With her explosive mix of hip hop, cumbia, dancehall and reggae, the Cuban singer, flautist and percussionist Yaite Ramos Rodriguez, aka La Dame Blanche delivers a powerful and compelling sound which summons the spirits.
The smoke of an inaugural cigar prior to setting foot on set, a glass of rum left backstage, necklaces, white flowers, a pristine turban: for her appearances on stage, la Dame Blanche feeds the energy of the spirits of Santeria, her Afro-Cuban religion. In real life, away from the limelight, this singer, flautist and percussionist is Yaite Ramos Rodriguez… A mischievous response during a conversation reveals her character: a slender and diaphanous figure, a legend who haunts nocturnal roads and the imagination of children all over the world. You have to believe the jokes and the evidence. Witty and charming, Yaite tames La Dame Blanche. Everything comes together. “There is Santeria spirit with a similar appearance. I felt her presence in the attic of a rectory.” In the depth of her fortune-telling cards she deciphers good omens on behalf of that spirit. Yaite surrounds herself with supernatural forces, vibes and powers. She scrupulously observes her little shrine and says: “I don’t speak often: you need to know you have to hide the weapons you will fight with.”
A family of musicians
Before unfurling her costume Yaite has travelled a long and sometimes hard road. Everything starts in Cuba where she was born, in the heart of an awe inspiring musical cauldron on which reigns the figure of her father, Jesus “Aguaje” Ramos, an exceptional trombonist who is also the artistic director of the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club. Family parties are gatherings of extraordinary musicians, the cream of Cuban music, to the sounds of thousands of songs and drums. Those celebrations feed the soul of the little girl but often leave her on the sidelines, intimidated and shy. She says: “My beautiful female cousins would divinely sing latin jazz and boleros. I was not as naturally talented as they were! I had to accomplish myself in a different way…” Yaite therefore other paths, learns how to play the classical flute at the conservatoire, and dreams of herself standing in front of a black pulpit wearing a demure dress. Later on she takes her first steps in the cabarets of Cuba.
Finding her own language
Then love strikes and takes her to Paris, the city of lights, the city of every sound. She says: “In my country, popular music was focused primarily on tradition: the sound, la rumba, the batá drums, etc. In Paris, all borders being open, there was a melting-pot of rhythms and melodies!” There Yaite sings in the all-girl salsa band Rumbana, joins the Grand Orchestre du Splendid, becomes back-up singer with Sergent Garcia and live singer for El Hijo de la Cumbia… Those experiences added to her emancipation from the family heritage to develop her own language, that of La Dame Blanche. She says, smiling: “It is the result of my frustrations, of my unfulfilled adventures.” Out of her hip hop flow, the basis of her language, spring rage, energy, the taste of revenge, the cry of emergency. That root of her signature style, played out while remaining feminine and from the tips of claws, gets entangled with merry and wild offshoots of reggae, dancehall, cumbia, moombathon etc. Finally, on that sonic jungle organised in her image land the agile, celestial and anchored threnodies of her flute, with classical accents and sometimes Indian colours. Since his first “tinkerings”, Marc “Babylotion” Damblé, the project’s producer declares himself in love. Others prick up their ears. La Dame Blanche hits home, releases “Piratas” her first LP in 2014 and performs in prestigious venues such as the “Suds” festival in Arles.
2: the dynamite LP
Here she is today, on the cusp of her second LP, simply named 2. “I didn’t find anything better.” – she said. In her tracks she defends in a cry from a guts “stories yet to be told”: stories of damaged friendships, of regained pride, of Olga la Loca, a woman possessed, of monstrous adventures, of boxing, of dancing, of an aunt who unhappy with her neighbours tries to escape her tomb. In a nutshell she sings of the men and the souls who have crossed and shaped her path, with her brothers’ wrath and the revolt of the black struggle running through it. Joining this great party, this flamboyant and orgiastic round, is a slew of distinguished guests: Babylotion and Emiliano Gomez (El Hijo de la Cumbia, Ego 360) – production, direction and mix, Philippe Cohen-Solal (Gotan Project), Toy Selectah (Control Machette), DJ Nakeye, Flaco Nuñez (Orishas), her daughter Rachel, etc. Each brings their own colour to the first breath. Yaite, aka La Dame Blanche surrounds herself with vital forces, with spirits of flesh and bone, with the vibes that support her. 2 delivers its unstoppable energy: a bomb, a raised fist, like a cry of love, punchy, tribal and dancing.