“Five Minutes With” Afrocuban-Roots and Jazz Group OKAN

Taking their name from the word for heart in the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria, the women-led ensemble OKAN fuses Afro-Cuban roots with jazz, folk and global rhythms in songs about immigration, courage and love. Following up on their Juno-nominated and Independent Music Award-winning debut release, OKAN’s sophomore album Espiral, which is set for full release in early October. delves deeper into the group’s rich Afro-Cuban roots, finding renewed inspiration in this Afro-Latin musical heritage. The Santeria influences are most evident in the title track, Espiral (available as a single July 24th) which uniquely blends guajira, the folk genre of Eastern Cuba, with Santeria-derived chants.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Elizabeth Rodriguez is a classically trained violinist who served as concertmaster for Havana’s Youth Orchestra. Magdelys Savigne hails from Santiago de Cuba and graduated with honours in orchestral percussion from Havana’s University of the Arts. Both are also Grammy-nominees for their contributions to Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, of which they are former members.

Their latest video, Espiral, was directed by Toronto-based production manager Kathleen Ryan and created with an all women/women-identifying team. Kathleen met OKAN during the height of the pandemic while working on a virtual concert series and was immediately drawn to their music and performance.

OKAN Photo Credit Ksenija Hotic
Photo Credit: Ksenija Hotic

Name: OKAN; led by Elizabeth Rodriguez and Magdelys Savigne

Genre: Afrocuban-Roots and Jazz

Founded: 2016

# of Albums: 2; Juno-nominated, Sombras, and Independent Music Award-winning debut release, Laberinto,

Latest Release: Espiral – out October 9 on Lulaworld Records

Latest Single: Mercedes

Latest Video:

Favourite local Restaurant:


Favourite band as a teenager:

Van Van

Favourite band now:

Janelle Monae

Guilty Pleasure Song:

We just listen to what we like. Spice Girls for Mags.

Live Show Ritual:

To say I love you to each other before we go on stage

Favourite local artist:

Jeremy Ledbetter and Hilario Duran

Sneaky Dees nachos, pasta from Terroni or a superfood salad from Fresh?

Sneaky Dees nachos

Queen or College St?

College, because that’s where we lived together for the first time.

Trinity Bellwoods or High Park, Riverdale or Kew Gardens?

High Park to take Pancho on a walk. Riverdale – we are East side girls.

EP or LP?


Early bird or night owl?

Mags is an early bird, Eli is a night owl

Road or studio?

We like both, but I think we prefer the road

Swiss Chalet or Roti?


Where can we follow you?

Our website





Any shows or albums coming up?

Espiral is out October 9 on Lulaworld Records – Order it here.