Bamboula 2000—which is celebrating its 25th anniversary—and David D Omni, a Cuban multi-faceted artist, make the miles between New Orleans and the island nation vanish on their collaborative release Cuba to Congo Square. To achieve this, they didn’t physically share a studio though Bamboula’s founder, leader, percussionist and vocalist Luther Gray and musician and poet Omni, who co-produced the album, do share musical and cultural philosophies. They agree on respecting tradition while incorporating modern styles like hip hop and electronic technology.
“It’s a natural transition,” Gray explains. “Each generation moves it along—it is the evolution of the music.”
The sound of a drum naturally opens the lively title cut, written by Cuban-born Alexey Marti, Gray and rapper Ray Wimley. It lyrically stands as the theme of the CD and the only selection on which Omni wasn’t involved. “The drums speak of struggle and freedom in Cuba and Congo Square—our ancestors’ gift to the world,” sings Gray. “We are the people, we are the rhythm,” a chorus of voices joins in.
Gray first met Omni when a friend brought him to a Sunday afternoon drum circle, an event that is presented weekly by the Congo Square Preservation Society that Gray founded. “We were drumming and he danced like crazy doing these Michael Jackson spins,” Gray remembers with a laugh. “It was love at first sight.”
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