Last year, New York-based guitarist and composer Yasser Tejeda worked on Dominican star singer Vicente García‘s recently Latin Grammy-nominated album Candela, proving them to be a musical match worth further exploration.
New single “Amor Arrayano” sees them come together again, this time taking on issues of love and politics – specifically, those at the fraught Haitian-Dominican border, where seemingly arbitrary divisions have the potential to interfere with human movements of body and soul.
“Arrayano refers to people who are of mixed Dominican and Haitian ancestry,” explains Tejeda, “or people from the border area, where the cultures of the two countries begin to blur.”
Performed with his band Palotré, Tejeda’s new single makes an emotionally and spiritually compelling case for further blurring those perceived lines. The song is, says Tejeda, “a cross-border story of love and migration, borrowing for its chorus a line from a chant to Papa Legba, a deity that appears both in Dominican and Haitian folk religions.”
Crisp, earthy drums open the track at a walking pace, invoking early Afro-Caribbean sounds before Tejeda sets a wistful tone with languid guitar flourishes. García soon takes the lead, crooning a bittersweet melody punctuated with the band’s occasional calls to Papa Legba, Vodou’s tender of the crossroads between humanity and the spirit world – a poignant symbol in the context of more earthly crossing points. In juxtaposing the need for Papa Legba with extremely human issues of motion, emotion, and the crises that plague both, Tejeda and García pose a question: can we fix what we have broken without divine intervention?
“Amor Arrayano” comes in advance of upcoming album Kijombo, Yasser Tejeda’s exploration of jazz, soul, and Afro-Dominican roots music. Its very name suggests layers of cultural identity; Tejeda derives it from quijombo, a word for Afro-Dominican gatherings of music, celebration, and underlying resistance. If “Amor Arrayano” is any indicator, Tejeda has plenty on his mind and in his heart – all of it ready for his music.
Kijombo comes out on October 11.