Pedrito Martinez: Cuban Rumba Meets Spanish Flamenco

Written by
Cuban rumba meets Spanish flamenco. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

First there was the late, great Cuban jazz pianist, Bebo Valdés, who collaborated with Spanish flamenco legend Diego El Cigala on their exceptional album Lagrimas Negras (Black Tears) in 2004. Their record sold over a million copies worldwide—major sales for a tropical record—and won Bebo and El Cigala a Grammy. Bebo, like the septuagenarian characters in the Buena Vista Social Club, found himself a new lease on life and renewed fame late in his long musical career.

Now another cool new Cuban-Flamenco fusion album has emerged on the scene: Pedrito Martinez’ Rumba de la Isla (Calle 54/Sony). Cuban rumba is the most African of all Cuban music, born during slavery among African dockworkers in Matanzas, who used wooden crates to beat out fantastic rhythms and dances. Rumba, however, is also a style of flamenco music. Flamenco rumba has its roots in Cuban rumba, brought back to Spain by the Spanish who returned from Cuba to Spain. The Spanish version isn’t quite as African as the Cuban original, but it still is a sexy form of flamenco and like the Cuban style, it has its own own specific rhythmic signature.

Pedrito Martinez is a Cuban rumba drummer and singer. On his new album, Rumba de la Isla, he celebrates the last century’s most famous flamenco singer, Camarón de la Isla. Martinez partners with top flamenco players like guitarist Niño Josele, Cuban singer Xiomara Laugart, and veteran violinist Alfredo de la Fé. It’s a fantastic synergy of African and Spanish music, forged by creativity and inventiveness and steeped in history.

Here Pedrito plays a conga solo and describes its stylistic traits.

Pedrito demonstrates Cuban rhythms.

A little history lesson (in Spanish) on the legendary Camarón de la Isla. He died in 1992 at just 41 years of age. He performed alongside Paco de Lucía, who like most flamenco aficionados, still consider Camarón to have been the greatest flamenco singer of all time.