Rhythms Of The Soul
Omar Sosa and his music first hit our pages back in September of 2001 in our Spotlight column of the Entertainment department.
We at Issues were on a quest to find something new and different. We didn't want to always write about the same old, same old (you know, like what Britney or Justin are doing). When I first heard Omar Sosa CDs they blew me away, largely because I had just come out of a musical venture that was quite similar, yet different, so I totally understood what he was all about on a musical basis.
I had been working with the rock act Lucrecia and their drummer, Kevin Slater, was heavily into tribal beats from both Africa and South America. So I had several years during my work with them (which netted us a little radio) and a strong education on fusing rock and tribal beats. Fella Kute, Babatunde Olatunji (anyone remember "Jingo" from early Santana?), Ginger Baker, Tony Williams... I got an education in music, beats and drumming.
The music of pianist Omar Sosa, on the other hand, was a fusion of Jazz, Rap and tribal beats from South America and Africa. From the moment I started playing his CDs I said: "Wow!" If you are into percussion or drumming you definately need to get your hands on a copy of Bembon as this has to be in your collection. The percussion and drumming work on this recording is wild! Recorded in Equador, with mostly South American beats, this is a work worth studying!
Prietos is tamer and sonically better (it was recorded in San Francisco) and is more towards the average Joe audience as is the Grammy nominated Sentir which is commercially the high point of the aristry that Omar Sosa and his musical collaborators reached in exploring tribal and Jazz music. Both Prietos and Sentir add more African and even Middle Eastern tribal influences to the mix.
Omar Sosa is now travelling down a new path that leads off from the old path. He's still exploring rhythms and beats, now with his own hands by slapping the harp and wood of his piano, often with one hand while playing jazz with the other hand. He is also working with only one other person while doing his last few, highly experimental recordings.
Sosa, of course, gets little mainstream radio airplay (oh there are some jazz and NPR stations that probably play him to death), as he doesn't exactly play like Kenny G. He did get enough recognition among his peers for a Grammy nomination in 2002 for Sentir> He also plays venues like the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Staples Center as well as some more intimate jazz clubs around the world. He's been doing this since before the turn of this century.
Originally from Cuba he moved to the San Francisco Bay area, but he travels so much playing music and recording that he probably spends little time there!
Now his work has been tapped for a profile by the highly notable Arts and Entertainment series "Breakfast With The Arts" which is a show on Sunday mornings I used to occasionally watch with my mother who was also a musician. This show is basically seen world-wide, as it is a part of Basic Cable for most areas. It's an international network as well as an American network.
Omar Sosa is not some pop god created by the corporate structure or manufactured by major management. He's a talent artist exploring a world of music that comes from his soul. Music that one doesn't hear in life until you put on a CD by Omar Sosa. On A&E you will probably see him as his most experimental, which is not going to be easy for the "average Joe" out there to fully embrace, but it's worth spending a little of your time to check out what artistry in music is all about, as this is something you don't really get from a Britney or Justin. It's not what you'll see on a Justified and Stripped tour. It's certainly not Hillary Duff nor Lizzie McGuire. It's what the music world has been about for centuries. It's about how real musicians who are striving for more and have a message to bring to the listener. Omar Sosa is one of the most contemporarily successful people doing this.
Pictured above: The Omar Sosa ensemble performance at the Newport Jazz Festival 2003
In April, Omar will be joined again by Mino Cinelu in a number of concert
dates on the East Coast, including:
April 14 Rhythm Foundation presents
Artime Theater, Miami, FL
April 15 Joe's Pub, New York, NY
April 17 Cape May Jazz Festival, Cape May, NJ
April 18 Southam Hall, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
For more details on these and other Omar Sosa performances, please visit www.melodia.com.
"Pictures of Soul" is available at your favorite record store, or visit www.melodia.com.
"Sosa's pianisms evoke distant echoes of McCoy Tyner's power, Keith Jarrett's improvisational flights of fancy, and Thelonious Monk's angular harmonies, transforming the piano into 88 well-tuned drums".
-Village Voice (Eugene Holley), February 18, 2004
"Sosa's syncretic worldview is a welcome mix of the sacred and the secular, offering an aural representation of our sepia-toned, syncopated citizenship".
-Village Voice (Eugene Holley), February 18, 2004
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Our Music Special Issues Continues With These Other Offerings from 2003:
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Articles and Information from the 2003 Music Special:
Articles and Information from the 2002 Music Special: