Cuban sensation Daymé Arocena talks inspiration before headlining Berklee event

“I believe that it’s so beautiful to know how voices work together as a team,” said Arocena.


Pablo Dewin

Photo by Pablo Dewin, courtesy of Berklee College of Music Office of Media Relations.

Olivia Ray, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Cuban singer, choir director, and composer Daymé Arocena reflects on her musical inspirations ahead of her performance at Berklee College of Music this week. 

Arocena and students from Berklee will be collaborating in a performance of Arocena’s music, featuring a choir at Arocena’s request. “It’s a dream come true,” said Arocena.

According to Arocena, this provided more students with the opportunity to perform, something that only makes the event more exciting.

“I believe that it’s so beautiful to know how voices work together as a team,” said Arocena.

Arocena plans to draw on this knowledge of vocal layering and harmonization to enhance her Berklee performance.

“I’m always thinking not just of the baseline or what the drummer is going to do. Actually, I’m thinking about what the voices around my own voice are going to sound like. I believe that’s pretty distinctive in my music,” said Arocena. 

Arocena’s distinctive music also features influences from the American and Cuban pop culture of her childhood, as well as the flavors of her current home, Puerto Rico.

Arocena says she grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and the like.

These influences, along with her experience conducting choirs, have fed Arocena’s knowledge and passion for her own compositions.

“All I have done in the last fifteen years of my life is try to match all those influences into my own language. I try to match all my knowledge of classical music, choir conducting, my feelings for American and jazz music, folk music, my feelings for my roots, Cuban music, folkloric music from Cuba, and I try to blend all of that to create my own mix.” 

Arocena’s mix of music will be arranged by Berklee students and performed together in the upcoming concert. Her collaboration with Berklee students was originally slated for November 2021 but had to be rescheduled due to COVID-19 concerns at the college. 

After visiting Berklee for the concert in the fall, Arocena went to Puerto Rico to make a single. “I discovered that this place is the perfect fit for me, so I packed my bags and I came,” said Arocena about her new home.

Arocena also cites her recent move from Canada to Puerto Rico as a source of inspiration for her music. According to Arocena, Puerto Rico offers much of the same cultural richness as Cuba, but with more freedom and opportunities.

“I was feeling kind of frozen [in Canada], and I’m not just talking about the weather,” said Arocena. 

Her move stemmed both from missing the island environment of her home and wanting the rich musical scene Caribbean islands have to offer.

“I needed [the warmth], I needed the music, I needed the love for music, the support for music that there is in Puerto Rico,” said Arocena. “When you are born in that environment, you really need it. It’s something that’s part of your life, part of your soul.” 

Puerto Rico also fosters Arocena’s growth as an artist.

“I am trying to learn and enjoy from [Puerto Rico] as much as I can–– culturally, musically, as a Caribbean, as a Latin musician, as a Black African descending musician, and still as an American music lover. Here I can get all of that.”

Daymé Arocena is performing with students from Berklee College of Music on Thursday, February 10th, at 8 pm.