Orishas | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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ORISHAS

Livan "Flaco-Pro" Aleman, a Cuban expat living in Paris, originally conceived Orishas as a fusion of son and hip-hop that would feature rappers from Havana's bustling scene. But he ended up fleshing out the group without ever leaving France. Lusty-voiced sonero Roldan Rivero and tough MCs Yotuel and Ruzzo, all of them fellow Cuban expats, signed on to help Aleman and French producer Don di Niko mesh son's infectious guitar and piano patterns with lean funk breakbeats on A Lo Cubano (Universal Latino). Many of the album tracks are bolstered by live instrumentation--piquant tres picking here, compact brass charts there--but live the group uses only a DJ and some spare percussion. While the tracks sculpted by Flaco-Pro are lullingly repetitive, Rivero's melodies are crammed with surprising twists, and his soulful wailing is set up in subtle counterpoint to the looped grooves and the superbly consonant rapping of Yotuel and Ruzzo, who deliver their lyrics in Spanish and French. Their topics range from life in the Cuban ghetto to Santeria (in which orishas are the rough equivalent of Catholic saints); "537 C.U.B.A." (537 is the international dialing code for Cuba), about the Cuban expatriate experience, interpolates a melody from Compay Segundo's classic "Chan Chan." This is the group's Chicago debut. Wednesday, November 22, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.

PETER MARGASAK

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