Release Date: June 10, 2014
YOSVANY TERRY releases his debut for 5Passion Music,
NEW THRONED KING, featuring his group Afro-Cuban Roots: Ye-dé-gbé
NEW THRONED KING is one of the most powerful releases of 2014, from anyone. A unique album that writes a new chapter of Afro-Cuban jazz, it draws on an endangered but deep branch of Afro-Cuban heritage: the arará tradition, from the territory that is now in the nation of Benin (known as Dahomey at the time of the middle passage from Africa to the Americas.)
Before making this album, YOSVANY TERRY was initiated into the arará sabalú cabildo (lodge) in Matanzas, Cuba. After earning the trust of his padrino, he learned a repertoire of sacred music and ceremony – maintained in Cuba since the nineteenth century in a way not possible in Africa – that had been systematically kept from outsiders. He commissioned a set of drums on which to play the music he was learning. So this album is of great historical importance, offering as it does something old that is new.
But this is not simply a folkloric album. YOSVANY TERRY is a composer. He’s an outstanding alto saxophone player, who’s played with the greatest bandleaders in Cuba and New York, and as the son of Cuba’s best-known shekere player, he’s a natural percussionist. But like other members of his increasingly celebrated generation of Latin jazz musicians, he’s above all a composer.
Greatly inspired by the music of the Afro-Cuban ceremonial repertoire, NEW THRONED KING comprises a collection of compositions that grew from YOSVANY TERRY’s determination to preserve the arará tradition. It presents for the first time the ritual chants of arará sabalú outside their natural ceremonial environment in Matanzas.
These songs are not even known in Havana. In offering musical portraits of the various foddun, or spirits, YOSVANY TERRY’s compositions function as an artistic offering to them that stems from a deep commitment. With invited guests from a variety of places and traditions, NEW THRONED KING traces an arc from Dahomey to Cuba to New York. With the New York-based YOSVANY TERRY doing research in his home country of Cuba, the project created an open circuit between the Afro-Cuban nerve centers of New York and Matanzas.
If you think lots of people must be doing this by now, think again. There’s not another record like this.
For the musicians of Terry’s Afro-Cuban Roots: Ye-dé-gbé ensemble, playing this music was a commitment beyond the normal call of musicianship, because it requires an understanding of the arará religious practitioner. The jazz side is anchored by Terry’s brother Yunior Terry on bass (who was initiated into the cabildo arará sabalú of Matanzas together with Yosvany) and a grandmaster of harmonic rhythm, Osmany Paredes, on piano. The arará drums are played by a superstellar battery of Terry, Román Díaz, Pedrito Martínez, and, from Matanzas via Oakland, Sandy Pérez, all on arará drums, plus Justin Brown on drumset. Congolese guitarist Dominic Kanza weaves into the music, as does pianist Jason Moran. Sonic environments and ghost voices are created by DJ / sound designer Val Jeanty, who, in Terry’s words, “brings her Haitian cosmogony with her” to a project that celebrates Haiti’s deep roots in Africa. Poet and cultural critic Ishmael Reed recites in honor of the vodún Mase.
What’s vodou doing in there? Born in Camagüey, Cuba, in 1971, YOSVANY TERRY grew up surrounded by African religions. Indeed, they were in his family. From his Haitian-descended mother’s side, he learned the traditions of the rada branch of Haitian vodú, which comes from Dahomey.
His introduction to the arará tradition and its specific hand drums occurred on a trip to Cuba with Steve Coleman’s group upon meeting and performing with the iconic ensemble Afro Cuba de Matanzas.
In the long history of Africans in the Americas, music and spirit keep each other alive. NEW THRONED KING is an ambitious work of new music that seeks to breathe the breath of life into a tradition that only needs one careless generation to die out. In doing so, it demonstrates the creative powers of YOSVANY TERRY and the musicians of YE-DE-GBÉ.
The Story of The New Throned King as told by Yosvany Terry:
THE MUSICIANS OF AFRO-CUBAN ROOTS: YE-DÉ-GBÉ . . .
. . . are well versed in different styles of music, but they also understand the Arará tradition from the perspective of the practitioner of Afro-Cuban religion, so they’re able to place the music on the correct spiritual plane.
My brother Yunior Terry provides the fat beats that inspire dancers. He acts as a bridge between the long line of Cuban bassists and the jazz bass tradition of the US. We share all our family tradition as well as the knowledge of the Sabalú cabildo of Matanzas . . . I have worked with Osmany Paredes for many years. His rhythmic sensibility is equal to that of any great drummer. He is one of the few players of his generation who carries within him the deep legacy of the school of Cuban piano . . .
Pedro Martínez, besides being one of the most in-demand percussionists today, has a voice that connects you with the vodun. He’s a studious musician who carries a lot of tradition under his belt . . .
Román Díaz is the first person I call in New York to consult on anything regarding our folklore. A master drummer who learned from many of the greatest tamboreros of Havana, he and Pedro have a unique chemistry playing together that is manifest in this recording. I have always considered him the spiritual leader of the band . . . Sandy Pérez put me on the right path to meet Maño in order to start the full journey that culminated with this recording. A resident of California, he comes from one of the most important traditional families of Matanzas — the Villamil family, a founding family of both Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and Afro Cuba de Matanzas. He grew up inside cabildo Sabalú as well as other tierras and cabildos in Matanzas . . . Justin Brown was born and raised in the funky city of Oakland. He brings the flexibility of a modern jazz drummer, but he comes out of the church . . . Dominick Kanza is Congolese, but he was open to learning the Arará tradition. His guitar sound and knowledge were essential to the recording. It wouldn’t be Cuban without the Congo thing. -Yos.
The core of the sound of YE-DÉ-GBÉ is a set of Arará drums that I commissioned from drum maker Gilberto Morales in Matanzas and brought back to New York. From large to small, they’re called the yonofó, which is the lead drum, the apitlí, and the wewé. There is another drum, called the akotó, which has the largest diameter and the lowest pitch, and which does not always play. Those names are only within the Arará Sabalú tradition. If you go to Jovellanos they have different names, because that’s Arará Majino.
1 Reuniendo la Nación (Bringing the Nation Together) is based on the toque de la nación, also called the toque de la tiñosa. That’s the drum pattern you do at the end of the ceremonies, when everybody’s dancing in the cabildo with the flag of the cabildo, the flag that represents who they are. They dance in a circle, representing the Arará nation. This number doesn’t have any chants. I see it as empowerment. It opens with the drums, plus Val Jeanty, a DJ / sound designer from
Haiti who brings her Haitian cosmogony with her. I hear ghosts in there. It’s contaminated with ghosts. Jason Moran and I, we’re just following them, weaving.
2 New Throned King is an arrangement of chants and drum toques for Asojano, who was known as Babalú in Yorubaland before he came to the Arará land, where the Arará people were expecting him. I tried to envision the patakín [story of the deities] of his coronation.
3 Walking Over Wave is dedicated to Afrekete, the vodun with a strong similarity to Yemayá. She’s motherly, she’s tender, she’s able to fish and feed the community, but at the same time she could be a big storm.
4 Laroko is one of the paths of Eleguá within the Arará tradition. These chants have never been heard in Cuba except in Matanzas. I wanted to capture the spirit of Eleguá, and I decided to do it very traditional, just voice and handclaps, then portray him as a trickster with the soprano sax.
5 Ojún Degara is the name of the old and famous cabildo in Jovellanos. They’re Arará Majino, a different group than Arará Sabalú. I decided to include knowledge from Ojún Degara as a way of incorporating something from their Maji tradition into the album. This is my arrangement of the song they sing at the beginning and close of their ceremonies.
6 Mase Nadodo tries to portray the energy of the deity Mase, the vodun who is similar to the orisha Oshún. I had gotten to know Ishmael Reed from working together with Kip Hanrahan, and I invited him to contribute something to this song. He was a wonderful collaborator. He wrote a poem that makes a parallel with the women warriors from Dahomey called Minos. The piano arpeggios are trying to re-create the image of the river.
7 Thunderous Passage is a sequence of chants dedicated to Gebioso, with his power of controlling thunder and lightning. Gebioso is the Changó of the Arará, but this path of him is named Wadé, and doesn’t have a counterpart in the Yoruba tradition. He’s like Changó as a small kid, almost like an Eleguá. This is the only one I presented in its most traditional way without touching it at all, with only drums, to hear the tradition as it has been kept in Cuba.
8 Healing Power is a song for Asoyí, who is one of the paths of Asojano. It’s very different than “New Throned King,” which is based on a different path of the same deity. Here I’m concentrating on him as a powerful healer. The “horses” of Babalú, or Asoyí, or Asojano have the power to heal conditions you think are incurable.
9 Dance Transformation is dedicated to Gebioso again, but now in the twenty-first century, and saluting a different path of Gebioso than the earlier one. Like his counterpart Changó, Gebioso is the owner of the drums and the owner of the dance. The arrangement tries to capture his motion.
10 Ileré is “Ilé Iré,” which means the house of joy. It was composed for the project by Dean Badarou, from Abomey, Benin (historic Dahomey), who was a research consultant on the project. It opens the album up at the end to connect with present-day Benin, where I hope to travel. I didn’t use any specific Arará toque for this song. We decided to create something new in this rhythmic language after working with it so much. Since it was the last song, I used it to do an Arará moyuba, which is the salutation to the spirits and ancestors. In it, I’m asking my ancestors and all the ancestors of the cabildo for their blessing on this recording. I see this number as representing the joy and the depth that are always associated with the different African cultures. As everything combines, we realize that it’s a tradition that’s much bigger than ourselves, that exists and is going to exist for a long time.
FOR ALL PRESS MATTERS CONCERNING YOSVANY TERRY CONTACT:
Two for the Show Media
tel: 631-298-7823 cell: 718-669-0752