NEW ORLEANS – Ogden Museum of Southern Art will host an evening of contemporary Cuban music with Yusa, in partnership with the CubaNOLA Arts Collective. The event will take place on Thursday, June 23, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Yusa’s music is a blend of trova, son, pop, jazz, r&b and Brazilian rhythms. She seamlessly integrates Cuban music with music from around the globe, creating her own unique fusion. While enjoying Yusa’s musical arrangement, visitors are encouraged to visit the exhibition Luis Cruz Azaceta: What a Wonderful World, which brings together painting, drawing, collage and sculptural works spanning over 4 decades to illustrate the prolific career of Luis Cruz Azaceta, a Cuban American visual artist based in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“We are looking forward to a festive night with Yusa,” shares Ellen Balkin, Interim Deputy Director For Operations and Audience Engagement at Ogden Museum. “Like Luis Cruz Azaceta, Yusa’s Cuban upbringing has deeply influenced her career, and we can’t wait for the audience to make that connection. Being able to partner with the CubaNOLA Arts Collective to show Cuban musicians while the Museum showcases a Cuban-American artist has created new conversations around the exhibition we never thought of. We hope to see you there!”
The CubaNOLA Arts Collective is a New Orleans community arts organization that uses the power of live music, dance, festivity and diversity to promote cultural wellness and equity.
Tickets are available now at www.ogdenmuseum.org
Yusa is a high-energy Cuban musician who seamlessly combines traditional Cuban forms with modern sensibilities. She is a complete musician as a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, lyricist, arranger and composer. As music critic Jan Farley put it “the simple sophistication of her music, one knows one is finally hearing 21st century Cuba.”
Yusa grew up in Alamar surrounded by the ocean, which would later influence many of her compositions. She has been making music since she was six years old, starting off studying classical guitar and later becoming the first graduate from the famed Amadeo Roldán Music Conservatory specializing in Cuban “tres” guitar. She paved the way for others to follow in formal conservatory studies of the Cuban “tres” guitar.
The Cuban “tres” guitar was made famous by Arsenio Rodriguez and his Conjunto ensemble in the 1940’s. But in the 1990’s when Yusa was at the conservatory, the “tres” seemed hopelessly wedded to traditional Cuban son music, the kind played by guajiros in country bodegas and rarely, if ever, played by women. In 1997 the rest of the world got an earful of the “tres” played by Compay Segundo on the Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack. Although Yusa happened to grow up in Buena Vista, the western Havana suburb that gave the Social Club its name, her musical interests had little to do with that music style. And the local music scene didn’t seem to be in great need of a tres-playing poet with jazz-fusion tendencies. Despite this, Yusa hit the bars and nightclubs around Havana with her tres in hand, and then started incorporating electric bass, keyboard and percussion instruments into her repertoire. At this time she joined an all-female improvisational jazz quintet called Quasi Jazz. She then went on to form a duo with Domingo Candelario, discovering that she wanted to write and perform her own material. As the 1990’s drew to a close she had a contract with UK-based Tumi Music to record her solo debut. The result, Yusa (2002), enabled her to showcase not just her own uncommon talents but those of her favorite Cuban musicians: Pável Urquiza (Gema y Pavel) as the musical director, Roberto Carcassés (Interactivo) on keyboards, Jorge Alexander Pérez (Cuarto Espacio) on bass, Oliver Valdés (Interactivo) on percussion, and Yusa singing and playing everything you can imagine. This album introduced Yusa on the international stage.
In 2001 Yusa became one of the original founders of the seminal Cuban all-star music collective Interactivo and cemented her relationship with fans that would follow her solo work for years to come. Interactivo continues to inspire and serve as a safe but experimental home base for its brand of timba-funk – a vibrant mix of hip-hop, rock, jazz and blues with Cuban son, timba, rumba and boleros.
In 2003 Yusa was a nominee for the prestigious BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards as Best Newcomer and Best of the Americas, which led to her tour of England with Lila Downs and Susana Baca. Yusa’s subsequent solo tours in London resulted in the DVD Yusa live at Ronnie Scott’s.
Her second album Breathe (2005) was produced by Cuban music superstar Descemer Bueno (Yerba Buena, Enrique Iglesias, Gente de Zona) and was a cooler, funkier, more laid-back affair, bringing together top-notch musicians Haydée Milanés, Lenine and Kelvis Ochoa. Yusa’s third album Haiku (2008) was produced by award-winning Brazilian musician and producer Alê Siqueira. It is an intimate affair and demonstrates her endless musical abilities. In 2008 Yusa founded her own label YUSA Records and moved shortly thereafter to Argentina. In Argentina, she recorded her fourth album Vivo (2010) as part of a series of four live concerts at the renowned Jazz club Café Vinilo in Buenos Aires, and her fifth album Libro de cabecera en tardes de café (2012) with the legendary Omara Portuondo, Raly Barrionuevo, Veronica Condomí and Liliana Vitale.
In late 2016 Yusa moved from Argentina to Miami and embarked on a new series of musical endeavors. She began a series of musical pilgrimages to New Orleans performing with Telmary at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (on the Acura Stage), leading Cuban music workshops at the New Orleans Jazz Market and establishing musical collaborations with New Orleans legends Deacon John and Herlin Riley. These initial explorations culminated in the Tuba to Cuba tour with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in Fall 2019.
In March 2019, she was the featured collaborator with the Nu Deco Ensemble as part of Miami Light Project’s annual Global Cuba Fest. Yusa returns often to Cuba to perform and tours regularly in Japan, Europe, Brazil, South America and North America.
The pandemic winds of 2020 blew Yusa to North Carolina, then South Carolina and then New Orleans. She is now residing in New Orleans and adding even more to her already bountiful musical influences. She is also about to release her sixth album.
Yusa draws the listener in with her uncommon and very personal style – a blend of trova, son, pop, jazz, r&b and Brazilian rhythms. She is able to integrate Cuban music with music from around the globe, avoiding clichés and achieving the ever-elusive “fusion”.
About CubaNOLA Arts Collective
CubaNOLA Arts Collective is a collective of artists, tradition bearers, educators, scholars, students and everyday people that explore the shared histories and lifestyles of New Orleans, Louisiana, Cuba, the Caribbean and Latin America. They strive to understand the complexity of African and Latino identity throughout the Americas.
Their projects tap into the power of neighborhood traditions to connect communities and tackle current problems by recognizing their historic roots and by having fun together. They produce concerts, exhibits, documentaries, readings, workshops, community maps, exchanges, cultural heritage tours and more.
About Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Located in the vibrant Warehouse Arts District of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana since 1999 and open to the public since 2003, Ogden Museum of Southern Art invites visitors to experience and learn about the artists and culture of the American South. Ogden Museum is home to a collection of more than four thousand works, making it the largest and most comprehensive repository dedicated to Southern art in the nation, with particular strength in the genres of Self-Taught art, Regionalism, photography, and contemporary art. The Museum is further recognized for its original exhibitions, public events and educational programs, which examine the development of visual art alongside Southern traditions of music, literature and local craft.
Ogden Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission is free to Museum Members and $13.50 for adults, $11 for seniors 65 and older, $6.75 for children ages 5-17 and free for children under 5.
The Museum is located at 925 Camp Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130. For more information visit ogdenmuseum.org or call 504.539.9650.