Changó, a central figure in Cuban Santería, is the Orisha (God) who, along with fire, lightning and thunder, rules over drums and dancing. It is this combination of things that the self-titled debut album from French-Cuban jazz outfit ¿Que Vola? calls upon. The group is the brainchild of Fidel Fourneyron, a French jazz musician who fell in love with the deep spiritual sound of Cuba. With this release, ¿Que Vola?, a group comprised of three Cuban percussionists and a French jazz septet, seeks to reimagine the sound of the sacred music of Cuba, combining it with the poetry of Jazz. Here, the brass leads the prayer.
¿Que Vola? takes the listener on a journey into ceremony opening up with ‘Kabiosile (Saludo a Changó)’, a humble dedication to the God of fire and dance. The fast-paced drums mingle with the slow entry of the horns allowing the listener to ease their way into what is coming, a reminder of the collective connection to self, to spirit, and to sound. From there the album takes off leading the listener ever deeper into the sacred. Songs like ‘Nganga’ and ‘Fruta Bomba’ invite listeners into the ritual space, offering up the dance as the preferred method of divine communication. We are reminded that reverence is not boring. It is harmony. It is heartbeats. It is sacred but it is also simple.
Throughout the album, the brass and the batá coexist harmoniously. The sacredness of the drums exists supported by the jazz horns, allowing them to become one with the listener’s own heartbeat. And then the drum provides the room for the “voice” of the horns to speak, clear and direct. Both exist together; one is not treated as more important than the other. Each element gets its moment and nothing ever feels out of place. The brass is bright and the drums are pounding. With the experience ¿Que Vola? has created for the listener, it’s as if these two sounds were always meant to be together.
The experiment at the core of ¿Que Vola? leads the listener down a very important path. Songs like ‘Calle Luz’ and the album’s closer ‘Resistir’ open up the power of Afro-Cuban prayer to a new audience while also allowing people to reconnect with their own roots. When music experiments like this, it allows the listener to create new connections within themselves, to explore possibilities they may never have considered. It creates the space to explore and ease the confines of identity and history. The journey that ¿Que Vola? takes listeners on will stay with them long after they’ve turned the music off. As they drink their morning coffee, drive through town or sit at their desks, they will find themselves humming to the beat of ‘Iyesa’ and be reminded of the power in ritual and connection.