Edrey Riveri (Ogguere) 
Hip hop artist

“Fusion” is a term that comes up time and again when we sit down with Edrey Riveri (alias Ogguere) to discuss his work. And, indeed, the one thing that strikes you when listening to one of his songs is the multi-layered nature of his sound. “It’s important for me to maintain my Cuban rhythms, especially as a base, and to bring in funk, jazz, rap, rock. That’s what Ogguere is, to put it simply.”

Edrey had the incredible chance to grow up in Havana’s Santos Suárez neighborhood—a powerhouse for urban culture. From street parties to break dancing competitions and clandestine antennas wielded from rooftops to intercept Miami’s radio stations, Edrey warmly recalls the heady days of the mid-nineties when Cuban hip hop was finding its step.  

“I listened to Notorious B.I.G., Tupac…—all the great ones from that time— and those were things that had musical depth for me. There were two levels: the more commercial rap and also more conceptual music, jazz-inspired and fused with rap,” he reflects. “I didn’t understand most of what the songs said, but what I did get was the flow—how the rhymes would flow. I didn’t understand but I felt the vibration. The vibe was clear to me and I liked it.”

And then there was one very special neighbor called Pablo Herrera with whom Edrey would exchange tapes. Herrera is now recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the Havana Norte phenomenon and one of Cuba’s premier rap producers. At Pablo’s, Edrey exchanged ideas with Amenaza— the band that would later become Orishas— as well as with other acclaimed hip hop acts like Doble Filo and Obsesión. 

Edrey himself formed a project with Ulises Quiñones called Cien Por Ciento Original (it was later renamed Ogguere) and was featured in a compilation by an American producer intrigued by Cuba’s budding rap scene. “What I wanted to do was fuse Cuban music. Back then, a lot of groups were rapping over North American backgrounds. I couldn’t escape that, but I missed my Cuban music,” says Edrey. To mature his own style, he began working with live musicians and, in 2001, Cien Por Ciento Original recorded “Chacuba” with the celebrated Orquesta Aragón, fusing rap with chachachá. 

A major milestone in Ogguere’s career was the release of a first album, Llena de amor el mambo, which won Cubadisco, the island’s most prestigious musical award, in 2008. One of the songs, “Como está el yogurt!”, became somewhat of a popular anthem in Cuba and Alexandre Arrechea—one of the country’s most internally recognized visual artists—directed the video clip. 

Around that time, you could say Ogguere was on a roll: In 2009, it was included in the very select line-up of Havana’s Concert for Peace that drew a crowd of 1.5 million and got involved in the Havana Cultura album series produced by world music guru and globetrotter Gilles Peterson. The tours that followed the Havana Cultura albums took Ogguere to North America and European stages. 

In 2010, Edrey settled in Canada, where he pursues a solo career and his ambition to break barriers between genres. For one, he recorded a track—“Voy a especular”—with Cubatón sensation Gente de Zona. In 2012, Edrey released his second album, Solar, independently. The following year, he performed in Toronto’s Koener Hall alongside the Heavyweight Brass Band and Giovanni Hidalgo and shared the stage with Telmary at Lulaworld festival. He recently started a new music project with fellow Cuban Dayramir González called Afro-Cuban Soul Rebels and launched it with a concert in New York City. 

Before seeing us off, Edrey shows us around Parque Policía— the rink where he used to breakdance as a teenager. It turns out that the area has been taken over by mural painters and sculptors, and they are hard at work with the neighbors to build a community arts center. Some of them recognize Edrey and it doesn’t take much persuasion to put together a street choir — ages range from 20 to 80— that accompanies our interviewee to an improvised performance of “Donde está el yogurt!”