Bobi Céspedes


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Perhaps the biggest surprise about this disc is that it's taken so long to happen. Bobi Céspedes has already enjoyed a distinguished career, singing as part of Conjunto Céspedes and with Mickey Hart's Planet Drum. But she's never stepped into the studio under her own name before. On the evidence of Rezos, though, it's to be hoped she'll be back there regularly. Born in Cuba, and a Yoruba priestess, she brings a strong Afro-Cuban sensibility to the material here, like "Obatala," named for her orisha. But there's a lot more going on here, like drum loops and some jazz licks, along with the more traditional call-and-response vocals. It's all wonderfully melodic, especially the exuberant "California," a paean to her home. The arrangements, by Oriente Lopez, are adventurous, using Rahsaan Fredricks' bass and One Drop Scott's hip-hop drum programming sparingly but subtly, but mostly letting the songs breathe and Céspedes' voice shine -- which it does. She positively sashays through "Nuevo Milenio," while the title cut kicks the record off with a deeply spiritual -- but rhythmically irresistible -- chant. At the end of the disc, she offers something even more grounded in "Ogun," a traditional Yoruba invocation with pure Afro-Cuban drumming. Céspedes' album might have been a long time coming, but it's more than worth the weight, with its golden mix of yesterday and tomorrow.

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