Rodney Barreto, Percussion is everything
By Mercy Ramos, Photos: Courtesy Rodney Barreto
With several albums under his belt, the talented young Cuban percussionist Rodney Barreto is today one of the most versatile musicians who despite his youth has become an important figure in the world of percussion for his virtuosity and professionalism.
Although he wanted to be a basketball player as a child, he says that precisely that idea along with the family milieu he grew up in made him see that music, specifically percussion, was his thing. So when he was only 9 years old he began to study at the Guillermo Tomas School, a music-focused elementary school. He went on to graduate from the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory.
Rodney’s prolific professional career has seen him work with numerous groups including Isaac Delgado’s band (2001 to 2007) and Havana D´ Primera, which he founded. He has also accompanied numerous notable artists such as Chucho Valdés and Omara Portuondo.
In an exclusive interview with this magazine, Rodney said that he has shared the stage with jazz groups such as Alexis Bosch’s Pasaje Abierto, the Nueva Luna Tropical Band led by pianist Rolando Luna, and Bobby Carcassés’s group. He has also played with Conexión Salsera, Top Secret and Jorge Luis Chicoy all of which has given him broad knowledge and experience of Cuban music.
“That experience,” he added, “has made me understand that the same rigor needed to interpret jazz is also required to interpret timba, salsa and popular music in general, which has helped me a lot in my career.”
Asked what he is currently working on, he said that he had just finished his first solo percussion DVD-CD. It was preceded by “Drums La Habana” with his friend and colleague Oliver Valdés, a record that has given him a lot of satisfaction and also the 2010 Cubadisco Award for the best CD-DVD. For his outstanding professional performance career, Rodney won the award for Best Accompanying Musician at the JOJAZZ National Contest for Young Cuban Jazz Players.
As for the album he is currently preparing—which should be finished at the beginning of 2019— he said that it will be entitled “Drummer Negrito” and that “it is a review of his musical life that aims to reflect the Cuban style of playing the drums.”
He also explained that he has just returned from Lebanon, where he worked with the dance company “Rakatan” as part of the show “Vamos Cuba”, which reflects “how we Cubans are in any situation. Our roots in every sense of the word, from the music to the plot of the show that takes place in an airport.” For Rodney, percussion is everything.
“I meet percussion from the moment I get up, in the street,” he says. “In short, Cuba is percussion.”
“Our island is a goldmine of percussionists, it is one of the countries with the most percussionists.
Rhythmically it’s one of the richest countries, because it has a wide range of different rhythms.”
He expressed his gratitude to Giraldo Piloto, director of the organizing committee of La Fiesta del Tambor that will take place from March 4th to 10th, saying that the event plays an important role in giving percussion the place it deserves within Cuban culture.
Finally, he expressed his satisfaction at being able to represent Cuba on different stages, to make Cuban music known, especially its percussion: “because for me percussion is my heart, my driving force, it is everything for me. I live through percussion.”