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Revisiting The Cuban Afrobeats Sound Known as Bakosó

The first time I learned about Bakosó music was in 2017, about the same time I started learning to dance Kuduro.  I was ecstatic to discover the sound because it blended 2 sounds I was deeply inlove with; the rhythmic pattern of Caribbean drumming and the rhythmic pattern of Angolan Kuduro and Afrohouse. Bakosó fused together the two sounds so well that it blew my mind. Within minutes of discovery I was on the hunt to learn more about the music and find songs I could dance to.  That hunt lead me to Ozkaro Delga2, a Cuban artist from Santiago de Cuba who creates Bakoso Music. 


I connected with Ozkaro via Instagram where he was able to share with me his music.  In 2018, A full year after discovering Bakosó, I journeyed to Santiago de Cuba. I was part of a Cuban dance immersion cultural trip hosted by Oyu Oro dance company. (More to come on that immersion trip in another post) It was during this visit to Santiago I was able to meet Ozkaro and see and hear the music live.  Much to my surprise I heard Angolan Kuduro and Afro House blasting in the streets and at parties in Santiago; I was blown away because Kuduro and Afro House were pretty much non-existent in New York City where I lived. 


When I discovered Bakosó, I was also introduced to Eli and Khalil. Two brothers who were documenting the rise of afrobeats music in Cuba and how it was influencing the urban sounds of Cuba. Bakosó music was the focus of their documentary, which captured how the sound came to Cuba and the djs and artists who were pioneering the sound. Coincidentally during my 2018 visit to Santiago De Cuba, Eli and Khalil happened to be in town. They were there to premier their documentary—Bakosó Afrobeats of Cuba, at a local theatre.  I was  invited to the premiere and like magic all the stars aligned perfectly.  Suddenly, I was in the midst of discovering this beautiful sound sharing the same space with musicians, dancers and film producers all working to push and promote the sound.   


Cuba, because of its many restrictions is a very difficult place to make art and get that art out of the country. The limitations were evident when I started researching the music but became a vivid reality when I was actually on the ground in Cuba.  I was hooked on the music, but had a difficult time accessing it, and following its development. I had hopes that the wider Afrobeats community would catch on to the sound and that the music could resonate in Angola and in Latin America where Afrobeats was gaining traction.  I visited Cuba again in the summer of 2019, returning to Satiago de Cuba for carnival. And while by 2019 Bakosó had not leaped much beyond Cuba, I was still hopeful. Artists were pumping out music and Afro dance was helping to spread various Afro sounds.  The dancers in Cuba were fully vested in learning Kuduro and AfroFusion dance and I was blown away how much they were in tune with the outside world even with all the restrictions in Cuba.  Then in 2020 the pandemic hit and while much of the world hunkered down and focused on creating art during lockdown, it seemed like Cuba and Bakosó came to a full stop.  But let’s go back and revisit Bakosó. How did it start? Check out this great article that captures how Angolan music found itself in Cuba leading to the rise of Bakosó . 



To understand where the sound stands today, I connected with Ozkaro Delga2, one of the pioneers of Bakosó.


KEN_KEN: Ozkaro, thank you for your time. As one of the pioneers of the Bakosó sound, how would you describe Bakosó music ? And what makes it uniquely Cuban ? 


OZKARO:  I am the pioneer of Bakosó Music; I create the concept.  Making Bakosó is not the same as making Kuduro, or pure Afrobeats, or Funk Favela, which other artists started making. I instead started mixing all of these sounds—afrobeats, Kuduro, Funk Favela, with Cuban music, specifically the Conga music of Santiago de Cuba and Rumba. 


So in other words Bakosó is a musical concept where urban Afro sounds are mixed with traditional Cuban music like Conga Satiaguera, Pilon, Rumba, Guarachax etc 


KEN_KEN: Do you recall when you first heard the Angolan beats that influenced Bakosó ? Do you remember what song/beat it was ? Or how you felt when you heard it ? 


OZKARO: I first heard Kuduro music when a friend of mine from São Tomé gave me the music to listen to.  It was mix of Kuduro and electronic music.  Later on, I heard a similar rhythm on an Angolan Kuduro song that became very popular in Santiago de Cuba. "A YUE, A YUE” more or less was what they were saying in the song. After that popular song, we experienced a period where Angolan music invaded Santiago de Cuba. I saw that people were enjoying and dancing to this music and I recognized that the rhythms were very similar to the Conga, because of the BPM and the percussions. However, it wasn’t until Brazilian Funk music arrived in Santiago de Cuba, (Dj Buffalo Bill) that I wanted to create this type of popular sound.  I was inspired because I realized that our traditional African sounds (of Cuba) could be brought into the modern era with these electronic beats.


KEN_KEN: You started as a hip hop artists, then transitioned to Ragga/reggaeton, then Bakosó. Of all the genres you have participated in which one did you enjoy the most and why ? 


OZKARO:  That’s correct, I started in 1999 as a rap artist.  Then I made music with other Caribbean rhythms and then Bakosó .  I like both a lot: Hip and Bakosó.  Bakosó heals my soul through feelings and hip hop frees my mind; they are my favorite. 


KEN_KEN: You have produced many Bakosó songs, what are your top 5 Bakosó songs that you have created? 


OZKARO: 

  1. A LA UCHACHA   becuase it was my beginning. This song marked the beginning of the Bakoso concept. 


2. DALE BOMBA this has the same type of rhythm with a slower cadence.



3.LLORA COMO LLORE YO   With this song I consolidated the concept more.  It also marked the music sounding more Cuban, but within the afrobeats context. This was also the song that consolidated my career. 



4.STRUGGLE on this track I fused trap with other musical trends 



5.BAKOSO FEAT KMERUM  because this is the song that has made Bakoso music known to other countries 



KEN_KEN:  The pandemic really impacted Cuba and its music scene.  What is the status of Bakoso music today and where do you think it is heading ? 


OZKARO: The pandemic was for many a stop and for others it was an impulse. I used the time to record and create. Currently there is not much reference to Bakoso in Santiago De Cuba. Right now there are only a few artist who make the sound, like Enigma, Chizpa el Abusador, Maikel el Padrino. The majority of the other artists are simply making the same sounds that come from abroad. Many are making Kuduro, the sound from Angola, and Afrobeats, the sound from Nigeria. The are not fusing Cuban sounds (Conga or Rumba) the way I did into these sounds.


KEN_KEN: Cuba is facing unprecedented shortages across the board-food, electricity, and other basic needs. How are these shortages impacting the arts and the people who create art in Cuba ? 


OZKARO: Before the pandemic there was already a shortage in the artistic part of the country, especially in my city—Santiago de Cuba.   Bakoso was created in Santiago de Cuba, the rest of Cuba makes another Cuban urban rhythm known as Reparto.  Only Santiago de Cuba makes Bakoso, and now with the current situation in the country, there are no possibilities of advancement for artists. Thanks to some nightclubs, and I dare to say that only the bar MKA supports the artists in Santiago, other than that there is no support.


KEN_KEN:  how can people keep up with your music and support you as an artist ?


OZKARO: People can find me on digital platforms Spotify, YouTube, Deezer, as Ozkaro Dlga2.  I always have new music.


During my first trip to Angola in 2019, I took Bakosó music to Angola and asked dancers to create to it. Below are 2 videos filmed in Angola featuring Bakosó music



Above, Os Dos2 300 Kassova dancing to Bakosó; I couldn't think of a better duo to showcase their unique style of dance on Bakosó beats.


Below I teamed up with 2 local dancers in Luanda putting some Kuduro moves to a Bakosó beat.


During my July 2019 trip to Santiaog De Cuba, I connected with Ozkaro again and danced in his video: Callejero



From the beat to the dancing in Callejero, it is evident the Angolan influence in Bakosó.


Some more videos capturing the promising energy of Bakosó




Our very own Manuel Kanza, got down to the beats.



And the Westsyde Lifestyle gang Yemi + TomTom also got down to Bakosó



See the film Bakosó Afrobeats of Cuba




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