TORONTO,16.02.20- – Powerful, women-led, Afro-Cuban ensemble OKAN has earned its first JUNO nomination, as their debut LP Sombras is up for World Music Album of the Year at the 2020 JUNO Awards Gala, on March 14 in Saskatoon. The album, produced by Latin Grammy-winning bassist Roberto Riveron, and released on Toronto’s Lulaworld Records, fuses Afro-Cuban roots with jazz, folk, and global rhythms, in songs about immigration, courage and love, creating a distinctive and personal musical synthesis. OKAN plays accessible, soulful music, and takes palpable joy in performing it.

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Taking the name from the word for heart/soul in the Afro-Cuban religion Santeria, OKAN co-leaders, composers, and multi-instrumentalists Elizabeth Rodriguez and Magdelys Savigne enthusiastically embrace multiple Cuban music genres, and musical roles that have historically been dominated by men. As Savigne says, “I hid from my family that I was learning percussion and told them that I was studying piano instead, because I knew that they would have been upset.” There’s no holding back talent like this, though in Cuba, no matter how trained they are, Rodriguez and Savigne would have languished instead of thriving.

OKAN-co leaders Rodriguez and Savigne are no strangers to the JUNO Awards spotlight. Savigne has already won a JUNO as a member of Jane Bunnett's Maqueque ensemble, and both women were nominated for their work with Battle of Santiago. After Rodriguez joined Maqueque, both also enjoyed a Grammy nomination for their contributions.

The high calibre of OKAN's musicianship has led to many collaborations. For example, Polaris Prize winner Lido Pimienta invited them to be part of her last album launch, and both artists have just returned from recording together in Colombia with Bomba Estereo. OKAN's also been chosen by the High Commission of Canada in India to represent our nation at the Jaipur Jazz festival. With details of tours to eastern Canada and the southern U.S. to be announced imminently, upcoming dates include the Isabel Bader Centre in Kingston and the prestigious Mariposa Folk Festival.

The Lulaworld label, which releases OKAN's music, is affiliated with Lula Lounge – a Toronto venue that plays a central role in developing Latin, Brazilian, and Caribbean music in Canada, through the Lulaworld and Women in Percussion festivals, as well as the record company.

OKAN has gratefully benefitted from the support of FACTOR, The Canada Council, Ontario Creates, The Ontario Arts Council, and The Toronto Arts Council, all of which have helped to jump-start its career. These organizations have allowed the band to seize opportunities to which it would otherwise not have had access.

In less than three years, moving from strength to strength, OKAN has released the award-winning EP Laberinto, the JUNO-nominated Sombras, and is poised to release its sophomore album Espiral this spring.