Following a widely acclaimed self-titled debut in 2018, which earned Grammy as well as Latin Billboard nominations, the American-Cuban supergroup continues its world conquest with a second LP on the prestigious New York label Daptone Records, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
When Orquesta Akokán burst onto the world scene just three years ago, their compelling take on the mambo put an immediate spotlight on the richness of Cuban music. New York-based Cuban singer José “Pepito” Gómez, New York producer and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Plasse (Chulo Records), and arranger Michael Eckroth (from Phoenix, Arizona) joined forces to create a band made up of some of Havana’s finest musicians. As well as being Daptone’s first Spanish album, the band’s eponymous 2018 debut quickly garnered a very eclectic and eager audience, leading to a world tour with notable concerts at the Lincoln Center in New York and at famous calendar dates in France (Nice Jazz Festival, Fiest’A Sète, Les Nuits de Fourvière, etc.).
Orquesta Akokán is now back with 16 Rayos, an album recorded in the famous Egrem studios in Havana (Buena Vista’s spot). It is comprised of 10 original songs that illustrate all the magic and creativity of this unique combo. Driven by a sense of limitless possibility, the Cuban-American ensemble continues to explore the island’s rich palette of rhythms and repertoires, pushing the boundaries and drawing on folk and religious traditions. The deep spirituality of Cuban musicians, as well as their knowledge of traditional music, is combined with the group’s modern sensibility: the album echoes the story of the 16 rays of the sun, a gift from Olofi (one of the supreme manifestations of divinity in the Yoruba religion) to Obàtálá (father of the sky and creator of human bodies) so that he can care for the children of the Earth. The first single and opening track, “Mi Conga Es De Akokán,” is a unique fusion of the folkloric rhythms of the Santiago de Cuba conga matched with the powerful horns of the mambo.
16 Rayos by Orquesta Akokán, out on October 22 via Dapton Records.