|Dear diary, indeed
by Sebastian Cook
It is with a listen to her CD, playing with familiar musicians in her native Cuba, that I really got a sense of just how paradigm-redefining Telmary could end up becoming. If a Norte Americano live-band hip-hop album of this stylistic diversity, lyrical flow, and jaw-dropping musicianship exists that flat-out rocks the floor straight on through Id like to hear it.
The opener, the Afro-Cuban/tribal chant-rap "Rezo", is rhythmically and tonally reminiscent of "Rezos" by Bobi Cespedes with much more intricate horns. Mr. God, with William Vivano on vocals, serves up an incredibly catchy mambo rap with a Latinglish flow. On Marilu, she raps over the funky rumba-swing and coros from the legendary Los Van Van, reminding me of Lauryn Hill (before she lost it) rapping over The Beach Boys (before Brian Wilson REALLY lost it). Wondering gives us Telmary in spoken word temp en ingles, building up to a sexy dance floor soul vocal, a la Meshell Ndegeocello, over a slinky, acid-funk guitar beat. On Rastafashion we hear a Kinnie Starr-style rock-rap, with a breakdown into I Just Want to Celebrate. Spiritual sin egoismo starts with a Ute Lemperesque cabaret croon, transitioning into frenetic rap duet with guest Kumar over a free jazz/Electric Miles funk jam. The soul-jazz number Libre, with its refrain they cant stop stopping us, evokes images of both a yearning for freedom we cant even begin to understand and that magical kind of night that ends just the right way; Paque vuelva is similar in tempo and vocal delivery, along the lines of Amel Larrieux, ending with the albums emotional signature where Telmary cries out I miss you and then breaks out in laughter.
Of the 15 songs on A diario, not a single one fails to impress, or seems formulaic or throwaway. Her ability to rap and sing so perfectly, owning each song but never stealing it, over such a range of tempo and melody is singular. The chanting interludes work perfectly as transitions and as nods to the roots of Afro-Cuban rhythm and sound. Listening to this album makes me ponder why top-quality live-band hip-hop is still a relative anomaly in North America, especially when there are so many great rappers, jazz and Latin musicians. To Cuban musicians its all just music, envisioned from minds that see the whole world and played from the heart.
Her MySpace page states that Telmary studied English, theatre, photography and screenplay with one goal: to communicate. Musically speaking, shes taken it one step further and redefined communication as it relates to hip-hop music. This album is that groundbreaking.
reviewed February 2007