If you happen upon the online events calendar for Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery, you might pause when you catch the listing for Cuba’s La Dame Blanche—a musician whose promo photo shows her oh-so-casually lighting up a big fat cigar. The vibes? Immaculate. This might also lead you to the music video of her 2021 song, “Veneno,” a track that comes in hot with a single, mesmerizing flute line soon joined by sparse percussion. Then come the riveting vocals—triumphant, defiant and magnetic all at once.
“Who is this woman?!” you might ask. Meet Cuban singer, flutist and percussionist Yaité Ramos-Rodriguez, who performs at Tumbleroot for the second time this year as part of a collaboration with South African Afro-psychedelic future pop group BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) through nonprofit promotions outfit AMP Concerts. Lucky you.
SFR’s conversation with Yaité Ramos-Rodriguez has been translated from Spanish.
“It’s always a pleasure to return,” Ramos-Rodriguez tells SFR of Santa Fe, adding that she and BCUC share a passion for extravagance in music and on the stage.
Born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Ramos-Rodriguez comes from a family of musicians. She’s the daughter of famed trombonist and director of the Buena Vista Social Club, Jesús “Aguaje” Ramos, but she hardly lets her father’s legacy define her own sound. Ramos-Rodriguez began studying classical flute as a child, and it remains a focal point of her music.
“The flute is the main piece,” she explains. “It justifies the unjustifiable. It’s my amulet.”
As it has been for some time. After graduating from the National Art School in Havana in 1994, Ramos Rodriguez stuck around Cuba’s largest city to immerse herself in its traditional folk, jazz, rumba and Afro-Cuban music. She also joined the female septet Sabor A Miel, which culled from pretty much all of the aforementioned styles.
In 1998, however, Ramos-Rodriguez relocated to Paris, where, she says, she really came into her own as a notable Latin voice on the Parisian scene. There she joined up with the likes of pianist Alfredo Rodriguez and groups such as Rumbanana, Paris Salsa All Stars, Solside, Mambí and Sabor A Son. And she further refined her sound.
Today, as La Dame Blanche, Ramos-Rodriguez’s music is nothing if not eclectic.
“Like a homemade recipe,” she says, “a thick salsa where nothing is missing because I like everything in music.”
For Ramos-Rodriguez, that recipe includes ingredients from both Cuba and France.
“I would say, like Josephine Baker’s ‘J’ai deux amours;’ my country and Paris,” she says. “I’ve been fortunate as an immigrant to arrive in a country where I could develop both personally and intellectually. It’s essential for my balance to know who I am and where I come from.”
The next step in her journey is the upcoming La Dame Blanche album Atómica, out this December. Ramos-Rodriguez says she is inspired by the simplicity, humanity and organic aspects of life.
“In search of happiness,” she says; “speaking softly and shouting through the loudspeaker in search of broken little hearts.”
This speaks to an almost universal search. La Dame Blanche’s most recent album, 2020′s ELLA, has been called an homage to her mother, for example. But Ramos-Rodriguez tells SFR the record goes deeper.
“ELLA is a tribute to all women,” she says. “My mother is the main character, and I am her creation. ELLA is an album of which I am proud; it carries weight, vigor, courage, indiscipline. It’s ‘I do as I please. It’s about time.’ It means much more to me than just a tribute.”
La Dame Blanche will certainly bring that ethos to the Tumbleroot stage. Oh, but how did she come by that stage name? Ramos-Rodriguez references the folk legend of a lady in white, a kind of female spirit, and one that’s often up to no good who appears in the folklore of numerous cultures and countries from Ireland to the Philippines to Cuba. It’s a tongue-in-cheek nod, which, she says, suits her quite well.
“At home, we say, ‘Don’t fear the dead’ and ‘I’m not afraid,’” Ramos-Rodriguez explains. “There are many legends about this character, and that’s precisely what drew me to her. I call myself La Dame Blanche, and I bring good news.”
La Dame Blanche with BCUC: 7:30 pm Friday, Nov. 17. $20-$27. Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery, 2791 Agua Fría St., (505) 303-3808.