Interview: Dayme Arocena
Fresh off the back of Moses Boyd's incredible performance of the Art Blakey songbook, Church of Sound are back, and this one promises to be another powerful show. Brownswood Recording's Dayme Arocena is joined by Cuban musicians and Shabaka Hutchings to perform the songbook of Leon Thomas.
Leon Thomas sung with a host of musicians, most notably Pharoah Sanders on 'The Creator Has a Master Plan', as well as releasing a wealth of his own material.
Wednesday 13th July sees Dayme perform Thomas' music in the ever-intimate Church of Sound setting at St James the Great Church, London.
Last year saw Dayme release her debut album Nueva Era to critical acclaim. Just finishing up an extensive European tour and having recently featured in Gilles Peterson's La Clave documentary, Dayme is ever on the up.
In these dark and tense political times, Dayme brings us a sense of hope. Ahead of the show, we sat down together for a quick chat...
First of all thank you for meeting with us today.
No, no it’s a pleasure.
So, last week we saw your incredible show at Worldwide Festival in Sète – how was it for you?
It was my first taste of the festival. I was so impressed by it, but you know what - you are going there for good vibes and for good reactions. I didn’t expect that emotional gig, I knew I would have a beautiful crowd, really high, looking good, but the crowd got so emotional and that’s the kind of experience that I keep in my heart. That’s the kind of thing that makes me keep going.
It was an incredible performance and as you said everyone was emotional but also having fun – it really was something special. For this show you have reinterpreted the work of Leon Thomas – can you tell us a bit about how you have approached his music?
Leon Thomas is someone that I didn’t know. I didn’t know his music.
I didn’t have an idea (laughs).
"The message is about peace, it’s about love, it’s about good vibes - it’s about this world we all have and how we can keep it in a good way, make it work and how we can keep going."
That is brilliant! So Alexis (Church of Sound/TRC) introduced you to his music?
Yes yes, he introduced me to my new influence. I think Leon Thomas was someone who was really expressive. His music expressed what he had on his mind and I think his mind had wonderful things to say, really deep, and sometimes complicated to understand but the message is beautiful. The message is about peace, it’s about love, it’s about good vibes - it’s about this world we all have and how we can keep it in a good way, make it work and how we can keep going. That’s the kind of things I take from it and that’s the kind of vibes and the kind of influence that helps me to develop my ideas. So I’m so happy – thanks Alexis for introducing to me his music. I’m just trying to do my best. I’m trying to understand Leon Thomas’ work, and how I can express it in my own work, bringing the it to life again.
So taking the message and using it in your own way.
That’s a really beautiful way of approaching this type of concert. I think with Leon Thomas as well, there’s so much you can take from just one song or performance of his. You can look at just the vocals, the arrangements or simply look at what he is trying to say, and that’s really important.
Today we are very lucky in London and around the world that jazz is continuing to develop with a whole new generation of musicians pushing the boundaries, a movement we’re particularly excited about. How do you feel that reinterpretations of jazz greats adds to this newfound appreciation?
I think the most beautiful thing about London is that London is a mixed place. People are from London yet they also have roots all over the world - when you are in such a mixed city, you can better appreciate the culture and the way to interpret things, especially music. I think the most beautiful thing about music in London is more than jazz – people understand and like the way every musician makes their music. People in London are really open to newer stuff and really open to listening to the different ways to play, to perform, to sing. For me London is the place I want to play and it is teaching me how to open my eyes and take all those influences in my own way.
I don’t think you could have summed that up better. The exciting way in which musicians are taking influences from all over and incorporating them in to their own work. Finally, what musical discovery have you recently made that has got you most excited?
Recently I discovered a few people, maybe they are not that young or new but I just discovered their music a few days ago. I’m talking about Lianne La Havas Anderson .Paak, Kamasi Washington, Kendrick Lamar. People for example like Seu George – I didn’t know about these guys so every single day I am discovering new stuff that makes me study more and try to be better.
That is the one of the best things about music for me personally that there is an endless amount to discover and learn from. Thank you again for spending some time to have chat with us and we shall see you at the show!