If you have lived in Philly for the past three years, you have most certainly heard of Leana Song. They are a relentless drum ensemble turned proper, draping the Philly music scene and street corners with rhythms from around the world. Known to break fire codes, they usually roll 10 to 20 deep depending on who is available for the hit, packing the stage and the dance floor with beats to make you forget what country this is. Some of their members may be on tour with Matisyahu, or Melody Gardot, but that doesn’t stop Leana from turning the party out every time.
Born in blossoming Northern Liberties, this diverse ensemble takes direction from Shawn Hennessey, for whom the term American-African was invented. During their two-year residency at Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus, Leana Song also played every other venue in the city of Brotherly Love. As openers for Cyro Baptista’s Beat the Donkey, Grimace Federation, and Chris Berry’s Pangea, virtually every bill they were on had a packed house. Was it the music…. or was it the uniform? At every show, Leana blesses the stage in all white attire, a symbol of respect for the purity of the ancient music they make new.
You may have seen these do-gooders on M.I.N.D TV, formerly WYBE, teaching African rhythms to scores of Philly youth in public and private schools. This special entitled: “Leana Song: Creating Community” can still be seen on channel 35, and proves that this is not just another band. These musicians feel it is their social responsibility to increase Philadelphia’s awareness of the world’s rhythm, and now with their debut record “Orisha Love Song’s Vol.1” they plan on taking Philadelphia’s rhythm to the world.
“Orisha Love Songs Vol.1” is a contemporary salute to six orishas, (spiritual beings representing forces of nature) from the Yoruba tradition/religion. Orisha worship was first brought to Cuba by Yoruba slaves in the nineteenth century. It was then combined with Catholic religious practices, and spread to other Latin-American countries and the United States via immigration. Leana Song gives this music a whole new venue, and decorates their sound with highly capable musicians. Featuring Orlando Fiol on piano and Jason Fraticelli on bass, Leana’s cast of music makers reads like a who’s who of the New York/ Philly scene.
“Orisha Love Songs Vol.1” offers a completely unique sound and is a testament of what is to come as the world begins to really hear each other’s music. On a foundation of Cuban Batá drums, Leana combines the traditional call and response Yoruba song forms, with modern folk/jazz instruments and harmony. They succeed in creating dynamic and complex soundscape, enticing the listener to dance, sing, and drum along. They roll through song cycles, rising and falling with intensely hypnotic grooves, supporting a wealth of ancient melodic phrases.
“Orisha Love Songs Vol.1” can be compared to the very best examples of contemporary world music fusion i.e. the most recent solo album of Miguel Diaz “ANGA”, Marlon Simon’s “In Case You Missed It”, Chris Berry and Panjea’s “Shine”. With elements of jazz, folk, and world music, “Orisha Love Songs Vol.1” has a sound that needs to be heard.