Afro-Cuban star Daym Arocena has announced her new album 'Al-Kemi' which will be released on February 23 via
Brownswood Recordings. It is her first album since 'Sonocardiogram' in 2019.
Dayme's new single "American Boy" accompanies her album announcement. No other song on the album embodies Arocena's artistic
liberation like "American Boy" - an exhilarating, futuristic slice of progressive pop. "I wrote it ten years ago, but thought it was too
much of a pop song," Dayme reflects. "In an indirect way, the music industry had shown me that I wasn't welcome in that world.
There isn't a Black woman like me who enjoys the kind of success usually reserved for Rosal a or KAROL G. The image of music
genres like salsa or bachata has been painfully distorted throughout the years. You are supposed to clone and fuse yourself in order
to conceal your Black or indigenous side. They told me I didn't fit in that world, but I'm going to prove them wrong."
When Daym decided to switch gears and record her fourth studio album in Puerto Rico with the iconic producer Eduardo Cabra
(Calle 13), she never imagined that she would end up moving there.
"From the moment I stepped foot on the island, I realized that I never wanted to leave," says the 31 year-old Cuban
singer/songwriter with a hearty laugh. "At the time, I had spent three years away from Cuba, living in Canada with my husband. I
called and asked him to come over to Puerto Rico, and to please bring all my stuff. It wasn't a conscious decision on my part. It was
simply love at first sight."
Relying on instinct and intuition is how Daym has managed her career since she burst on the international scene with 'Nueva Era,'
her prodigious debut album, in 2015. Now, she has fully reinvented her sound with 'Al-Kemi,' a revolutionary - and transformative -
fusion of neo soul singing, Afro-Caribbean beats and slick new millennium pop.
The album is titled 'Al-Kemi' with the Yoruba word for alchemy. "It means the cosmovision of transformation," she explains. "It is
mixing all the elements to achieve an unbeatable result, full of shine and light, like gold springing from the skin."
From the cosmopolitan smoothness of lead single "Suave y Pegao" - an effortless fusion of jazz, bossa nova and urbano stylings with
reggaeton star Rafa Pab n on guest vocals - to the smoldering neo-soul of "A Fuego Lento," with Dominican singer Vicente Garc a,
Daym 's latest album relies on sacred formats of the past but rearranges them in a conscious quest to redraw the very definition of
what Latin pop is supposed to sound like.
"It was definitely a team effort," she reflects from her new home in San Juan. "Flexibility may well be my biggest virtue. I'm always
open to every possible suggestion when it comes to making things better. My piano player, Jorge Luis "Yoyi" Lagarza, and I worked
on the demos with the rest of my band. Then with Eduardo Cabra's direction, we enlisted musicians from all over the Caribbean -
Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic. Everybody added their energy and coloring."
It was Daym 's piano player who originally suggested she contact Eduardo Cabra known for combining commercial aptitude with a
refined sense of craftsmanship. Not only did Cabra accept the singer's offer, but he also invited her to stay at his home during the
four months when they recorded 'Al-Kemi' in his Puerto Rico studio.
"I had no idea that he was familiar with my music," she enthuses. "Eduardo has been in the industry for a long time, and he comes
from a world that is more global and commercial than mine. He was the ideal candidate for this project, but I initially didn't know if
he would understand the social, psychological and personal complexities of the message that I wanted to express."
"Daym is one of the most talented musicians that I've ever worked with," says Cabra. "Working together was a joy, because she
knew exactly the kind of fusion that she was going for: a cross between her Afro-Cuban roots - which clearly are strong on this
album - with the more contemporary vein of analogue synths, samples and a bit of electronica. We wanted both worlds to
communicate, to be both respectful and disrespectful to the ancestral colors. I feel comfortable with both, and even Calle 13 walked
the two paths. This is also the album where Daym opened up to the Caribbean at large. Her understanding of harmony and her
performance skills are out of this world."
Born in Havana in 1992, Daym grew up immersed in Afro-Cuban folk, but also listening to cassette tapes of Sade Adu, her father's
favorite singer. She was identified as a prodigious
talent at only 8 years old and soon started studying music. After studying at the prestigious Amadeo Rold n conservatory, she
became co-founder and band member of the Cuban-Canadian jazz collective Maqueque in 2017. With the collective, she launched
several international tours and earned a GRAMMY nomination.
"In Cuba, the emphasis on technique is exacerbated," Daym explains. "At the same time, opportunities are scarce on the island. A
career in music provides a potential for escape, which is why the competitiveness is off the charts."