Last May, 22-year-old singer Daymé Arocena was invited to take part in an 'open mic' audition in Havana. She was one of a couple dozen Cuban artists getting a shot at a chance to record on a new album for Gilles Peterson's label. Peterson is a well-known DJ and producer based in Britain.
Daymé says she was tense. "Each person sang one song, I was so scared 'cause that open mic was huge. A lot of beautiful talent and famous Cuban singers, and I was so scared 'cause nobody knows me there."
Gilles Peterson had invited ten emerging producers from around the world to go to Havana to record with Cuban artists. So when Daymé found out she was selected for Peterson's project, she was in shock.
"I was like ... What! 'Cause everyone there was like huge, famous Cuban singers and they picked me! I was like, 'maybe they drink a lot!'" she says with a great big laugh.
Next thing she knew she was in London for the launch party of the album Havana Cultura Mix-The SoundClash. And Peterson invited her to perform that night. "He said, 'We bring Daymé from Havana 'cause all the DJs, the Ten DJs picked her to work with her.' So I was at the stage like, 'What?' Because nobody told me about it before."
Daymé laughed all the way back to Havana. Her debut album comes out this week in the UK and later this month in the US. And with the way things are changing in Cuba, it couldn't have a more appropriate title. It's called Nueva Era or New Era.