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Arawak Uhuru - Sélène Saint-Aimé

Sélène Saint‑Aimé: It’s all about Potomitan

A revelation at the Victoires du Jazz (French music awards) in 2021, Sélène Saint-Aimé will release her second album on 25th March 2022.

After her first jazz album Mare Undarum (‘sea of waves’ in Latin) that looked moonwards, for her second album Sélène Saint-Aimé brings out the double bass and her suave voice on Potomitan.

As a taster, the French artist has released the track “Arawak Uhuru”. ‘Arawak’ refers to the indigenous peoples of the West Indies – or more precisely to their language – and ‘Uhuru’ means freedom in Swahili. A real three part bèlè (bèlè is a genre of music centred around Martinique, combining singing, drumming, dancing, and storytelling), this song pays tribute to native Caribbean peoples, some of whom Sélène Saint-Aimé counts amongst her forebears. 

Sélène Saint-Aimé is a singer-songwriter, double bass player and performer. She started playing music at the age of 18 at the Paris College of Music, then at the Conservatoire de Boulogne-Billancourt. After three years of learning jazz, she flew to New York and continued her education alongside masters of the genre: the saxophonist Steve Coleman took her under his wing, she spent time with the bassist Lonnie Plaxico, and rubbed shoulders with Ron Carter. Playing live has always fuelled her musicology and Saint-Aimé has travelled to Cuba, Syracuse, the West Indies, and Morocco to soak up a wide range of rhythms and sounds.
For this new album, it is the West Indies that has inspired her, and more particularly the Martinique of her ancestors. The Poto Mitan that give this album its title has a double meaning – it is the central pillar holding up Haitian voodoo temples, as well as a name for ‘mother’ in the French West Indies, on whom a family’s balance is based. Recorded in Paris during sessions that were driven by improvisation, the eleven tracks on the album draw from the worlds of traditional Caribbean music. They certainly bear the islands’ signature sounds, with master drummer Sonny Troupé (who played ka drums on Mare Undarum) and Boris Reine-Adelaïde joining on bèlè drums. Making up the band are Cuban saxophonist Irving Acao, Guillaume Latil (cello), Mathias Lévy (violin), and Hermon Mehari (trumpet). With the gates of improvisation flung wide open, Potomitan sounds like a ceremony where the spirits of jazz and Sélène Saint-Aimé’s Caribbean heritage fuse.

Potomitan, out on March 25, 2022 via Komos.