After a two-year stint with Oriki, Pedro spent a year singing and drumming as part of the University of Havana’s folkloric ensemble, under the direction of Domingo Pau, a well-known dancer and member of the Cuban National Folkloric Ballet. Another valuable experience after Oriki was his work at the Varietur School of the world-famous Tropicana Cabaret dance corps, which provided comprehensive training for those dancers who passed the demanding audition process and made it into the dance corps. Pedro’s role was a central—and once again a twofold—one, as he was called upon not only to play batá in the dance classes but also to act as professor of folkloric songs and chants, and all this while still in his teens! Following a four-month engagement at the Hotel Nacional’s Parisien Cabaret, where he sang and played in the Cuadro Negro, a showcase of Afro-Cuban dance and music within the larger cabaret spectacular, Pedro began to perform with other established folkloric ensembles such as Folclor contemporaneo de Cuba, directed by Ulises Mora, a lead dancer of the Cuban National Folkloric Ballet, Pinos Nuevos, Asé Añabbí, founded by Afro-Cuban percussion master Pancho Quinto, Obbá Ilú, founded by Gregorio “El Goyo” Hernández, and Yoruba Andabo. With some of these ensembles, such as Folclor contemporaneo and Yoruba Andabo, Pedro was able to visit other countries while on tour, including France, Costa Rica, and Spain.
In addition, he was invited to share the stage with the world-famous Muñequitos de Matanzas on two of the group’s Havana appearances. During this period, Pedro also began his recording career, appearing on Wemilere Oyá, with musical director Román Díaz, on Santería by Obbá Ilú, and Espiritistas a cantar with Grupo Los Nani, singing and playing on the first two and featured on backup vocals on the third. Click on “Discography” for Pedro’s complete discography. It was through such extensive experience that Pedro Martínez came to build and establish a reputation as one of the up-and-coming folkloric singers and percussionists on the scene in Cuba, not to mention the talent and ability required to uphold said reputation.
Other increasingly prestigious engagements followed as a result, such as a series of concerts in which Pedro was invited to play with the ICRT (Cuban Institute of Radio and Television) Orchestra, led by Rey Montesinos, well-known guitarist and director. He was also invited to collaborate on a recording with Pablo Milanes’ daughters, under the direction of famed violinist, arranger, and composer Dagoberto González Jr. Pedro’s final major collaboration while still in Cuba was with Federico Arístides Soto, better known around the world as Tata Güines, percussion master; all of his years of experience in the world of Afro-Cuban folkloric and popular music were put to the test, as the master conguero featured the young percussionist in his show at the Cohiba Hotel’s Café Habana cabaret, not only drumming but also singing and dancing—a triple threat to be reckoned with. Two years later, Pedro would meet Jane Bunnett at a jazz festival in Havana, a meeting that would prove decisive in defining the course of Pedro’s career.
After working with a number of established percussionists, Jane brought a select few of them, including Pedro, to Canada to perform with her Spirits of Havana ensemble during a jazz festival in 1998. At this point, Pedro decided to remain in North America to pursue his career. Before long, it proved to be an auspicious gamble; indeed it would seem that fortune smiled on Pedro when the annual Thelonious Monk Institute competition, held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C, showcased Afro-Latin Hand Drumming for the first time ever.
He entered and won first place, an award of $20,000 and a scholarship to attend a music conservatory. Much like Pedro’s Cuba resume, his American resume reads like a local and international who’s who of musicians. Since settling in New York City in 1998, Pedro has performed, recorded, and/or toured with the likes of Juan Carlos Formell, Yosvany Terry, Brian Lynch, Michele Rosewoman, Orlando Ríos “Puntilla”, Steve Turre, Kip Hanrahan and his Deep Rumba project, Horacio “El Negro” Hernández, Robby Ameen, Elio Villafranca, Donato PovedaMe’shell Ndege’Ocello, Bilal, Bill Summers and Los Hombres Calientes, Jerry and Andy González, , Chie Ayado, Mark Weinstein, John Santos, Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill, Ana Torroja, Alfredo de la Fe, Johnny Rivero and the LP All-Stars, Stefon Harris, Little Louie Vega, Milton Cardona, Eddie Palmieri, Antonia Bennett, Bobby Sanabria, Paquito d’Rivera, Bebo Valdés, Nelson González, Dave Samuel, Jorge Moreno, Steve Coleman, , the Conga Kings (Candido Camero, Patato Valdés, and Giovanni Hidalgo), and Raíces Habaneras, to name a few. Furthermore, his involvement in these projects has afforded him the opportunity to share the stage with even more greats, such as Pharaoh Sanders, Jon Faddis, James Carter, Dave Murray, Taj Mahal, Richard Bona, and Herbie Hancock.
Remarkably and also worth mentioning, in a mere five-year stint in New York, Pedro has been both a featured artist and a major player on no less than three Grammy-nominated recordings, Bill Irwin and Los Hombres Calientes’ Vol. 3: New Congo Square, Raíces Habaneras’ self-titled debut, and Yerba Buena’s groundbreaking first album, President Alien. Stefon Harris, Bebo Valdez, and El Cigala album, Lagrimas Negras. Pedro has composing credits in the first three records, in addition to playing percussion and singing lead and backup vocals.
Pedro collaborated on many of the abovementioned projects, while focusing on his work with two main projects in contrasting styles, playing percussion and singing in both, as has always been his custom. One is Horacio “El Negro” Hernández’ and Robby Ameen’s Latin Jazz project, a group founded between New York and Los Angeles that frequently tours Japan, Italy, and Spain. But perhaps the project that most prominently features Mr. Martínez in his element as complete performer, singing, drumming, dancing, and collaborating on original band material, is Yerba Buena, an Afro-Cuban/Afro-Beat fusion band headed by producer and arranger Andrés Levin that is becoming increasingly popular on the New York scene and that is heralded as “the next big thing”, transcending the traditional Cuban, Latin, and World music scenes to attract frenzied audiences of dancer/listeners who have caught on to the savvy blend of styles, rhythms, and influences ranging from Fela Anikulapo Kuti to Celia Cruz present in the flavorful Yerba stew.
Over the past two years, Yerba Buena has been the featured opening act and sharing stage for such illustrious performers as Ray Charles, Celia Cruz, Dave Matthews Band, Willie Nelson, L.L. Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Juanes, Tego Calderon, Julio Voltio, Akwid, Common, and many others. On the screen Pedro has been featured in Fernando Trueba’s reputed documentary Calle 54 as well as the 2004 film production, Havana Nights, and Pinero, TV series OZ, Third Watch, Dame la Mano, and The Cuban Americans. Pedro is also the leader of the rumba-timba-son-ensemble group Ibboru and just release his debut album “Slave to Africa”.
By Intoxicate record from Japan. As one of the frontmen and main faces of Yerba Buena and sideman on countless other projects, Pedro Pablo Martínez’ constant development and growth as complete performer remains on the right track, one that will surely involve branching out into more increasingly innovative, musically interesting and groundbreaking endeavors to which he will bring his talent, charisma, dedication to and passion for music, all the while remaining true to the Cuban roots and traditions that were instrumental in making possible what has already proven to be an admirable, successful career. He is endorsed by Latin percussion Remo Vic firth Sabian Gibraltar Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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