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Photo: Kingmond Young

Songs to Obatala: Lucumí Chants From Oro Cantado with Bobi Céspedes 

Bobi will be accompanied by Javier Navarrette on percussion and Lichy Fuentes on coro.

June 27, 2020 6pm PT

The Lucumí (Yoruba descendants in Cuba) celebrate Bembé in community to pay tribute to Orisha—divine forces manifested through nature. In this workshop, renown singer, folklorist and Lucumí priestess, Bobi Céspedes, will teach a sequence of chants used in the Bembé ceremony to honor Obatala, the great creator and one of the healers in the Lucumí pantheon. In chants sung in a call and response pattern, we will join in giving praise through song to the divine owner of the white cloth of peace, and pray while we envision a better life for all of us.   Bobi will be accompanied by Javier Navarrette on percussion and Lichy Fuentes on coro.


Gladys “Bobi” Céspedes has been at the forefront of representing Cuban music in the Bay Area and internationally for over 40 years. A song writer and vocalist in the Cuban son tradition, Bobi has recorded 3 albums with the band she leads—most recently “Mujer y Cantante,” due for release in the summer of 2020.  Bobi first won international recognition as director and lead vocalist for the award winning Bay Area band, Conjunto Céspedes.  She went on to tour internationally with Mickey Hart, before returning to the Bay to establish her own band.  


Bobi’s music integrates Cuban folkloric and modern elements in an authentic and distinctive sound. Her resonant voice and dynamic stage presence lead audiences on a journey from Yoruba incantations to the Cuban son. She can belt out a  rumba or move you to tears through a heart wrenching rendition of a classic bolero. Along the way she shares her narratives of family life and love, and the wisdom of Afro Cuban fables. Always present is her chambo—that vibrant Cuban soul–creative and resilient.  


Bobi has been a leader and pivotal player in the thriving Afro-Cuban cultural scene in the Bay Area for nearly half a century. As an educator, performer and community elder, Bobi provides fresh ways for contemporary audiences to be touched by Cuban music and culture, furthering the legacy of such vocalists as Celina González, Celia Cruz, and Merceditas Valdés.

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