Daymé Arocena’s vocal repertoire encompasses scatting, Afro-Cuban chanting, scratchy-throated whispers, and a deep, gusty laugh.
On her cover of the classic “Cry Me A River” (not the Justin Timberlake track), the 22-year-old from Havana sings to a ritualistic rumba beat, her voice pouring liquid over hectic conga beats before breaking out in soulful celebration of the storied perfect combination of Cuban music and jazz. While U.S. and Cuban politicians currently struggle to find common ground, Arocena’s big voice finds harmony in the two countries’ shared musical history.
“Cry Me a River” is one of four tracks on Arocena’s first solo EP, produced by Gilles Peterson as part of the Havana Cultura series on his Brownswood label. The recording introduces a precocious artist with a typically Cuban wide range that flows easily from emotional ballads to the call of timba dance music. The swinging track “El Ruso” lightly touches on life in Havana in the years of Soviet influence.