OMAR SOSA (CUBA)
2005 is turning into a big year for Cuban-born composer and pianist Omar Sosa: not only is he nominated for a BBC Award for World Music, his CD, 'Mulatos' (Otá), was also nominated for a Latin Jazz Album of the Year award by the Jazz Journalists Association in New York City. Not that this is anything new for Omar: he's been nominated for both awards before. He's already received many international awards including, in September 2003, a lifetime achievement award from the Smithsonian Institution for his contributions to the development of Latin music in the United States . All this for a man who has just turned 40.
Omar Sosa was born and raised in Camaguey, Cuba 's third largest city. He initially studied percussion at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Musica in Havana then began to focus on the piano. In the late 1980s, having studied everything from Afro-Cuban folkloric traditions to European classical music, Omar began working with two Cuban vocalists - first Vicente Feliu, and then Xiomara Laugart - serving as musical director for their touring and recording ensembles.
Moving to Quito, Ecuador, in 1993, Omar discovered the folkloric music of Esmeraldas, a pocket of African-rooted culture on the north-west coast of that country known especially for its use of the marimba. In addition to launching his own jazz fusion ensemble, Entrenoz, Omar produced Andarele, a recording by the Afro-Ecuadorian group Koral y Esmarelda. Omar then moved to San Francisco late in 1995 where he became a noted member of the local Latin jazz community. The next year he made his U.S. recording debut on Otá Records with his eponymous debut Omar. In 1997 he released a trilogy of recordings - Free Roots, Spirit of the Roots and Bembon - that mixed jazz piano with rhythms from across Latin America and Africa.
Omar's world-jazz fusion has gone on to employ Moroccan Gnawa musicians while Arabic, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Yoruba tongues can be heard on his recordings. Omar's just released Ballads (OTA), an album that shows this most percussive of pianists can play with great beauty while retaining an imaginative approach to melody.
A4WM 2004 profile
More at Melodia Records
Rudy Emerenciana Holland
Great music!!! I like it.
Douglas, Boston, MA
Truly an amazing artist...just saw him at the Beantown (Boston) jazz festival and he overwhelmed everyone. There's no one on the keyboard more creative and poignant, yet dynamic.
Ola Balogun (Lagos, Nigeria)
Ricardo Trelles, Miami, FL, USA
I breathe Africa, Cuba, Spain, and the whole continent of America in his notes. It sounds merry and mellow, slow yet intense, oh fantastic. It feels great!
Chris - London
I saw Omar live at the South Bank centre last year. I took along a Nigerian friend of mine who was what I would call a "world-music-virgin". The gig was phenomenal - totally reached the heights! Omar made of my buddy a life-long, charged-up fan of world music! Brilliant.