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Omar Sosa & Yilian Cañizares

Review by Michael Stone

Among the many Cuban musicians living far from home, Omar Sosa and Yilian Cañizares first met in southeastern France, when her quartet Ochumare opened for the Omar Sosa Quarteto AfroCubano at the Festival Château Clermont en Genevois in summer 2014. They discovered an immediate musical connection in their incorporation of the Lucumí spiritual traditions of Yoruba origin (known in Cuba as Santería) into the realm of international jazz improvisation.

Aguas is the latest of Omar’s many associations with gifted singers and instrumentalists from across the planet, testament to his versatility and border-crossing musical imagination. Drawing upon her Cuban, Venezuelan and Swiss conservatory training in violin and voice, and her extensive classical performance experience, Yilian has ranged far afield, working in a variety of genres with artists from Cuba, Tunisia, Cameroon, Lebanon, France, South Korea and the United States.

It was more than a year before they were able to follow up in Menorca to develop the project, in autumn 2015. Then Omar visited Yilian in Lausanne, Switzerland to continue the co-creative process. Lastly, they reconvened at Stefano Amerio’s Artesuono studio in Udine, Italy, finalizing the arrangements and laying down the tracks in a few days.

Dedicated to Oshun, the Lucumí goddess of love and the mistress of rivers, Aguas celebrates water as synonymous with life, a transformative source of energy, strength, destruction and creation. It is a lyrical invocation of water in its animation of all living organisms; its misty atmospheric omnipresence; its never-ending traversing of the Earth’s surface in glaciers, streams, lakes, rivers and oceans; and its coursing through a cavernous underworld.

In representing the watery vastness that has carried so many so far from home, their collaboration embodies the sensibilities of two generations of Cuban artists living outside the land of their birth. The 11 co-authored originals manifest a brilliant lightness of touch and pervasive spirituality on songs as diverse as “Dos Bendiciones,” “Oh Le Le” and “Oshun,” sung in a mix of Spanish, Lucumí and French.

An understated reflection upon and re-imagination of the artists’ cultural heritage, Aguas gives voice to a lively dialogue between Afro-Cuban spiritual practice and the Western jazz and classical traditions of their conservatory training in Cuba and beyond. - Michael Stone

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