Alone on the stage, but accompanied by rhythmic drums and chanting, 24-year-old Cuban composer and band leader, Daymé Arocena, began to sing. Soon, she was wagging her finger rhythmically, swaying side to side in building momentum, before raising her long white skirt, in the classic style of a Cuban dancer, and moving gracefully across the stage in bare feet.
Daymé Arocena is known for her powerful voice, always dressing in white, and a devotion to the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria. Arocena, who says music runs in her family, began her singing career early. By age 4, she says, she was singing and performing for every block in her neighborhood. By age 8, she had joined community choir D’Senitos and appeared with them on national Cuban TV. By age 14, she had become principal singer of a big band, Los Primos.
Upon finishing school, Arocena was asked by Cuba’s Minister of Culture to sing in the Jazz Plaza, where she met a mentor in famous Canadian jazz saxophonist Jane Bunnett. Together they formed the band Maqueque, launching Arocena onto the global stage at age 22. After being discovered by BBC broadcaster GIlles Peterson via the Havana Cultura initiative, and signing with Brownswood Recordings, Arocena released her first album, Nueva Era, in June 2015. She has plans to release a new project, One Takes, in May.