Daptone Records is proud to introduce Orquesta Akokán, a big band collective of
Havana’s top musicians both young and old, joining forces with some of the most
creative and spirited talents of New York’s Latin music scene. Born out of a shared
vision by singer José "Pepito" Gómez, producer Jacob Plasse, and arranger
Michael Eckroth, the group reinvigorates the sound of the golden era of Cuban
mambo with a bold new energy.
José "Pepito" Gómez began his musical career in his hometown of Florida in
Camagüey, a province in central Cuba, where he cut his teeth singing with local
groups and playing trumpet in the municipal band. His first professional break came
when he auditioned for the legendary group Maravilla de Florida and was hired as
their new lead singer. After two years, he left the group to move to Havana, where
he joined La Charanga Latina and had his first opportunity to tour Europe and
North America. He left the group after a couple more years, to work on his own
music. He continued to sing and tour with other groups including Colé-Colé,
Azúcar Negra, and Compay Segundo of the Buena Vista Social Club. A great
opportunity presented itself when he was asked to join musicians from the famed
group Irakere as a founding member of Habana Ensemble. It was through this
renowned group that he had the good fortune to meet the legendary César "Pupy"
Pedroso, pianist, composer, and co-founder of arguably the most popular Cuban
group in the world, Los Van Van. Pedroso asked Gomez to be the lead singer in a
new group he was forming called Pupy y Los Que Son, Son. He moved to New York
in 2008, where he would continue to work on his own music until 2012, when he
left for Puerto Rico to sing with José Lugo's Guasabara Combo. After two years
there, he returned to New York to resume singing with a number of groups. One
group he would often sub in for as lead singer was Los Hacheros, lead by Jacob
Plasse. Gómez would forge a friendship with Plasse over their shared love of Cuban
music. Together they would rediscover the sounds that Gómez knew from childhood
on a journey that would culminate in the creation of Orquesta Akokán.
Jacob Plasse wanted to get back to the sounds that initially made him fall in love
with Latin music, so he formed Los Hacheros with some of his favorite musicians
from the salsa scene. They recorded an album, Pilon, live on an old 388 Tascam tape
machine, and gig by gig Los Hacheros developed a reputation as salseros of the vieja
Around this time Jacob began playing tres for the musical "Celia" about the life of
Celia Cruz, where he met pianist Mike Eckroth. Realizing their shared musical
affinities they began making albums together, with Plasse creating Chulo Records
and Productions, a label focused on vintage Latin music. Shortly thereafter Flor de
Toloache signed with Chulo. “Las Caras Lindas”, which Plasse produced, went on to
win a Latin Grammy for best Mariachi/Ranchero Record, the first time an all-female
ensemble had won that category. However it was his friend, pianist and arranger
Michael Eckroth, who lent him the Beny Moré album that would inspire the next
chapter in his love affair with Cuban music.
Michael Eckroth is an accomplished pianist, composer and arranger from Phoenix,
Arizona who has recorded and toured internationally with numerous jazz and Latin
music greats including Johnny "Dandy" Rodriguez, Andy Gonzales, Nelson
Gonzales, Pedro Martinez, and John Scofield. He earned a PhD from NYU with a
thesis on Cuban piano solos of the '40s. Through his academic work, he gained
access to an expansive archive of rare Cuban recordings. With his knack for
arrangement and his intimate familiarity with the sounds of Cuba's great big bands,
Eckroth was the final piece of the puzzle.
For Eckroth and Plasse, the original idea was merely to find a way to work with
"Pepito" Gómez. They got together and worked on some arrangements, planning to
cut a record of old-style Cuban music that Gómez had been writing. However initial
sessions with New York musicians left the trio flat. It wasn't until Gómez invited the
duo to accompany him on a trip to Cuba that the project began to come to life. From
the moment Plasse and Eckroth arrived at the legendary Areito Studios in Havana
on November 7th, 2017, the cavernous, wood-paneled recording studio echoed its
history back at them. It was the very room used by state owned labels Areito and
EGREM as well as Panart before them to record all of Cuba's most prominent
albums since the early 1940s. However it wasn't the ghosts of musicians past that
gave them chills. It was the musicians who were actually there in front of them.
Gómez had enlisted his old friend César Lopez from Irakere, and together they had
assembled a group of some of the greatest musicians of Cuba, many of which had
long been heroes and inspirations to Plasse and Eckroth: A saxophone section made
up of Jamil Shery and José Luis "El Chewy" Hernandez on tenors, with Evaristo
Denis on baritone, and of course César Lopez on alto. On trombones, Carlos
"Afrokán" Alvarez Guerra of Cubanismo fame, Heikel Fabián Trimiño, and
Yoandy Argudin. Santiago Ceballos Seijido and Harold Madrigal Frías on
trumpets. Itai Kriss on flute. Eduardo Lavoy Zaragoza on bongo, with Otto
Santana Selis on conga and sharing timbale duty with Carlitos Padron. Coros
would be sung by Eddie Venegas and Luis Soto . Though Plasse himself rose to the
occasion to play a bit of tres, and Eckroth handled the lion's share of keys with
inspired prowess, they did convince Pedroso to lend an inspired piano performance
on "Cuidado con el Tumbador." These musicians, armed with Eckroth's hard-
boiled arrangements and fronted by Gómez' soaring vocals, were to be the backbone
of Orquesta Akokán.
Akokánis a Yoruba word used by Cubans to mean “from the heart” or “soul”, so it
comes as no surprise that a recording like this would find its way back to Brooklyn’s
Daptone Records. For nearly a generation, the venerable label has brought us
soulful music in a myriad of styles, made in the present, but with all the craft and
flavor of the classic recordings of the past. In doing so Daptone has enshrined both
the genres it honors as well as artists creating new works in the universal canon of
dance music. A perfect kitchen from which to serve this captivatingbaile between
old and new, performed with rhythm, with care, and above all,con akokán.
Jarina De Marco
Jarina De Marco and her sound embody the multi-ethnic future. Her work defiantly transcends categories and borders. She is a creative visionary who sings in four languages and spearheads all aspects of her project: songwriting, production, visual design and video direction. She’s supported by a creative and politically left leaning community of like-minded globalistas, Jarina is out to make a difference through her art and music.
Jarina's first single "Tigre" was released as part of the Broad City (Comedy Central) soundtrack, and is one of many songs of hers featured on the show. Pitchfork and FADER were among her early supporters as well as Mark Ronson and Major Lazer who have collaborated with her as a vocalist for their projects.
Following the success of “Tigre”, she released "Release The Hounds" in support for the people of Standing Rock’s movement to protect their land against the Dakota pipeline. Rosario Dawson, Chris Rock, Laura Gomez, and others joined in the cause to create this moving visual piece.
Jarina’s childhood and family inform her genre-defying sound and politics. She was born in the Dominican Republic and spent her early years traveling in remote parts of the Amazonian rainforest and Dominican countryside, cataloguing indigenous sounds and rhythms with her parents, both renowned musicologists and musicians. As part of the resistance against the brutal dictatorship of Joaquín Balaguer, her parents performed a protest song in front of a large public gathering and had to immediately flee the country and were forced into exile where they relocated to Montreal until it was safe to return home.
As an outspoken advocate of women's rights and human equality, Jarina's music is a unique blend of global consciousness and global rhythms. She simultaneously supports the message of resistance, while creating a colorful sound entirely her own.
QUITAPENAS, one word – all caps, four syllables – all claps, gives you a taste of their rhythmic contagion. This tropical Afro-Latin combo was born under the warm California sun. They borrow aesthetics from the radical 60s, 70s and 80s. Each song echoes a remix of history and invites one to engage in the liberating evenings of Angola, Peru, Colombia, Brazil and beyond. The name means “to remove worries.” Everybody has a "pena" and the mission of QUITAPENAS is simple: to make you dance and leave you without a worry.
When Sister Mantos takes the stage, their psychedelic blend of LATIN BEATS, PUNK ATTITUDE, and FUNK RHYTHMS invigorate the crowd to dance, sing and rejoice.
Sister Mantos sings songs in Spanish and English about love, QUEER & POC empowerment, and utopias that are free of war and oppression.
Sister Mantos is a solo performance band or a huge orchestra depending on the time and place but a guaranteed party either way.
Audiences are sent on a spaced out psychedelic road trip and treated to mystical experience of spastic dancing, bumping beats, and POSITIVE ENERGY.
Originally started as an alias for a solo music/art performance project by Oscar Miguel Santos in 2008, Sister Mantos has transformed into a live band multi-instrumental band that traverses sonic genres.