Kijombo , the second album by Yasser Tejeda —is an invitation into one of the world’s true hidden treasures: the vast landscape of roots music from the Dominican Republic, here re-imagined by guitarist Yasser Tejeda into compositions tinged by jazz, funk and rock, and performed by musical heavyweights from the Dominican Republic and New York. The
Kijombo , the second album by Yasser Tejeda —is an invitation
into one of the world’s true hidden treasures: the vast landscape of roots
music from the Dominican Republic, here re-imagined by guitarist Yasser
Tejeda into compositions tinged by jazz, funk and rock, and performed by
musical heavyweights from the Dominican Republic and New York.
The Dominican Republic has produced two genres of music which have
become among the most popular in Latin America—merengue and
bachata. But beyond those sounds there is a tapestry of roots music styles
that draw from the country’s Afro-Caribbean heritage, as well as influences
from Spain and elements from the indigenous cultures that predate
colonization. These traditions range from the interlocking drums of palos , to
the Haitian-influenced mobile dance party known as gagá , to the
mind-numbing accordion shreds of perico ripiao , just to name a few. In
many cases, these styles of music are connected to African-descended
spiritual practices, and have often been practiced just out of sight of forces
in Dominican society that sought to repress them.
The 11 songs on this album are a journey through a history of Dominican
musical resilience. Each song thoughtfully fuses a different Dominican
roots rhythm or genre with elements from beyond the island. For example,
in “Pa’ Villa Mella,” the band draws a trans-Atlantic line between the
Dominican congo rhythm and the snaking figures of Congolese guitar.
There’s rich storytelling, as in “Amor Arrayano”—featuring Latin
Grammy-winner Vicente García— which transforms a chorus from
Afro-Dominican ritual music into a love song that takes place across the
There’s undeniable musicianship, as found in “Mambodega,” a funky and
virtuosic take on merengue, or in “Swing Ripiao,” a típico track featuring
accordion maestro El Prodigio. And there are poignant political statements,
as in “Salve Electrica,” which flips the sacred salve song form into a
meditation on being an immigrant to the U.S. in a time of upheaval.
If it seems like Yasser Tejeda converses in all these musical
idioms with ease, it’s because they do. Bandleader Yasser Tejeda has
been one of the central figures in the Dominican roots revival scene in
recent years, cutting his chops as a sideman in the Dominican Republic
with alternative legends like Xiomara Fortuna, Luis Días and Tony Vicioso.
After a stint at Berklee School of Music, Tejeda now resides in New York,
where he’s put together a powerhouse of musicians for the latest
incarnation of the band, including roots percussionist Jonathan Troncoso,
drummer Otoniel Vargas and bass player Kyle Miles.
The name of this album comes from the word quijombo , which refers to the
gathering where palos drums are played, among other meanings.The
quijombo is a place where the mystical and the musical intersect. Where
family and friends come to drink rum and dance and sing in cultural
resistance. It’s a place that is little discussed in the Dominican Republic,
but always there. And just like a quijombo , this album from Yasser Tejeda
& Palotré is a space of roots and rootedness, where traditions live and yet
are constantly being updated, and where everybody is invited to come in
and connect to a world beyond our reach.