The incredible career of Roberto Fonseca follows the history of Cuban music of the last several decades, even though his professional appearance as a pianist came in 1990 (at age 15), performing at the Havana Jazz Plaza International Festival. From his performances in nightclubs and hotels to collaborations with Cuban legends such as Ibrahím Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, Orlando "Cachaito" López, to appearances in international jazz festivals worldwide, Fonseca has evolved into a true revelation among the pianists of his generation. He indeed joins the golden league of renowned Cuban virtuosos of the ivory keys by displaying his amazing technique, exquisite talent, and dazzling approach. Fonseca brings a fresh instrumental voice, full of passion and emotion, as he leads us through colorful landscapes in his interpretations, constantly revisiting his native roots and with no final destination in sight.
Rudy Mangual: What first sparked your interest in music?
Roberto Fonseca: I was blessed by being born into a musical family; my mother is a singer and my brothers play piano and drums. At the age of four, I started getting interested in drumming and playing percussion instruments. By my eighth birthday, I was studying basic piano at the Guillermo Tomás Conservatory of Music in Guanabacoa.
RM: Why did you select the piano as your instrument of choice?
RF: In reality, my parents initially convinced me to learn to play the piano, due to the fact that it is the most complete instrument and one full of possibilities for anyone pursuing a career as a musician. My passion for drumming clearly influenced my current trademark percussive piano-playing style.
RM: Is it correct to assume that drumming would have been your second choice?
RF: Without a doubt. I love playing trap drums and all percussion instruments. My first gig as a child-musician was drumming for a Beatles cover band. I used to listen to Beatles music on the radio with my mom, and it was something that marked me; I played the drums as though I were one of them, I loved it.
RM: When you were learning music and the piano, which musical genres influenced you the most?
RF: I have always been open-minded to all forms and styles of music. In school, we regarded North American jazz as a point of reference; I felt that my music would be a fusion of both genres (Cuban music and jazz). I admired jazz musicians such as Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett, but also enjoyed old North American funk and soul classics. At the age of 14, I wrote my first composition on the piano, drawing inspiration primarily from the...