After 20 years as the lead vocalist of Conjunto CÉspedes, the group she founded with her brother and nephew in the early '80s, singer/composer Bobi CÉspedes has branched out on her own w

After 20 years as the lead vocalist of Conjunto Céspedes, the group she founded with her brother and nephew in the early '80s, singer/composer Bobi Céspedes has branched out on her own with an album that mixes Cuban tradition with contemporary elements, from R&B and funk to dance beats. It's an intriguing mix. Céspedes kicks off with "Rezos" and the ensuing "Obatala," both of which are literally prayers to the Yoruba deity, set over minimalist piano and bata drums. The initial "Rezos," in particular, acquires a trance-like feel, thanks to its electric bassline. Céspedes offers more standard old-style Cuban fare in "California" but the urge to experiment is too strong. "Anoche," whose melody and piano accompaniment suggest an old-fashioned bolero, throws the listener off with its hip-hop bass and drum beats that extend throughout the tumbao. Céspedes offers a refreshing taste of how tradition and innovation can intertwine, without sacrificing either in the process. Ultimately, though, Rezos is a welcome break from the "Buena Vista" rut Cuban music has fallen into.—LC