Hi Dawn, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Wow, thanks so much, I am so much better now that I’m talking to you 😉

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Judgement Rumba”?

Sure! Judgment Rumba is an almost-instrumental reggaeton meets cumbias tune… the arrangement is heavy on the horns and percussion. I’m excited about the mixture!

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

I was inspired by Tupac Shakur’s “Hell 4 a Hustla” bassline and started imagining it mixed with a Cuban guaguanco (rumba). It eventually became a cumbia/reggaeton. Then I must have mixed in a few words about the heart break of the day and then stirred in a few other melodies inspired by Cuban timba and son

How was the recording and writing process? The writing took me quite a while to finalize with special attention given to harmonizing the horn parts. I have only recorded it as a live track, which was fantastic because I had a huge band play it with violin, flute, trombone, tenor sax, 2 trumpets, 2 percussionists, keys, drums, bass and vocals.

What have you learned from your experiences playing alongside Cyro Baptista, Me’shell N’degeocello and more?

I had only been playing for a couple of years when I shared the stage with those great musicians, so I am very grateful that I had the opportunity for such an experience. I still keep in touch with Cyro and his family and I can say I learned a lot about performance and showmanship from working with him and watching him.

As far as playing with Me’shell, I am just now reflecting on those times. We were on the same bill for a Nina Simone tribute after she had just passed away in 2003. We were playing an ensemble tribute for her produced by the Black Rock Coalition and Nina Simone’s daughter Simone was also a creative coach in the production. I just saw the documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and realized just how important that performance had been.. Again, I am really grateful to Toli of The Femm Nameless, Tamar Kali and the Black Rock Coalition for that opportunity to pay tribute to such a great artist as Nina Simone.

What role does NYC and its different cultures and scene have influence your music?

NYC has had a huge influence on my music. It is in this city that I was able to pursue the study of Cuban, Haitian, Brazil and West African music to name a few. I don’t know anywhere that I could have gotten the diverse palate of experiences that I’ve had other than here. I spent a year in Ghana, West Africa when I was in college, and it was from there that I got the idea to move to New York City. I am still shocked by how interesting my life is here. I continue to play with such amazing musicians from all over the world.

Does the new single mean we can expect a new album – how’s that coming along?

I am just now recording the new album and it is coming along! I just got home from my recording session as we speak..

Any tentative release date or title in mind?

November 1st!

Any plans to hit the road?

Well, I am going to Cuba for 2 weeks in April. It’s the Salsa Festival, and I am also going to be going to Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo, two places where I have dear friends that I have not seen in over a decade!

As far as touring, I am looking at New Orleans, Virginia and Florida this summer.

What else is happening next in Dawn Drake’s world?

I am soooo busy. Aside from writing and performing music, I also am a Teaching Artist who works and mentors students for the Brooklyn Arts Council and other organizations. I have been blessed to be given a lot of work teaching Special Needs children. It is a new path for me, and I enjoy it. So when I am not practicing, traveling, performing and recording, I am teaching.

Thanks so much for reaching out, VENTS! A pleasure talking to you, and please check out my website at and my music on! I will also be playing at Brooklyn Bowl in New York, on Monday, March 7th at 8pm alongside Raye 6. The show is part of Mo’Beats Monday.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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