Memorial Day weekend is here and with it comes the need for some amazing new music to accompany those sunshine-filled days.
We can’t think of a better way to kick off the summer than with a collection of Cuban classics reinterpreted with a refreshing new twist. Today Musical Notes Global is excited to premiere Duele, the new album from renaissance woman Maria Bacardi, and it’s one we’ll be playing all season long.
Born in Cuba, Bacardi is an innovator in theater, a fine artist, and a singer who fled her home country for Spain as a child in the 1960s before landing in New York. Those experiences continue to profoundly influence her work today, lending her music an inspiring rock-solid base formed by the rich history of her cultural roots and the invaluable memories of enlightening life experiences.
Released under Bacardi’s label MB Records, Duele is a deeply personal project, yet it speaks to thousands of people through an abundance of heartening passion and love while sharing the struggle that so many transnational migrants like herself have faced. Devotion to her craft, admiration for the artistry of her musical peers, and respect for the stories of others brilliantly shine through in a grand display of gratitude for her multi-layered roots and the lessons she has learned during her travels.
Created over the course of two years, Duele was inspired by its title song, a classic by beloved Cuban musicians Gerardo Piloto and Alberto Vera. The expressive 13-track collection re-imagines early to mid-century Cuban bolero gems—the country’s equivalent of the American blues—through a stunning contemporary lens, incorporating bilingual lyrics and encouraging millennial listeners to appreciate the legendary poetic tales that have played such a vital role in the island’s culture. Somber themes are illuminated by arrangements that are simultaneously sultry and vibrant, flecked with modern elements of hip hop and sizzling moments of jazz that lift the lyrics above sadness, ushering those who hit play into a warm, welcoming shelter of remembrance, tribute, and revival.
“The album is called Duele because it hurts to be alive and in this day and age, to be Cuban too,” Bacardi explains. “The artistic efforts of my colleagues and I are novel. I wanted to steer away from the facile ‘vintagey’ image so often given to Cuban culture. I am excited about the birth of this piece because it offers bygone Cuban musical jewels to a young global audience in a current musical language they can relate to.”
To help bring her vision to fruition, Bacardi relied on the support of a powerhouse team of young Cuban artists and musical legends: Grammy Award winners David Oquendo and Paquito D’Rivera; Hip-Hop master and leader of the new generation of Cuba producers, Edgaro Gonzalez, virtuoso pianist, arranger, and composer Dayramir Gonzalez, Latin Jazz pianists Axel Laugart, gifted bassists Gaston Joya and Yunior Terry and brass arranger Kali Rodriguez Pena.
Overall, the album is a feast for ears aching for something they never knew they needed. It sees Bacardi returning to the moment she left her native island and the rhythm that was popular there at the time: the “Bolero Filin,” a Cuban musical movement rooted in North American jazz ballads, in order to carve out a new path for a new generation. The album’s first single “Cementerio de Novias” is a neo-bolero dream highlighted by sparkling piano melodies and crisp horns—a truly in-vogue cover of an obscure song by Cuban bolero singer Gustavo Rodriguez Artilez. On the other hand, despite its sadness, title track “Duele” is a smooth easy-going jam with an R&B flair while the bubbly “Y Con Tus Palabras,” which begs to be played during a sunny day spent by the sea, wraps up the collection.
Curious about the rest? Listen to Duele in its entirety below.
Maria Bacardi will perform “Duele Live” on July 14th at Guild Hall Concert in East Hampton, NY.
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