Now Things: The Modern Rumba Sounds of Puerto Rico’s ÌFÉ (Exclusive Premiere)

Words by Geko Jones
Photos by Mariángel Catalina Gonzales

IFE

Before the Internet, music was one of the more lasting ways humanity recorded its stories. ÌFÉ‘s new video for “3 Mujeres (Iború Iboya Ibosheshé)” invokes the griot tradition of Yoruba music and Cuban rumba, bringing them into the digital age. If there are spiritual hymns to be found in the matrix, this is what they should sound like.

Iború Iboya Ibosheshé is the traditional greeting of Babalawos, the high priests of the musically-rich Yoruba religion, sometimes referred to as Santeria. Rumba is a secular expression of this religious music, a complex musical style requiring years of study. The polyrhythm has a set of rules which percussionists and vocalists play within an existing architecture. Just as with developing code behind a software or website, the attention to detail is extremely important but, when played by musicians that know the architecture, the framework is capable of supporting pretty much any instrument you could care to incorporate. These traditions meet the latest technology in ÌFÉ, a visionary new project conceived by Otura Mun aka DJ Nature.

“I moved to Puerto Rico, on a whim 16 years ago and I made a living there with hip-hop and dancehall,” Otura says on the phone from California. “I came from making beats on the MPC. Eventually I couldn’t really work fast enough that way and started moving further away from sampling and moved toward creating source material. I made a movement toward more live percussion. Then about four years ago, I cleared my production schedule and started practicing congas and rumba like 15 hours a day. The same year I received Los Guerreros [the first in a series of Orishas one receives] from my Padrino in Ifá, and continued to study [as] an initiate up until last year when I traveled to Cuba to initiate as a Babalawo.”

After coming back to Puerto Rico to work on his new musical project, he approached vocalist Kathy Cimarron with the instrumental to write the song. A student of William Cepeda, she’s been mentored by a musical icon who has encouraged her to work with the elders and continue the tradition of bomba, Puerto Rico’s musical cousin to the rumba. It’s served her well in preparing for this new project. The song, available for free download on Soundcloud here, is at once brooding but uplifiting, but does exactly what’s its creator set out for it to do.

“I wanted to make something that made me feel like when I’m playing, my soul is flying,” Otura says of “3 Mujeres (Iború Iboya Ibosheshé).”

In an exclusive clip seen here for the first time, the full ÌFÉ ensemble performs “3 Mujeres” at Casa ILÉ ÌFÉ, in Santurce, Puerto Rico. An extended intro from Otura Mun highlights the talents of each respective member. It’s a welcoming introduction inviting you to get to know this intriguing project. 

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