Roberto Fonseca is a Cuban-born multi-instrumentalist and fabulously gifted jazz pianist, composer and bandleader.
Roberto Fonseca was born in 1975, Havana, Cuba.
From an early age, Fonseca was surrounded by music: his father was drum player Roberto Fonseca, Sr, his mother, Mercedes Cortes Alfaro, a professional singer (she sings on her son’s most recent solo album, Zamazu), and his two older half-brothers from his mother’s previous marriage to the pianist and musician Jesús “Chucho” Valdés are Emilio Valdés (drums) and Jesús “Chuchito” Valdés Jr. (piano).
After an early interest in drums, Fonseca switched to piano at the age of 8, and by 14 was experimenting with fusing American jazz and traditional Cuban rhythms; he appeared at Havana’s Jazz Plaza Festival in 1991 when he was 15.He began composing at age 14, drawing inspiration from Afro-Cuban music.
“In school, we used to regard American jazz as a point of reference,” Fonseca recalls. “I felt that my music would be a fusion of both genres. I liked lots of jazz musicians, such as Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett, but also old American funk and soul classics.”
Fonseca studied at Cuba’s Instituto Superior de Arte, where he obtained a master’s degree in composition, even though he often says that he was a really bad student. After earning his degree, he left Cuba to find his sound.
Fonseca first album, En El Comienzo, which he recorded with Javier Zalba and the group Temperamento, was awarded Cuba’s Best Jazz Album in 1999. This success encouraged him to work on two solo records: Tiene Que Ver and Elengo, combining Latin jazz, drum and bass, hip-hop, urban music and Afro-Cuban rhythms.
Fonseca has stated his mission clearly:
“I want my music to reach people who don’t know me, and I dream of one day becoming a point of reference for my audience.”
— Ghafla.co.ke (@GhaflaKenya) November 4, 2016