The African diaspora throughout the Americas feels to me like a big river, flowing and changing its formation across various lands, but remaining one immense watercourse. Carib is my continuation of that river, a personal and musical stream I began when I became bandleader for my first album, The Departure (1994) where you can clearly hear Puerto Rican rhythms running throughout. Another fork, my album Melaza (2000), has the most substantial connection with Carib because of its flow and the strong influence of the bomba music tradition from Puerto Rico. I believe some of the greatest contributions to contemporary music and culture have come from the African diaspora throughout the Americas. Unfortunately, there seems to be too little awareness of their influence, especially the vital stories told by the music. So, I wanted to approach this album as a means to pay tribute to all Afro descendent communities who have helped define my music and the culture’s broad ranging beauty and idiosyncrasies. It's striking, and it hurts me to see the marginalization and poor sociological conditions in so many Pan African communities, which are wrongly viewed as a simple, normal circumstance of life and consequently receive a lack of attention and action to change those conditions, and systems, which continue to create inequity. This recording is part of a new series of my recordings which begins with all original pieces inspired by the musical traditions of Puerto Rico and Haiti, then travels to other Afro descendent musical traditions throughout the Americas.Carib features traditional music from these two islands, because it still amazes me how similar their music flows. I focused on the Congo-Guinee in Haitian music because it is a musical tradition shared by many other Afro descendant cultures. Haiti has an amazing and resonant history, filled with struggles; foreign occupations, revolution, independence, national disasters, embargos, long stretches of isolation, which, at times, both created a cultural vacuum in the country and also circumstances to preserve the core of many traditions coming from Africa. Some of Haiti’s struggles, reminds me of my own island. A long time oppression created by colonists has played a central part in Puerto Rico's culture too. And after the devastation hurricane María wreaked on my island, I saw more parallels with Haiti aftermath from their tragic earthquake in 2010. Furthermore, for over a century, both islands have had their economy systematically crippled in a diversity of ways. In reality, Puerto Rico has always been a property, a casualty of imperialism, and the island has too long been in a one-sided economic relationship in which the priority has never been the well-being of country's people. Yet the cultural identity feels very strong and omnipresent despite all the struggles colonialism usually brings, and ultimately it's a genuine testament to the irrepressible people of Puerto Rico.
This album is in memory of my Father, Dimas and especially, my late wife Karla. After a great deal of research and listening to Haitian music, Karla encouraged and helped me take a trip to Haiti. It was an incredible and intense experience, seeing the everyday people's struggles. She felt like it was important that I had this direct contact with Haitian culture. I feel like this recording wouldn't have been possible without her wisdom, sensibility and love. Even if she wasn't physically around when I was in the studio, she was constantly present in many different forms and definitely a key component in the album's vibe. Although it has been a long three years of family health challenges and loss, I'm grateful because I found the strength to finalize a project that reaches my soul. Even if sometimes I don't fully understand experiences in the process of life, past or present ones, I'm thankful because they all are a part of who I am and therefore will remain always in my heart.