TORONTO – Battle of Santiago is a super-group creating a new sensation in cross-genre music. Combining powerful horns, dynamic vocals, an Afro-Cuban‐influenced rhythm section and a ferocious stage show, the group definitely stands out in the GTA. Their album LA MIGRA garnered a recent JUNO Award nomination in theWorld Music Album of the Year category and the group has been invited to perform a set for the coveted, annual JUNOfest event.
The JUNOFest concert takes place on:Friday, March 23rd at Celebrities Nightclub, 1022 Davie St., in Vancouver, BC. (604) 681-6180. Doors open at 6:30 pm, BOS is on at 8:00 pm. Event: https://facebook.com/events/171879136770264/ For more info please visit http://battleofsantiago.com
Toronto hosts many thriving immigrant communities – including one of the largest Cuban expat communities in North America – and the Toronto-based Battle of Santiago is strongly rooted in the city’s wealth of Cuban musical talent.
Battle of Santiago has developed a must-see reputation, by creating a groove that commands the audience while defining a new genre they call “Afro-Cuban Post-Rock.” The group combines classic Afro-Cuban rhythms and vocals with a distinctly Canadian post-rock spirit and sensibility.
A more timely album title would be hard to find: Battle of Santiago’s third release, La Migra, literally translates to “deportation police,” certainly a topic of great discussion in North America as of late. Tapping in to the climate wasn’t a purposeful decision, according to bandleader Michael Owen who says, “the album title was chosen before the change of the U.S. administration” but the emotion behind the sentiment is still the same. “We chose this title last year, simply because all of the band members have had to migrate to Toronto for one reason or another. We often have trouble crossing the border because of our diverse heritage, something we expect to be even more difficult in the coming months.”
The Battle of Santiago (BOS) band members are half Canadian, half Cuban, resulting in a unique and formidable sound. Led by Owen (bass and production) the band’s sound never veers far from their distinctive blend of Canadian art rock and Afro-Cuban jazz twisted through a dub lens. Most notably, this is also the first time they’ve had vocals on a release, and all the vocal contributions come from the Cuban band members.
On La Migra, they dive deep into Afro-Cuban waters, mixing Yoruba chants with subtle electronica heard on “Barasu-Ayo” and rumbas with post-rock experimentalism as on “Asi Vengo Yo.” The sound is more than just Radiohead meets Irakere, though: there’s cumbia tinged with dub heard on “Cimmaron,” anthemic, pulsating Latin rock on “Pa Bailar” and even the smooth funk on “Complica,” which speaks to the messy lives and identities of so many immigrants and refugees.
It features meditational, tribal African sounds as evidenced in songs like “Los Vajes Del Bata,” along with the aforementioned passionate, sexy, Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz sax, where they really push the boundaries in tracks like “Rumba Libre” and“Bomba Grande.“ The drum-based chant of “Barasu-Ayo Part 1” is a one minute and 14 second deity of destiny dedication, while “Barasu-Ayo Pt. 2” is a five-minute fast-moving mantra that expresses the anger and sadness life can bring, with the understanding that people can’t control destiny.
Battle of Santiago has spent much effort and time honing their unique live performances and the result is a one-of-a-kind show, not-to-be-missed. Owen quips, “When we play live, there is a lot of improv coupled with tons of live energy that we feed off of, we’re so excited for people to experience La Migra.”