Bespoke Cuban Holidays for the Discerning Traveller

Women drummers are a rare breed so last week I popped down to the lovely Bellas Artes Theatre to check out young (25 year-old), female percussionist, Yissy Garcia Calzadilla. She´s been on the jazz block for quite awhile now – multi-prize-winning, and playing with some of the best – but this was her first solo concert, with a new band in tow, and I was pretty impressed. Shy and nervous (but winningly so) she tried out lots of new ideas that, for me, didn´t always quite work, but what she did show us is that she and her band are definitely an outfit to watch out for.

With a silky, pedigree profile and lots of strong collaborations already under her belt, Yissy offered up a very funk/r ´n b/latin-based set that demonstrated both her prodigious talent and that of her band. Her lead guitarist, bass player and pianist were most notable (Héctor Quintana, Julio César Ochoa and Jorge Aragón); the understated Quintana being particularly dazzling – a tremendous talent, there. Together – with impressive groove – they developed some interesting, complex rhythms and progressions, even working with moments of silence – rare, and welcome, in Cuban jazz.

The inclusion of a young rapper and DJ was – for me, at least – forgettable, although it’s intriguing to think about how she might experiment with more electronic sounds. I’m not sure, either, that she really needs a trumpet player (Julio Rigal) or a permanent percussionist (Dayron Echevarría) – very fine though they both are. I had the feeling that with more time and work, Yissy – with just Quintana, Ochoa and Aragón – could pull off something really tight; more sparse, tense and exciting. I’d also like to hear a more varied set – stepping out from a very funk-based routine. But as a first solo shot it was a good-feel, surprising and notable performance, and I’ll definitely be back for more.

Sue Herrod


To learn more about the music in Cuba, take a look at the history of Cuban music, its influences and what the music of today sounds like. Get lost in Cuban music and discover why it should be the perfect soundtrack to your holiday.

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