Roberto Fonseca

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North & South America

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Juan Toro

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about the artist

Roberto Fonseca is one of those individuals for whom you can understand why life brought them into this world at this particular time, place, and within this family. The pianist, singer, multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer was born in 1975 in La Havana to a family of Cuban artists. His mother Mercedes Cortes Alfaro was a legendary dancer at the Tropicana Club, gaining fame throughout Cuba for her Bolero singing skills, while his father Roberto Fonseca Senior, was a drummer).

The mystery still remains, as while his innate ability was a determining factor in his career, the pianist's deft touch and…

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Roberto Fonseca is one of those individuals for whom you can understand why life brought them into this world at this particular time, place, and within this family. The pianist, singer, multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer was born in 1975 in La Havana to a family of Cuban artists. His mother Mercedes Cortes Alfaro was a legendary dancer at the Tropicana Club, gaining fame throughout Cuba for her Bolero singing skills, while his father Roberto Fonseca Senior, was a drummer).

The mystery still remains, as while his innate ability was a determining factor in his career, the pianist's deft touch and genius don't solely depend on the genetic shape of his hand or the nurturing of his being.

The prodigious artist first appeared on stage at the age of 15 during the La Havana Jazz Festival, a festival he took the reins of 26 years later (succeeding the previous artistic director and music great Chucho Valdés). Roberto was a great architect in opening up Cuban music, while staying true to its musical heritage, by pursuing a Master's degree in music composition at the highly respected Instituto Superior de Arte. Following a tour of Italy, he went on to record his first solo album Tiene que ver, before becoming the junior virtuoso and ever-the-joker of the Buena Vista Social Club. This new fire set him on course to travel the world at breakneck speed, working alongside legends such as Ibrahim Ferrer and eternal diva Omara Portuondo.

Tracing back Roberto's life to better understand the journey travelled is like trying to dissect his music in order to try to explain his masterful improvisations. Roberto is truly a reflection of his music. Look too closely and you risk losing the thread of its relentless coherence, where every project finds its meaning as his various collaborations can attest: Be it with the very influential DJ Gilles Peterson in the UK with whom he made an album spanning from Reggaeton and Hip-hop by way of Afro-jazz. Or lighting up the stage of La Cigale in Paris with great American DJ and producer Joe Claussel. With Baba Sissoko and, most notably, Fatoumata Diawara in Africa, following a significant encounter at the Marciac Jazz Festival, which was captured on the At Home album released in 2015. Not forgetting his album No Limit, Afro-Cuban Jazz recorded in Japan, and its prompt follower Elengó, mixing Afro-Cuban rhythms, Hip-hop and Drum'n'bass.

The high-octane album Yo, which brought together fifteen musicians from Cuba, Africa and the US was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2012; its successor 7 Rayos, released that same year, wonderfully blended Cuban sounds, classical music, West-African instruments, electronic music and spoken word poetry. The retrospective album ABUC found the crossroads between the past and the future, diving once again into Cuban music's heritage in a bold way with contemporary flair. In 2019, he collaborated with Ibrahim Maalouf and Cuban rap's rising star Danay Suárez on the album Yesun.

Barely aged 48 with now no less than 9 solo albums under his belt added to the twenty-odd collaboration projects and a Grammy Award nomination to his name, Roberto Fonseca was honoured in 2019 for his contribution to furthering music and made Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the highest artistic distinction in France.

At the pinnacle of his career, Roberto Fonseca unveils La Gran Diversión, a tribute to Cuban music's golden era, wild nights in La Havana and to Cabane Cubaine Paris' most famous cabaret of the '30s : a truly unique experience poured into an album enhanced by the accompanying live performance where Fonseca's audacity is combined with an orchestra on par with the Buena Vista's. It's a subtle blend of tradition inherited from his musical training working alongside the greats, his unparalleled talent and a dash of unbridled modernity.

Whether you are familiar or not with the moves and steps of the Mambo, Rumba or Bolero, the urge to sway to the melodies played by an artist considered to have breathed a new life into Cuban music, will be irresistible.

"Together we will laugh, cry, enjoy the mystery and magic of rhythms and melodies stemming from my roots" Roberto Fonseca

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