Our current Spotlight artist, Venissa Santí, has traveled a long road to develop the performance skills and strong artistic personality that drives her current recording, Bienvenida. From her roots in Cuban culture to her training in jazz, Santi has soaked in all her musical surroundings and molded them into her unique style. She’s combined traditional jazz phrasing, Cuban rhythmic structures, standards from both the Cuban and American jazz songbooks, and pop songwriting techniques into a unified whole, giving the world a new vision of the Latin Jazz vocalist.
Take the time to check out Santi’s music – she’s making a personal statement on her latest release that stands out from the crowd. If you’d like to listen to Santi’s music, check out her MySpace page. If you’d like to purchase her album, go directly to her CDBaby page. I’ve included her bio info below; check it out and then go hear her music – I think that you’ll enjoy what you hear!
Santi’s perspective on her career path:
My artistry in singing Afro-Cuban and Jazz was born from the necessity to express the musical influences that nourish my spirit as a Cuban American. Cuba is a land that I have known of since my infancy, which began in Ithaca, New York. In my mind l understood that to Havana you never go back. Little did I know I would rewrite this thought by nurturing an innate passion for music. I inherited this musical passion from my grandfather Jacobo Ros Capablanca, a composer in Cuba who left all of his compositions to me when he passed. At 17 I moved to Philadelphia to study jazz and it was a groundbreaking moment at the end of my senior year when I took out the aging portfolio of his compositions and had them played for me by an accomplished pianist. I knew that I had to sing his music one day. This was the beginning of the digging process and Philadelphia was the staging ground of my profound discovery. I became a trained vocalist with classical and jazz based technique and as vocalists must do after much musical intake, I sought to find my own voice. I began an intense listening regimen of early Celia Cruz, Cuban singer (among others) and realized Cuba had a wealth of standard repertoire. I also realized that singing in the Cuban style would take some wood shedding on my part and that the best person to teach me would be Celia herself. I explored this possibility and had no luck. The next best thing in that case was to go to Cuba and find a master to train me. At the same time I began my voice teaching career at AMLA, a community music school in the barrio of North Philadelphia and became very active in the Latin community and in the Latin music scene of Philadelphia as a soloist in many World and Jazz group’s concerts and recordings. It was through performing, teaching, waiting tables and with connections from my mentors, I was able to go to Cuba. I was taken in by my blood relatives there and lived as a voice student of some of Cuba’s most beloved Ocha (religious) and Rumba (secular) singers, who trained me to sing lead in these styles. I participated in jam sessions, ceremonies, performances, saw an exhibition of excellent technique, spontaneous enjoyment.. so much that I’m changed forever. These masters’ lives are this music, as it is the thread that weaves their rich culture, history and religion. It is an outlet where Cubans express themselves in times of celebration and oppression. On one occasion, at a street fair to benefit the local library, group “Afro Cuba” performed a spectacular show for the neighbors. Four or more generations of people played, danced and enjoyed their rumba. In Philly I founded a folkloric rumba group “Canto Y Cuero” and I incorporated many of rumba’s community learned concepts into the curriculum at AMLA and found that my inner city kids just like me, were moved by it and wanted to become soloists in our community concerts. I became a wife and a mother in 2004 which gave me the isolation I needed to process all I had learned and start writing my first solo record in my Cuban Vocal Jazz Style. This journey has been instrumental in answering many of my life’s questions as an artist and a Latina and I’m pleased to present the soundtrack of my life’s journey thus far.
Some of Santi’s past work & accomplishments:
Featured live and as a soloist on the recordings of these Philadelphia based world, jazz and other groups:
Alô Brasil (recording session was produced by the acclaimed Michael Spiro), Choral Arts Society, Sonic Liberation Front, DJPE, Gina’s Gyil Fusion, Iré, and Ellas.
Featured vocalist. Weekly Mar.-Jan. Lead and background vocalist with the Jack Faulkner Wedding Orchestra performances at hundreds of private venues and country clubs in PA, NJ and DE. 2003-present. With these Philadelphia based groups: Conjunto 23, Xande Cruz-Batukis, Pura Candela, Latin Play Boys, Canto y Cuero, Elio Villafranca, and Orlando Fiol. I have also performed at the following venues: Zanzibar Blue, Chris’s Jazz Café, Ortlieb’s Jazz Haus, Kimmel Center, Mann Music Center, North By Northwest, Merriam Theatre, Clef Club, World Café Live, North Star Bar, Manayunk Brewery, Grape St.
Professor of Afro-Cuban Song and Performer at Common Ground on the Hill, a two-week summer music camp/festival at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD, 2006, 2007.
Private Vocal Instructor – Classical, Pop, Jazz and Latin techniques. Freelance, 2001-present. Also in association with the following schools: “Music to You,” in house vocal lessons, 2007. “Music Workshop,” school in Manayunk PA, 2004. AMLA (Asociación de Músicos Latino Americanos), a Latin community Arts school in North Philadelphia, 2001-present. I am featured on a mural dedicated to Latin Music on Somerset and Mascher Sts., N.Philadelphia, PA.
Community Educator. Co-creator and Director of AMLA’s “Roots of Puerto Rican Music” touring music and culture group, that ran school assemblies to educate students about Latin culture. Performances at hundreds of schools (K-12) in Philadelphia, 2001-2004. Soloist in AMLA’s “Roots of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian Music,” a touring music and culture group that performed assemblies at local schools (K-12) Phila., PA, NJ, DE 2002-4.
Commissioned by AMLA to write the script for “Roots of Cuban Music,” to be launched in 2008.
Awards Received. Certificate in Afro-Cuban musical culture and history from CIDMUC (Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de la Música Cubana), a prestigious publishing house and music research agency in Havana Cuba, 2003.
Residencies in Havana and Matanzas Cuba. 2001-2003. The 2001 trip was a self-coordinated. I sought out vocal masters residing in Havana and studied privately. Master singers Gregorio “El Goyo” Hernandez of Yoruba Andavo and ISA (Instituto Superior del Arte), Arturo Martinez of “Clave y Guaguancó.” In Matanzas: with “Minini” and Miguel Angel of Grupo Afro-Cuba de Matanzas. Topics of study: Ocha Singing (African Yoruba religious music) and dance, Rumba song and dance, as well as techniques in performance, improvisation and percussion. 2001-2003. Trips in, 2002, 2003 were in conjunction with CIDMUC who provided lectures in Afro-Cuban and popular Cuban musical history.
Attended lectures given by esteemed musicologists Olavo Alén, Daniel Orozco, and Nerys Bello.
Other accomplishments. Guest artist in Choral Arts Society’s “Stained Glass” concert at “The Cathedral” in West Philadelphia as soloist and Afro-Cuban coach for the choir, Phila., PA, 2005. Participated in rehearsals and performances with Jorge Salazar of “Irosso Obba” at the famous rumba center Hamel’s Alley in Havana, 2002-2003; Featured soloist with Elizabeth Sayre, Philadelphia based batá drum expert and her group “Iré” (African Yoruba tradition) at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia, 2002. Lead vocalist and arranger for an all female salsa group “Ellas” which opened for Compay Segundo of the famous Buena Vista Social Club at Mann Music Center, Phila., PA, 2000. First member of family to go back to Cuba in 2001 after family went into exile 1961.