Cuban-American drummer, composer, Grammy Award winner and MacArthur "Genius" Fellow Dafnis Prieto and Grammy-winning Brazilian-born vocalist Luciana Souza bring their musical partnership to Berklee Performance Center in Boston Saturday.
Prieto's 2022 album "Cantar" features Souza on vocals. It's the pair's first artistic partnership and Prieto's first outing as a lyricist.
To satisfy his urge to experiment, Prieto wrote the songs in English, Spanish and Portuguese. And to feed his need to innovate, he and Souza laced percussive vocalization with straight-ahead melody.
Prieto spoke with WBUR's All Things Considered host Lisa Mullins.
Prieto: "I'm of the approach that everything should be singable, and to me that's a very distinctive quality that I like to exploit in my music."
Mullins: Yeah, it should be singable, but it's all relative. When you hear some of the songs, it's a little difficult. I mean, you're having Luciana do some really funky tempo, and it's beautiful, but not easy.
"Well, you know, I didn't say anything about easy. Talking about singing, I do this rhythmic vocalization in many of my shows, and it's this thing which is very percussive oriented and kind of imitating different sounds of percussion or drums. And then that's a song. It's very interactive. It's very complex rhythmically, but also melodically. You know, in a way, it's really deep-rooted into my knowledge of rhythms and things like that."
Talk a little bit more about that — about how it reaches into your roots rhythmically.
"Well, I was born in a very rhythmic neighborhood, in a way. It was [a] very humble, poor neighborhood in Cuba — in Santa Clara — where I used to listen to percussion and music all around. This is something that I've been doing just for fun to imitate sounds with my voice.
"So I think that music to me is natural, so the level of difficulty when you grew up in that kind of environment changes, because everything starts being a little bit more natural and more accessible in your imagination and in your willpower to do, see."
Was the song, "The Muse," which is in English, much of a change for you? Was that much of a stretch or a departure?
"Well, actually that song is very interesting, because this song, 'The Muse,' I had the music written, and I had actually all the lyrics written. But when I show it to Luciana, Luciana wanted to kind of update some parts of the lyrics of it. And I knew it was going to be much more poetic if I let her fix a few things here and there.
"So I was really grateful, because this is one of the songs that kind of exemplifies this collaboration that I did with her."
Who is the muse?
"It's a feeling. It's almost like a spiritual encounter. And it's not something physical, like a woman that you can say is a beautiful thing. Or, you know, my wife could be my muse. It's actually the creative process of the creator — in this case, me — the relationship that I have and how I deal with opening myself to let the muse get in to enhance the process of creativity. So I think that's the beautiful thing that Luciana captured in the touch-ups and the [updating] of these lyrics, as well."
So [Luciana] almost brought the muse — I mean, the collaboration became the muse.
"Yeah, she did, indeed. Yes."
This segment aired on October 26, 2023.