Omar Sosa is one of the most electrifying and versatile musicians in modern jazz. He fuses a wide range of world music and electronic elements with his native Afro-Cuban roots to create a fresh and original urban sound – all with a Latin jazz heart. His work on piano and percussion has been at the forefront of what is exciting and new in Latin music, and has resulted in numerous awards and multiple Grammy nominations. In September 2003, Sosa received a lifetime achievement award from the Smithsonian Institution for his contributions to the development of Latin music in the United States.
Sosa was born and raised in Camagüey, Cuba, the largest inland city on the island. He began music studies at age eight, and by the time he was a teenager was studying at the famed Escuela Nacional de Musica in Havana. Unable to find his first instrument, the marimba, he transferred his studies to piano. At this time he was also introduced to jazz music. Upon graduation, Sosa worked in Havana, Quito, Ecuador, and Palma Mallorca, Spain, before moving to San Francisco in 1995. In this fertile Latin jazz community Sosa flourished, and he found no shortage of outlets for his explosive playing and adventurous, genre-expanding writing.
Mr. Sosa’s music is a unique style of Afro-Cuban jazz, and while it is rooted in the folkloric traditions of the African Diaspora, he always takes an exploratory approach – never one to let orthodoxy stand in the way of his pursuit of freedom. Sosa offers a joyful mix of jazz and Afro-Caribbean rhythms, combining percussive forays inside the piano and a series of electronic effects with his inspired, passionate playing at the keyboard. His tempos are fluid, and his moods change freely. Sosa revels in the irresistible clave grooves of Latin jazz, while adding experimental touches to keep his listeners on their toes.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“Sosa’s music is the unifying sort, yoking together Africa and jazz and Latin America and hip-hop. He makes it work, being one of those rare birds whose keyboard skills are near those of Chick Corea or Chucho Valdés.” -Ben Ratliff, New York Times
“Sosa’s vision of contemporary jazz reaches across every imaginable boundary.” -Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times
“Sosa’s music is an exploration of African culture with a global perspective. In his pan-African/pan-Latin approach, Orisha music, hip-hop, rumba, jazz, and Gnawa ritual music are just different expressions of the same culture.” -Fernando Gonzalez, DownBeat
“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” -Eugene Holley, The Village Voice