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Latin hip-hop Cuban act in Athens this Saturday February 13, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.

In Athens this Saturday, Madrid-based Orishas’s work depicts their native land

Orishas, a Latin Grammy Award Winner last year, brings its fresh-sounding Latin-hip hop to the Greek capital’s Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Center this Saturday night. Though based in Spain, the group’s songs are about its native Cuba.

The rapid rise to fame by Cuban Latin-rap act Orishas, back in Athens for a performance this Saturday after last year’s successful visit, almost reads like a fairytale.

The four-piece group, which was formed in Paris in the late 90s by Cuban expatriates who met in the French capital during a student exchange program, later relocated to Madrid. Shortly afterward, in 2000, there was an innovative debut album that added another branch to hip-hop’s blossoming tree, the latest offshoot bearing Latin-music fruit. Their similar-minded next couple of albums drew the masses, and, last year, Orishas was awarded the Latin Grammy for best hip-hop band.

With a centralized political system being preserved in Cuba, a country where the hip-hop scene is kept under close watch by the state, there could, of course, be a little politics mixed in with the Grammy musical institution’s recognition of the expatriate Cuban act. But, there is no doubting the wider recognition by fans around the world.

Cuban hip-hop is divided into state-sponsored and independent scenes. The former, which leaves out the style’s rebellious thoughts and feelings, enjoys state support for shows and recordings. The other form, a sidelined scene of struggling artists, acts as a vent for frustrated Cuban youth.

Working abroad, Orishas avoided the entire thing. Ironically, the expatriate act is at the forefront of the Cuban hip-hop scene. Their work focuses on issues and thoughts that concern their native land. The quartet’s international rise has relied mostly on its music and countless lively shows from city to city, no marketing gimmicks involved.

Following the debut album’s creative breakthrough, Orishas’s second album, “Emigrante,” released in 2002, and its follow-up, “El Kilo,” released three years later, rounded up the masses and contributed greatly to hip-hop’s wider acceptance in Cuba, where the style, catering mostly to the needs of angry young artists, had yet to break into the mainstream. Along their course of increasing commercial appeal, Orishas has managed to hold on to its early hard-core fans.

For listeners in other lands, Orishas’s work serves as a historical, sociological and musicological lesson that can be partied to. That isn’t a bad combination.

Oriashas are playing this Saturday at the Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Center, 254 Pireos Street, Building No 6, Athens. Tickets cost 35 euros and can be purchased from www.i-ticket.gr, Metropolis music stores and Tickethouse, 42 Panepistimiou Street, Athens.

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