SEXTI SENTIDO / “Llora”
I look at the cover and I’m sure, somewhere in the background a man had a hand in putting this cover together. I’ve seen over six videos of Sexto Sentido. There’s nothing to suggest they are selling themselves as sex objects except this cover, which is compelling evidence. I’m not saing they don’t present what may accurately be portrayed as a sexy image, but straight up sex objects. No, I don’t think so. Yet here it is.
UPDATE: the cover I saw was from the initial Cuban release. Now there’s a new release, dated 2008. Here’s the old cover, so you can see what I was talking about:
The reason I bring this up is because combined with the repertoire decisions of their first release, it’s clear to me that they (and many, many other musicians) are under tremendous pressure to conform to American tastes and expectations. It would be easy for me to ignore the issue and not bring up any of the puzzling and disturbing issues (and, maybe it’s only me that’s disturbed but I don’t think so).
Everything beautiful must defend itself, especially young women. The forces of exploitation are relentless. The impulse to produce beautiful music is always in danger of being subverted by pushes for pop sales. Sexto Sentido, please stay the course. I know the struggle is long, hard, but stay the course.
Fortunately, the first cover does nothing to prepare the listener for their music, which is smooth and, ironically, is almost angelic. This brings me to a piece of painful subtext. At one point prostitution became a major means of earning foreign exchange in Cuba. That’s neither a secret nor news to anyone who has kept up with the reality that Cuba has faced. That acknowledged let’s get to the music.
Here is how Sexto Sentido introduces themselves on their Myspace site.
ABOUT SEXTO SENTIDO SEXTO SENDTIDO (Melvis Santa Estévez Guzmán, Arlety Valdés Cana, Yudelkis Lafuente Acea, Eliene Castillo Borrero) Alumni’s of the prestigious Cuban Music Conservatory Amadeo Roldán in La Havana, majoring in Music Theory. These four young ladies started their singing career together in their early teens singing for several school functions. Immediately after completing their formal musical training, they started singing professionally. Just after a few months of performing in the local music scene, their name and reputation became a staple in the Cuban Music Culture. Their talent promptly placed them as the preferred group used at Cuban State Functions, representing the new talent of Cuba. After traveling abroad for various Cultural Events, Sexto Sentido recorder their first record “Bossa Cubana” (Elephant Records), a collection of classic Brazilian songs with Cuban elements. In support of the record, they began touring Europe, were their style quickly became a success and landed them at the center of the European Jazz Scene. Quickly afterwards they became a household name in Russia, France, Bulgaria, and Monaco. Sexto Sentido naturally gravitated to Latin America as participants in various Cultural Events. Now, with the release of their second album Mi Feeling (Ahi-Nama), their sights are set to capture audiences in North America in the upcoming weeks.
Notice, they are trained musicians and are also conscious of their Cuban roots, all of which means that they have developed a consciousness about how they develop and present their music. On the one hand to major in music theory and on the other to focus on traditional Cuban music is a heady and potent mix. They are now over ten years together as a group. Moreover, their initial inspiration at first may be surprising but when you think about it more, it makes perfect sense.
Actually I can tell you the name of the group which inspired us. It was Take Six. When we were twelve years old, Arlety said to me: 'Listen to this'. And my life changed, our lives changed. We said: 'We have to do something like that'. And we were very close and we started searching, looking, finding melodies. We didn't want to copy them, because we had other ideas.
We were very young, and we wanted to create and to make something like them, but not to sound as them. So, later, when we grew up a little, we found that in Cuba we also have a lot of musical treasure and we have a history in quartets. So, then we found and introduced elements and we found the differences. I mean, because it's true that the vocal music of the United States, the Black music, as some call it, is very rich, it has a lot of power, and the singers, musicians and performers are exceptional. But they cannot play with rhythm as we Cubans can. That's why, when we were more mature, then we searched and looked and found our own style.
* * *
I have zero facility with Spanish, so I can’t even begin to interpret the lyrics. What I do have an ear for is music. Sexto Sentido is an exceptional vocal group. The fit of their voices, one with the other, is not only exquisite and remarkable in both timbre and timing, but more that just the technical accomplishment, there is a warmth to their sound, a warmth that makes you hit the repeat button or put the entire recording on repeat.
The first album, Bossa Cubana, was produced in Russia and intended to attract an international audience. All but one or two of the songs were covers in English. They covered pop, swing jazz, bossa nova, you name it. Plus, they were paired with bossa nova legend Joao Donato on a few cuts, another international selling point.
I searched for a long time before I was able to get that first album, and though I was sure I was going to like it, I should have known that the concept album could not match their Cuban album, Mi Feeling. Though it is enjoyable, Bossa Cubana is not particularly distinctive and as such goes on the pile with literally hundreds of other albums, but Mi Feeling is on another and higher level.
So, here are a handful of songs from Mi Feeling. I've simply chosen the last five cuts on Mi Feeling. I was torn between "Cancion Dificil" with its different sections paced like a sort of hip, pop-suite, and "Llora" with it's heavenly harmonies. Ultimately, I settled for "Llora" but the truth is, it could have easily gone the other way. I didn't know young women were still singing with such elegant harmonies mated to rich melodies. If you like the songs in the jukebox, cop the album, you won’t be disappointed.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008 at 3:36 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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