Omar Sosa

Biography

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Omar at Santa Maria, Cuba Born and raised in Camaguey, Cuba, Omar Sosa studied percussion for many years at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Musica in Havana. When he couldn't find his first-choice instrument -- the marimba -- he bagen to focus on the piano, finishing his formal studies in 1984 at the Instituto Superior de Arte, also in Havana. 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, for several years beginning 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.

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After a brief stint in Palma Mallorca, Spain, Omar moved to the San Francisco Bay Area late in 1995 where he quickly invigorated the local Latin jazz scene with his explosive playing and adventurous writing. The next year Omar made his U.S. recording debut on Otá Records with Omar Omar, followed in 1997 with the first in a trilogy of groundbreaking world-jazz recordings: Free Roots, Spirit of the Roots (1998) and Bembon (2000).

In 1998 Omar began his collaboration with noted Bay Area percussionist and educator John Santos. The duo released a live recording, Nfumbe, in conjunction with their appearance at the San Francisco Jazz Festival that year. The following year, revealing more of the contemplative side of his musical sensibilities, Omar released his second solo piano recording, Inside, a Top-20-selling CD in France for distributor Night & Day. Capping an extraordinarily productive period, Omar also travelled to Ecuador in 1999 to record his critically acclaimed large-ensemble CD Bembon.

Omar singing with Ritmo Y Armonia
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Hands on foot pedals With Prietos (2001) and Sentir (2002), Omar stretches his genre-expanding fusion still further with the use of traditional vocals and instruments from the Gnawa culture of North Africa. We find tongues in Arabic, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Yoruba, as well as instruments like the guembri, oud, djembi, balafon, and marimba. These recordings are world music in its finest sense: strong, uncompromising sounds, yet always welcoming and honest. Throughout we hear Omar's genius as an arranger and his extraordinary inspiration at the piano.

In 1999 Omar relocated from Oakland California to Barcelona, Spain, his point of departure for over 150 international concert and festival appearances annually.

Omar and Jesús Diaz
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