Manana presents the third release on Manana//Records, an album collaboration between the UK’s Soundspecies and Ache Meyi, based in Santiago de Cuba.
The project was born in April 2016 in Santiago, in the balmy weeks leading up to Manana Festival and is the culmination of two chaotic weeks of rehearsals at the Casa Del Danzon and two sessions at the legendary Egrem studios.
‘Ache Meyi’ can be translated into ‘Ache’ (‘power’ or ‘blessings’ in the Yoruba language) and ‘Meyi’ (‘double’ or ‘twin’ or ‘twice’) and the band have their very own power twins, Hector and Rafael. Hector is the senior, patriarchal figurehead of the group alongside his apprentices Alieke and Rafael. Two female singers, Alina and Maire, complete the lineup. The band’s identity is rooted in an interlocking web of afro-Haitian rhythms like bembe, vodu, gaga and merengue, absorbing these folkloric traditions from the neighbourhoods that they grew up in.
Soundspecies are brothers Henry and Olly Keen, a Producer/DJ duo from Dorset who explore the connections between the rhythms of traditional folkloric percussive music and the sounds and forms of electronic dance music. Integrating electronics and melodies initially proved hard: “We were struggling to respond to the frenetic, seemingly impenetrable web of rhythmic sounds, and the singers’ sense of tonality was quite free, jumping from one key to n unrelated one within songs,” recalls Olly. However, at the legendary Siboney Egrem Studios in Santiago, they began separating the instruments, breaking the music down into textures and patterns and trying new directions with the sound. At a later session, Ache Meyi then jammed with kick and snare sounds on the MPC, playing to bembe rhythms recorded during the frst session.
Olly continues, “With a virtuoso like Hector, who has dedicated his whole life to his art, it could have been a challenge for us to suggest respectfully that he does it differently but he was the most open-hearted, patient and positive man. The show at the Manana festival was a euphoric experience for us. We wanted the album to capture and distil some of the energy from that night.”