Cuban hip hop group Orishas reunite with ode to island

Wed Jun 29, 2016 12:49pm EDT
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By Sarah Marsh

HAVANA (Reuters) - Reuniting after a seven-year hiatus, Cuban emigre hip hop group Orishas are also returning to their roots with a new single celebrating their "Cuba Isla Bella" and say they hope to launch their fourth studio album within a year.

The Orishas, named after the gods of the Afro-Cuban religion Santeria, originally won global acclaim for pioneering a unique Cuban brand of hip hop melding traditional beats and melodies like musical style "son" with gritty urban rap.

Band members, known as Yotuel, Ruzzo and Roldan, had parted ways on good terms in 2009 after selling more than a million studio recordings, looking to develop their music separately. They say they now have more experiences to bring to the table.

"The separation was necessary because we were creatively worn out," said Roldan, the Cuban "sonero" or singer responsible for the band's smooth melodies, in an interview at a rooftop bar overlooking Havana's Malecon seafront.

"We are back, not to prove anything, but because we love this project. We are going to continue with the essence of the Orishas, but down another path."

Hip hop, which emerged in the 1990s in Communist-ruled Cuba, was long viewed with suspicion due to its origins in the United States and the fear it could foment unrest as a channel for social critique.

Restrictions on freedom of speech was one reason for rising stars to move abroad. Another was limited career opportunities and poor infrastructure in a struggling Soviet-style command economy, a factor that continues to drive Cubans to emigrate.

The Orishas secured their first studio deal in France, although they went on to live scattered throughout the world, meeting up to record and perform.   Continued...

(L-R) Members of the Cuban fusion group Orishas, Yotuel, Roldan and Ruzzo, give an interview from the top of a building in Havana, Cuba, June 22, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini