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Singer, trumpeter and bandleader Jerry Medina has appeared on some of the most exciting salsa, Latin jazz and Puerto Rican folkloric projects of the past three decades, including albums by Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Yomo Toro, Oscar D’León, Cheo Feliciano, José “El Canario” Alberto, Luis Enrique, Grupo Afro Boricua and dozens more. He was a member of the groundbreaking Afro-Caribbean fusion ensemble Batacumbele and toured the world with many Fania Records stars. Building a bridge between Caribbean folklore and Latin jazz, in 2015 Medina formed Jerry Medina y La Banda and produced the critically-acclaimed album A Mi Manera, which included the talents of Giovanni Hidalgo, Paoli Mejías, Efraín Toro, Pablo Rosario, Luisito Marín, Prodigio Claudio, and Ricardo Pons.
Tito Matos and Viento de Agua
Viento de Agua fuses traditional Afro-Puerto Rican rhythms, bomba and plena, with other Afro-Caribbean rhythms and jazz, creating a creative and unique musical style. The result is an explosive sound that seduces dancers and stimulates listeners. Puerto Rico-born Hector “Tito” Matos formed the group in New York City in 1997 with veteran musicians from the city’s folkloric and Latin jazz scenes. Their 1998 album De Puerto Rico al Mundo appeared on Top Ten lists of the New York Times and Latin Beat magazine. Returning to Puerto Rico in 2004, Matos reorganized the group with some of the best pleneros living on the island and recorded the album Materia Prima, which also notched a New York Times Top 10 spot. Matos also leads La Máquina Insular, an “unplugged” percussion centric version of the larger group which focuses on a respectful but daring and aggressive approach to tradition.
MIMA is the artistic persona of Puerto Rican singer and songwriter Yarimir Cabán. She spent almost a decade as a singer in the massively popular group Cultura Profética before beginning a solo career with her debut album MIMA in 2005, followed by the critically acclaimed El Pozo in 2011, which was co-produced by Mark Underwood, who would later, as Otura Mun, found the Future Afro-Caribeña group ÌFÉ, of which she is a member. Her songs are the result of deep soul searching thru the music that has influenced and inspired her, drawing on ambient music, jazz, pop, punk, reggae, Afrobeat, electronica, trova, and elements of theater and rock.
Henry Cole & Villa Locura
Drummer and bandleader Henry Cole is well known in the jazz world. The native of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico has recorded and toured with the likes of David Sánchez, Gary Burton, Alfredo Rodriguez and the 90 Miles project, and he is a permanent member of the Miguel Zenón Quartet. He is a two-time Grammy winner for his work with Calle 13 and Residente. His own music, first with the critically acclaimed Afrobeat Collective and now with his latest project, Villa Locura, explores the rich history of Puerto Rican music updated for the 21st Century by a sprawling 14-piece ensemble of jazz, rock and folkloric musicians. Cole calls it “Raw, Spiritual, Interstellar Puerto Rican Funk.” Villa Locura’s first single, El Diablo, was composed by legendary songwriter Rafael Hernandez and popularized by Ray Barretto on his 1973 classic album Indestructible. Cole has reimagined it as a churning and thick funk groove anchored in Puerto Rican bomba rhythms.
Orquesta el Macabeo
One of Puerto Rico’s most popular salsa bands to emerge in the last decade, Orquesta el Macabeo recovers the island’s salsa tradition and updates it with new ideas and the energy of its eleven musicians, who have backgrounds in punk rock, ska and reggae, yet bring total sincerity and respect to salsa’s history and heritage. Formed in 2008, they have recorded and released four albums of original music: Salsa Macabra, El Entierro, Lluvia con Sol and La Maldición del Timbal. Their sound is reminiscent of salsa’s early days, when energy, attitude and creativity took precedence over slick perfectionism. While their lyrics honestly deal with the sometimes harsh realities of life in Puerto Rico, their live concerts are a raucous call to the dancefloor, leaving audiences exhausted but wanting more.
Leró Martínez Roldán
San Juan, Puerto Rico-born Leró Martínez Roldán is arguably the most talented and multifaceted young plenero and bombero to come out of Puerto Rico in the last decade. The percussionist, singer and bandleader is no mere preserver of tradition. Rather, Martínez Roldán advances folkloric plena and bomba through original songwriting and inventive arrangements. His three recordings Sacao del Horno (2015), Boricua Soy (2016) and Neto (2018) have received critical praise for their invigorating rhythms, superlative songwriting and dynamic ensemble playing.
Bomba con Buya is a Chicago-based ensemble of musicians and educators that aims to preserve and advance bomba. Developed during the 18th century among Puerto Rico’s African descendants, bomba is the island’s oldest surviving music and dance form. Buya means ‘good spirit’ in Taino, the language spoken among the island’s indigenous population, and the group strives to embody this idea while sharing the tradition through concerts, workshops, and community engagement. Most of the members of Buya are Chicago-born Puerto Ricans who connect back to their Boricua heritage and that of the African diaspora through the music they create together. This includes artistic dialogue with historians and performers from Puerto Rico, and collaborative work with various Chicago-based musicians and dancers from Belize, Haiti, and Mexico. They released the album Buya Live in 2015.
One of the freshest new voices on Puerto Rico’s alternative music scene, Émina is the quartet of Ama Rios, Janice Maisonet, Angelica Kolsan, and Aniela Batres. Their sound fuses jazz, hip-hop, electronic music and Afro-Caribbean rhythms in an entirely original approach, sounding unlike anything you’ve heard before. Tenor sax, percussion, electric keyboards, bass and lyrics come together in a spare yet danceable brew that’s emblematic of the way Puerto Rico’s tight-knit music community continues to grow new talent.
International Dub Ambassadors
Dub’s cry for freedom and justice resonates in the oldest colony in the world. The International Dub Ambassadors (IDA) are the preeminent dub band in Puerto Rico. Combining a heavy bass with psychedelic effects, IDA uses deep rhythms and galactic melodies as the primary vehicles to express the island’s political impotence. The main members of the group – Javier Pérez, Bobby Connelly, Ramón Torres and Daniel Lo Presti – have collaborated together since puberty, exploring different musical styles such as punk rock, reggae and ska, among others. The throbbing vibrations of this Caribbean collective demand the listener to abandon the logistics of reality, in search of a new intergalactic awakening.