New Throned King (5Passion)
Released April 1, 2014
Grammy Nominee for Best Latin Jazz Album 2015
“New Throned King”… “Ye-dé-bgé” is a phrase in the West African language Fon, originally spoken in Dahomey. It means “with the approval of the spirits.” Musician and composer Yosvany Terry seeks through his music to unify the legacy of traditions, musical and spiritual, practiced throughout the Pan-African regions stretching from the African continent to the islands of the Caribbean and parts of North and South America.
In early September 2007 Yosvany Terry traveled from New York City to Matanzas, Cuba, to trace the roots of the Arará musical tradition. This tradition was originally brought to the island by slaves taken from Dahomey, now called Benin, in West Africa. While in Matanzas, famous for its dedication to folkloric music and dance traditions, Terry also commissioned a set of Arará drums. These rare and massive drums were crafted specifically for the composition he calls Ye-dé-bgé & the Afro-Caribbean Legacy that will premiere on September 15, 2007, in Central Park.
On the same trip, Terry studied with Mario Rodriguez Pedroso, or Maño, a great master of the Arará tradition and in fact one of the last living drummers initiated in the tradition. He serves as the director of the “Sabaluno Cabildo” in Matanzas. Cabildos are associations that were organized centuries ago by African slaves as a means of retaining and expressing their cultural heritage though ceremonies and rituals including music and dance, pilgrimages, and celebrations of their deities. “Sabaluno Cabildo” was named after Savalú, a city in Dahomey, present day Benin, where the Arará tradition originated.
In the Ye-dé-bgé Project, Terry consciously communicates his African and Cuban lineage through sounds that originated in Africa and inspired new music in the Caribbean, Brazil, and in the American South. It is a unique opportunity for Terry to express hundreds of years of tradition by re-integrating the obscure rhythms of the Arará into the jazz tradition. Although now a New York resident and a frequent performer in clubs and concert halls, Terry left his native Cuba only eight years ago. Terry grew up in the Camagüey province with his parents who are of both Haitian and Cuban descent and whose ancestors came from Africa and Europe.
During Terry’s recent pilgrimage to study the Arará tradition, he discovered that he was already familiar with many of the melodies and rhythms. Growing up Terry learned and practiced Vodou rituals with his family. His grandmother, Basilia Leon Charles from Haiti, traces her ancestors to Dahomey. She was a devoted practitioner of the religion and raised her children with the songs and fetishes representing the pantheon of deities shared among numerous African traditions. Eladio Terry, Yosvany’s father, is a world-renowned musician and also a devout practitioner. It was within this rich cultural and musical family that Yosvany Terry became a bearer of the ancient traditions. “New Throned King”…enjoy!
THE MUSICIANS OF AFRO-CUBAN ROOTS:
YE-DÉ-GBÉ are well versed in different styles of music, but they also understand the Arará tradition from the perspective of the practitioner of Afro-Cuban religion, so they’re able to place the music on the correct spiritual plane.
My brother Yunior Terry provides the fat beats that inspire dancers. He acts as a bridge between the long line of Cuban bassists and the jazz bass tradition of the US. We share all our family tradition as well as the knowledge of the Sabalú cabildo of Matanzas. I have worked with Osmany Paredes for many years. His rhythmic sensibility is equal to that of any great drummer. He is one of the few players of his generation who carries within him the deep legacy of the school of Cuban piano.
Pedro Martínez, besides being one of the most in-demand percussionists today, has a voice that connects you with the vodun. He’s a studious musician who carries a lot of tradition under his belt.
Román Díaz is the first person I call in New York to consult on anything regarding our folklore. A master drummer who learned from many of the greatest tamboreros of Havana, he and Pedro have a unique chemistry playing together that is manifest in this recording. I have always considered him the spiritual leader of the band.
Sandy Pérez put me on the right path to meet Maño in order to start the full journey that culminated with this recording. A resident of California, he comes from one of the most important traditional families of Matanzas — the Villamil family, a founding family of both Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and Afro Cuba de Matanzas. He grew up inside cabildo Sabalú as well as other tierras and cabildos in Matanzas.
Justin Brown was born and raised in the funky city of Oakland. He brings the flexibility of a modern jazz drummer, but he comes out of the church. Dominick Kanza is Congolese, but he was open to learning the Arará tradition. His guitar sound and knowledge were essential to the recording. It wouldn’t be Cuban without the Congo thing.
The core of the sound of YE-DÉ-GBÉ is a set of Arará drums that I commissioned from drum maker Gilberto Morales in Matanzas and brought back to New York. From large to small, they’re called the yonofó, which is the lead drum, the apitlí, and the wewé. There is another drum, called the akotó, which has the largest diameter and the lowest pitch, and which does not always play. Those names are only within the Arará Sabalú tradition. If you go to Jovellanos they have different names, because that’s Arará Majino.
1 Reuniendo la Nación (Bringing the Nation Together) is based on the toque de la nación, also called the toque de la tiñosa. That’s the drum pattern you do at the end of the ceremonies, when everybody’s dancing in the cabildo with the flag of the cabildo, the flag that represents who they are. They dance in a circle, representing the Arará nation. This number doesn’t have any chants. I see it as empowerment. It opens with the drums, plus Val Jeanty, a DJ / sound designer from
Haiti who brings her Haitian cosmogony with her. I hear ghosts in there. It’s contaminated with ghosts. Jason Moran and I, we’re just following them, weaving.
2 New Throned King is an arrangement of chants and drum toques for Asojano, who was known as Babalú in Yorubaland before he came to the Arará land, where the Arará people were expecting him. I tried to envision the patakín [story of the deities] of his coronation.
3 Walking Over Wave is dedicated to Afrekete, the vodun with a strong similarity to Yemayá. She’s motherly, she’s tender, she’s able to fish and feed the community, but at the same time she could be a big storm.
4 Laroko is one of the paths of Eleguá within the Arará tradition. These chants have never been heard in Cuba except in Matanzas. I wanted to capture the spirit of Eleguá, and I decided to do it very traditional, just voice and handclaps, then portray him as a trickster with the soprano sax.
5 Ojún Degara is the name of the old and famous cabildo in Jovellanos. They’re Arará Majino, a different group than Arará Sabalú. I decided to include knowledge from Ojún Degara as a way of incorporating something from their Maji tradition into the album. This is my arrangement of the song they sing at the beginning and close of their ceremonies.
6 Mase Nadodo tries to portray the energy of the deity Mase, the vodun who is similar to the orisha Oshún. I had gotten to know Ishmael Reed from working together with Kip Hanrahan, and I invited him to contribute something to this song. He was a wonderful collaborator. He wrote a poem that makes a parallel with the women warriors from Dahomey called Minos. The piano arpeggios are trying to re-create the image of the river.
7 Thunderous Passage is a sequence of chants dedicated to Gebioso, with his power of controlling thunder and lightning. Gebioso is the Changó of the Arará, but this path of him is named Wadé, and doesn’t have a counterpart in the Yoruba tradition. He’s like Changó as a small kid, almost like an Eleguá. This is the only one I presented in its most traditional way without touching it at all, with only drums, to hear the tradition as it has been kept in Cuba.
8 Healing Power is a song for Asoyí, who is one of the paths of Asojano. It’s very different than “New Throned King,” which is based on a different path of the same deity. Here I’m concentrating on him as a powerful healer. The “horses” of Babalú, or Asoyí, or Asojano have the power to heal conditions you think are incurable.
9 Dance Transformation is dedicated to Gebioso again, but now in the twenty-first century, and saluting a different path of Gebioso than the earlier one. Like his counterpart Changó, Gebioso is the owner of the drums and the owner of the dance. The arrangement tries to capture his motion.
10 Ileré is “Ilé Iré,” which means the house of joy. It was composed for the project by Dean Badarou, from Abomey, Benin (historic Dahomey), who was a research consultant on the project. It opens the album up at the end to connect with present-day Benin, where I hope to travel. I didn’t use any specific Arará toque for this song. We decided to create something new in this rhythmic language after working with it so much. Since it was the last song, I used it to do an Arará moyuba, which is the salutation to the spirits and ancestors. In it, I’m asking my ancestors and all the ancestors of the cabildo for their blessing on this recording. I see this number as representing the joy and the depth that are always associated with the different African cultures. As everything combines, we realize that it’s a tradition that’s much bigger than ourselves, that exists and is going to exist for a long time.
1. Reuniendo La Nación 3.17
2. New Throned King 7.25
3. Walking Over Wave 6.38
4. Laroko 3.58
5. Ojún Degara 6.49
6. Mase Nadodo 7.26
7. Thunderous Passage 3.59
8. Healing Power 8.37
9. Dance Transformation 7.46
10. Ileré 6.07
Yosvany Terry “Sobo Jain”: saxophones, chekeré, wewé (5), coro;
Osmany Paredes: piano
Yunior Terry: “Afra Jun” bass, coro
Pedro Martinez: “Eshu Ni” lead vocalist, apitli
Sandy Perez: “Oya Ladde” yonofó, akotó (1, 2, 3, 7, 9. 10)
Roman Diaz: “Asia Aña Bi” wewé, coro
Dominick Kanza: guitar (2, 3, 9, 10)
Justin Brown: drumset (2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10)
Jason Moran: piano (1)
Val Jeanty: sound design, DJ (1, 8)
Gema Correda: coro (4, 5, 6, 8)
Ishmael Reed: poetry (6)
Recorded at Systems Two Recording Studio, Brooklyn, NY
Produced by Yosvany Terry
Recording Engineer: Maxim Ross
Mixing Engineer: Maxim Ross
Mastering Engineer: Dave Kutch
Executive producer: Gary Galimidi
Graphic Design: Dayne Dupree
Photo: Laura Razzano
Illustrations: Bobby Carcassés
The call of ancestry, and its expression through folklore, has always been a potent preoccupation for Afro-Caribbean jazz musicians in the United States. Yosvany Terry, a saxophonist, percussionist and composer from an influential musical family in Camagüey, Cuba, is a leader among the current generation, which keeps finding ways of deepening its inquiry.
His latest album, “New Throned King,” amounts to an act of scholarship as well as musical syncretism, and some of his most arresting work since he moved to New York 15 years ago. Featuring his band Ye-Dé-Gbé, which performs Thursday through Sunday at the Jazz Standard, it’s a celebration of Arara culture, especially as found in the Matanzas province of Cuba. The Arara originated in the former West African kingdom of Dahomey, spreading through the slave trade; Mr. Terry’s study of their tradition dates to 2007, when he traveled to Matanzas and commissioned a set of Arara drums.
Mr. Terry, a skilled percussionist, plays one of those drums on “Ojun Degara,” the track that strikes the most equitable balance of ceremonial chant and modern-jazz inflection. Percussive duties are otherwise entrusted to Román Díaz, Pedrito Martínez and Sandy Pérez, with Justin Brown on a standard drum kit. Mr. Martínez leads most of the robust call-and-response chants on the album, including a few, like “Thunderous Passage” and “Laroko,” that hew to ancient form with scant deviation (like Mr. Terry’s silvery interjections on soprano saxophone).
Nearly every track pays homage to an Arara deity. “Walking Over Wave,” a sinuous number, hails Afrekete, an oceanic, maternal figure. “Dance Transformation,” with its rhythmic churn, is for Gebioso, a god of thunder. The title track refers to Asojano, known in the Yoruban orisha system as Babalu-Aye; “Mase Nadodo” celebrates Mase, whose affinity with the orisha Oshun is implied in a spoken-word interlude by Ishmael Reed. The closer, “Ilere,” composed by Dean Badarou, presents a more general spirit offering, in rolling Afrobeat rhythm. Like “Ye-Dé-Gbé,” a phrase in the Fon language meaning “with the approval of the spirits,” it suggests a bold claim traveling under cover of supplication.
Nate Chinen (The New York Times)