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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

VOCAL BAOBAB

By Nils Jacobson
Published June 27, 2006

Yoruba Dream: Afro Cuban Chants
ARC Music Productions

The rituals of santería are shrouded in mystery, which is no surprise given the very secretive nature of the Cuban religion, whose origins trace directly back to Yoruban culture in Nigeria. The interlocking drums and chants of santería have been preserved by dedicatees in a wonderfully vibrant fashion, partly as a result of being kept so carefully tucked away from outsiders. Vocal Baobab, a Cuban group led by José Ramón Rodríguez García, draws significant inspiration from the late Yoruba soloist Lázaro Ros in its roots orientation. Like every santería ritual, this collection warms up with a dedication to Elegguá, the orisha (god) of doorways and openings. It proceeds through ten more deities, matching rich call-and-response vocals with full-bodied percussion and other instruments. The particularly effective dedication to Ochosi (the hunter) is stripped down to basics, unlike the pieces for Osaín (the healer), which incorporates gospel-ish piano and atmospheric noises, and Orula (the supreme deity), which features a rapid-fire rap in Spanish about aché, the primordial life force. The outstanding liner notes tell the whole story.