A charming young woman, a muslin dress slipped over her, who can adjust her bow while at the same time singing West African hymns. At first you think it’s virtuoso prettiness that characterises ochumare. and then, in two searing seconds, this diva from Havana now living in switzerland shows her sharp teeth. In a single leap she traverses memories of Chopin, of Chucho valdés, of new York jazz, of the imperious audacity of santería ceremonies. Nothing is pretty in this music; everything is urgent.
Yilian Cañizares was born not very long ago, in Havana. Very soon, on drum skins, she learnt the complex rhythms, the dreamlike spaces, an africa rewritten in the glorious insularity of a country that also imported teachers from russia. Yilian is the fruit of several histories. She can play bach sonatas on a violin of mathematical precision. She can produce a new orleans swing. she can also – quite an achievement – awaken the Yoruba divinities. and notably the goddess Oshun, the soul of fresh water, who best corresponds to her fluid nature.Yilian, a child prodigy, studied at home, in a capital which is a crossroads. Then she set off for Caracas: the orchestra, symphonies, meticulously learning an instrument that likes to rebel. She made her own destiny, far away from her people, ending up in Switzerland to perfect her arpeggios. Strangely enough, it was here, right in the middle of Protestant Europe, that she founded a quartet named after a Yoruba divinity: Ochumare. Ever since then, they’ve been doing their best to reactivate the hybridised power of latino jazz, by mixing in everything that, directly or indirectly, has been through their hands.
Yilian Cañizares doesn’t remain content with dispensing sweetness and light. she lights wildfires, incandescent mambos, with the absolute mastery of a repertoire that takes from everyone without giving anything back to anyone. ‘Anything goes, provided that you take nothing as the base’, said the american composer John Cage. Anything will do, as long as you use everything, Yilian answers him.
Written by Arnaud Robert