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Spirit Warriors

Orishas, as smooth as a fine cigar
Edouard Salier

Cuban-born hip-hop trio Orishas are known for rhyming about the daily struggles faced by those living in their homeland, often dealing head-on with touchy themes such as racial discrimination, poverty, and immigration.

Even so, there's one area where Orishas' MC Ruzzo (a.k.a. Hiram Riverí) refuses to tread. "We are not interested in the political conflicts between the Miami [exile community] and Cuba," Ruzzo says from his adopted permanent residence in Paris, France. "We want to represent the whole Cuban experience and rap about the reality of our lives, but at the same time we like to respect the differences that exists within us."

Instead Orishas seem more attracted to celebrating the evolution of Cuban culture throughout the world. "Miami is home to a magnificent immigrant community," says Ruzzo. "The role of any immigrant group is to evolve their new city's culture, and I believe that Cubans have done many great things for Miami."

For their part, Orishas — comprising Ruzzo and fellow MCs Yotuel Romero and Roldán González — have been doing their own thing since 1997, when the threesome converged in Paris. By most critical accounts, over three successful albums they've incubated a new form of Afro-Cuban roots music infused with modern elements of hip-hop. The New York Times recently lauded their compilation Antidiótico, released this past April, as one of the essential world music albums of the year. NPR, as well, has constantly praised the group's exotic sound collage. All of this attention has garnered Antidiótico three Latin Grammy nominations and, more important, the respect of their peers, in the form of collaborations with other Latin hip-hop luminaries such as Pitbull and Calle 13.

"Artists like Calle 13, Pitbull, and us represent the many different creative approaches to making Latin hip-hop," says Ruzzo. "But we share one thing in common, and that's our desire to blend all these divergent musical styles together and create something new."

Now Miami hip-hop heads will get a chance to catch all three at Bayfront Park this weekend, at the Música Fresca festival. "It's one of most amazing lineups that we have been part of this year," says Ruzzo. "It's really inspiring for us to be part of such an important concert, and I can't wait to get to Miami — it's really getting cold in France right now!"


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