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Omar Sosa: Sentir

AAJ Staff By

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Whatever the title of Omar Sosa's new disc, the theme that runs throughout is Elegguá. For the uninitiated, Elegguá is the gatekeeper, the messenger, the courier, and the spirit of communication. He watches humanity for the Orishas (gods of Santeria), and he's the first to be received by initiates. During ritual musical ceremonies, believers forge a link with the Orishas.

In a sense, Sentir brings the listener into a intensely spiritual connection with Elleguá. Omar Sosa, a Cuban pianist, has a curious way of combining seemingly disparate musical traditions into a seamless whole that greatly exceeds the sum of its parts. The primitive, ritual quality of much of Sosa's music exudes a primal quality transcending earthly space and time. A strong North African thread interweaves on Sentir with Venezuelan, Cuban, Ecaudorean, and other traditions from the African diaspora. It's an intersection of roads and cultures... and as expressed through the palette of colors stitched into the titles of these tunes, a literal rainbow of spirit. Elegguá's colors are black and red— so pay close attention to track 11, "Rojo y Negro." A few of the more pointed vocals: "Open the path, Elegguá... just follow me, and I'm going to heal you."

Sentir, like much of Sosa's work, relies upon a distinctive rhythmic foundation which constantly shifts among patterns and traditions. Even during quiet moments, such as on "Sucesion en Blanco," the textured patter of drums defies simple categorization. (Everyone plays rhythm here, period. Most clap. Sosa even plays the ashtray on one track, if you can pick those tinkling tones out of the mix.) Sosa brings up the energy level when he contributes shimmering piano textures one tune later on "Rojo Changó." Whether melodic (as with the Gnawa vocals on "Manto Blanco") or rhythmic (eg. Sub-Z's rap only moments later on the same tune), the human voice appears to run along a stream parallel to the music. Sub-Z appears on five tracks, seemingly freestyling much of the way. He prefers a staccato, pointillilstic style, in constrast to the explosively melodic vocals of Martha Galarraga and a quartet of mystical Moroccan vocalists.

Omar Sosa has long created consciously syncretic music, and Sentir is a perfectly logical extension of these ideas. While simultaneously primal and pulsing, this record also combines a bewildering array of authentic styles. It's dense, moving, multicultural, and fresh: a brilliant addition to this iconoclastic pianist's oeuvre. Pretty much guaranteed to blow your mind, if you can open it wide enough.

Elegguá.


Track Listing: Opening for Eleggu

Personnel: Omar Sosa: piano, marimba, percussion, guiro, bell, backing vocals, claps, ashtray, mallets inside piano, Yoruba prayer; Gustavo Ovalles: bata drums, quitplas, culo e'puya, cumacos, tambor de parranda, maracas, guiro, bongos, claps, vocals, cajon de rumba; Martha Galarraga: vocals, clave; El Houssaine Kili: guembri, qarqabas, tan-tan, Gnawa vocals; "Shariff" Moulay M'Hamed Enneji Fakihan: guembri, darbukkah, mandolina, qarqabas, Gnawa vocals; John Santos: bata drums, djembe, clave, cata, backing vocals; Yassir Chadly: guembri, Gnawa vocals, claps; Bouchaib Abdelhadi: oud, claps, qarqabas, Moroccan violin, vocals, taarija; "Sub-Z" Terence Nicholson: rap poetry, claps; Randy Rood: didgeridoo; Justo Soler: backing vocals.

Title: Sentir | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Ota Records


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