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The Afro-Cuban Rhythm of Pedrito Martinez

Jeroen Komen / Flickr
Jeroen Komen / Flickr
Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación / Flickr
Credit Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación / Flickr

One of Cuba’s top percussionists is making a stop this week in Hawai‘i.

Pedrito Martinez is a percussionist and bandleader who blends complex percussion arrangements, his distinctive tenor, and the Afro-Cuban music of Santería.

Born in Havana in 1973—he moved to Canada in 1998 to join bandleader, Jane Bunnett and decided to remain in North America to pursue his career.  Two years later he took first place in the annual Thelonious Monk Institute Competition for Afro-Latin hand drumming.  Since then he’s become one of the most requested percussionist in Latin music, collaborating on hundreds of projects.  In 2013 he released “Rumba de la Isla”, featuring the music of the flamenco great, Camarone de la Isla.

Currently, he tours with the Pedrito Martinez Group who mix popular songs into the rhythm of Afro-Cuban folk.  Their Grammy nominated self-titled debut was also released in 2013, and their second album- Havana Dreams, will be out later this year.

Martinez chatted with HPR’s Nick Yee. 

The Pedrito Martinez Group performs through Sunday at the Blue Note Hawai‘i.

Nick Yee’s passion for music developed at an early age, as he collected jazz and rock records pulled from dusty locations while growing up in both Southern California and Honolulu. In college he started DJing around Honolulu, playing Jazz and Bossa Nova sets at various lounges and clubs under the name dj mr.nick. He started to incorporate Downtempo, House and Breaks into his sets as his popularity grew, eventually getting DJ residences at different Chinatown locations. To this day, he is a fixture in the Honolulu underground club scene, where his live sets are famous for being able to link musical and cultural boundaries, starting mellow and building the audience into a frenzy while steering free of mainstream clichés.
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