James Nadal By

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The process of personal transformation, when dealing with spirituality, can be a powerful motivational force. Leader and front man Otura Mun is the guiding light of ÌFÉ, a Puerto Rican fusion ensemble which has recreated the essence of the Santeria religion, as a nucleus for this production. American born Otura Mun, started out as an accomplished drummer turned DJ, that, by destiny, joined up with Puerto Rican rumberos while on a sojourn to the island; a few years and enlightening experiences later, the band was conceived. IIII+IIII is an innovative musical amalgamation, where modern electronica melds with folkloric hand drum percussion, augmented by emotive vocals in Spanish, and English, both imbued with the African Yoruba language, applied in Santeria.

The group's name translates into love or expansion in Yoruban. Ifé was also the ancient capital city of the Yoruban Empire, in present day Nigeria. The unique, IIII+IIII (Eji-Ogbe) symbol, originates from the Santeria Ifá sect, which is based on a binary divination system, and this particular alignment signifies the beginning of light. Otura Mun is a devout Santeria priest (babalawo) and this record has an intended ceremonious characteristic. The opening chants of "Preludio (Ejiogbe)" lead to the clave defined cadence in an introductory prelude. "Bangah (Pico y Palo)" is part war cry, part prayer, dedicated to the Orisha of Ogun, god of war and metal, and overcoming fear. "Yumavision," displays strong hip-hop and dancehall influences, with sampled, looping embellishments, spinning around Mun's vocals, for a trancing effect. Yarimir Cabán is featured vocalist on "Umbo (Come Down)" which signifies a female praise for Yemaya, Mother of All, and the goddess of water, oceans and lakes.

"House Of Love (Ogbe Yekun)" presents a master blend of triggered sequencing and Cuban rumba, composed as an offering to departed ancestors, who sometimes linger in the afterworld, communicating with those still on earth. Afro-Caribbean rhythms plaited with impassioned call and response is the solid foundation and direction of "Mujeres (Iború Iboya Ibosheshé)," vocalist Beto Torrens introducing the invocation, Kathy Cepeda then taking over as lead singer for the duration. She has the authentic soulful qualities of a genuine rumbera, and her interpretation, as with the accompanying chorus, is a stunning tour de force. The sacred procession continues with an homage to the Yoruban revered progenitor, in "Prayer For Oduduwa (Para Merceditas)" Yarimir Cabán reprising as main vocalist, the song performed as a praising mantra, highlighted by the female chorus supplication.

To prove that they are very much in tune with the modern world and how spirituality can become a groove, Steve Winwood's "Higher Love" is reworked as a successful hypnotic techno meets primordial clave experiment. This arrangement is extremely inventive, as they take vocals, beats, and effects, on side-trips throughout the song, yet always adhere to the essential melody. American soul and R&B inflections meander through "Yari Gemini (Beyi La)" Mun and Cabán dueting in altered languages and nuances, for an interesting global mixture of cosmic energy. Kudos to the efforts of percussionists/vocalists Beto Torrens, Rafael Maya, and Anthony Sierra, whose participation highlights the entire production with an organic sense of purpose.

This recording is the culmination of a spiritual quest converted into musical experience. The record has the technical edge which defines the contemporary urban scene, but through its prevailing percussive trait, also reaches deep into fundamental African drumming and vocalizing. Otura Mun has followed his destiny and surrounded himself with like-minded musicians; who have the talent and wisdom to comprehend what this project entailed, and were effective in seeing it through maturation. It is an aural encapsulation of several worlds seamlessly colliding, requiring attentive listening.

Track Listing: Preludio (Ejiogbe); Bangah (Pico y Palo); Yumavision; Umbo (Come Down); House Of Love (Ogbe Yekun); 3 Mujeres (Iború Iboya Ibosheshé); Prayer For Oduduwa (Para Merceditas); Higher Love; Yari Gemini (Beyi La).

Personnel: Otura Mun: vocals, percussion, electronica programming; Rafael Maya: percussion; Beto Torrens: vocals, percussion; Anthony Sierra: vocals, percussion; Yarimir Cabán: vocals; Kathy Cepeda: vocals; Jhan lee Aponte: Quinto drum (4), timbas (5).

Title: IIII+IIII | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced


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