IROKO is a sublime musical cascade. The flash that bounced off the walls of a music studio in São Paulo, Brazil in 2022 when African-Brazilian vocalist and guitarist Tiganá Santana and African-Cuban pianist Omar Sosa worked together to chisel a gem, while the world was still in the grip of a raging pandemic. The exquisite album they crafted exemplifies the magic that arises when artists shove aside their creative egos and humbly listen to each other, their shared vision becoming a flash of creative genius.
Sosa and Santana are two innovative spirits of the contemporary music scene who have lots in common. They structure complex compositions with ears attuned to their respective sub-Saharan African cosmovisions (Santería, Cuba, and Candomblé, Brazil). Both textually and emotionally, they speak to the same ancient Yoruba divinities, and are able to create a dialogue of Africa with itself, from various points of departure, ports of entry and across the seas. A dialogue that is futuristic and cosmic by design, yet contemporary in its appeal, backed by an array of sub-Saharan instruments that add melodic urgency to the speech.
Omar is one of the few composers and pianists who will command your full attention from the first note he strikes, enveloping you thereafter in tighter and tighter patterns, so intimate and warm, that you’ll feel you’ve never been musically embraced before. He’s an amazing composer who never repeats himself, nor misses a beat, though seemingly in a trance, alone with himself, somewhere out there in space. His gift for turning a piano into a passionate messenger of tenderness, is overwhelming.
Tiganá will literally own whomever listens to him sing. He strums a guitar as few do; literally drumming out a torrent of soft crescendo notes, in response to whatever he is feeling. His compositions can move from absolute pathos to paroxysmic joy, in a fusion so extravagant between a human and an instrument, that you’ll no longer discern which is which. An exquisite composer and the owner of a gorgeous voice, so warm and sincere that it sends shivers up your spine, or draws tears, while he, himself, is lost in his ‘transic’ moment. He has the capacity to express feelings, in their mounting or descending gradients, with a sincerity and intensity not heard since Milton Nascimento.
Tiganá and Sosa are ‘transic’ artists who are undefinable and unclassifiable, inimitable in what they do. Omar: short, restrained melodic outburts that sweep you out to sea, afloat waves of pure emotion. Tiganá: who, without saying a word, articulates the full palette of feelings, from deep pain and sorrow to the most celebratory joy, by humming so hypnotically, that you feel as if you’ve heard those sounds before, in a life lived many centuries ago. Together, they defy borders, obliterate time, painting new dreams with the colors of possibility, or sculpting the forms of a desire rediscovered. Between them, they forge spaces for the new wholeness – a compromise between the unfettered winds of yesterday and the promised kaleidoscope of tomorrow that does not gloss over the soul-wrenching turmoil of this morning. 
Omar Sosa and Tiganá Santana are creative rebels, modern insurrectionists who’ve turned their backs on any form of repetitive traditionalism, to embrace an ‘experimentalism’ that allows them room to continually push the envelope. Naturally, they vibe with and nourish themselves from all things African, particularly that continent’s millennial tradition of continual experimentation – a tradition birthed on the banks of the Nile River that straddles all of its symbolic tributaries (the Congo, Niger, Zambesi, Senegal, Limpopo and Orange rivers), before redeploying its wings in the Americas, as a fatal consequence of Europe’s unmerciful overlapping of the world beyond its borders.
IROKO is definitely the fruit of a convergence of minds – that of two musical revolutionaries and visionary Maroons who’ve made peace with the Past and taken command of their creative Present. In their own right, each spells out in their music and sonic voyage an elaborate discourse on the power of feelings, intimacy, tenderness, authenticity and truth. The resulting dialogue is a bridge to the new power that flows from the merger of the best expressions of ancient love, with the expectations of a new one. It’s a running speech about healing and renewal – the upbeat discourse of a resurgent universe in the face of the numb steamroller that conquered, but did not win. 
IROKO is a beautifully crafted and moving album, a real treat for the soul. An Africa-to-Africa dialogue overseas, about the Many Rivers to Cross and the Beautiful Jungles to enter, along the road to the true Self.   
Bloco Novo


Bolero De Flotacion
Inner Crossing (Travessia)
Moradia de Babalu
A Seiva de Gamelieria Branca
Black Frequencies
Bloco Nuevo
Y Loves
Time in Nature


Omar Sosa – Piano, Percussion
Tigana Santana – Guitar, Vocals
Gustavo Ovalles – Percussion


Selo Sesc


A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.


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