' adopted homeland, the laughing trumpet of Afro-Cuban son riffs on the Beach Boys, while a South Asian sitar jams on the musical pun of the two "Indias" East and West. Bat drummers Michael Spiro, Jesus Diaz and Nengue Hernandez bring added authenticity to the sacred component of the album's Cuban influences.

On the more serious side, Cespedes' original compositions explore the loss of expatriation, love, conflict and nostalgia; they offer prayers for peace (both inner and global) to the ancient West African gods Obatala, Ogun, Ochun and Yemaya. "Donde est mi tranquilidd?" ("where is my tranquility?") is a question equally relevant for an abandoned lover or someone just watching the nightly news these days. Gathering up the personal with the political in a wide embrace, Rezos updates Cuba's distinctly African religious cosmology and let's it infiltrate the world of contemporary sound.

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