Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

“I Was Destined to Be a Percussionist”

Reading Time: 2 minutesAn interview Yissi García, the driving force behind Cuba’s BandAncha.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

This article is part of AQ’s debut culture supplement, Cultura. To see the rest of the issue, click here

This interview originally appeared in Spanish in OnCuba magazine.

Music flows through Yissy García’s veins. The daughter of drummer Bernardo García, founding member of the popular band Irakere, García was born in Cayo Hueso in Havana, the same barrio where the Filin style was born, and whose impromptu bohemian descarga jazz sessions are the perfect setting for the rumba de cajón.

How much did the musical environment of your childhood influence you?

I think it was my main influence, because since I was a little girl I would see my father rehearsing and studying at home. My father and his friends would gather at our house and share videos, music. That captured my attention, but I think (music) was already in my genes. I was destined to be a percussionist since I was in my mother’s belly. In second or third grade I played a little drum in a group. My parents thought it was a hobby and that I would outgrow it.

Did you face a lot of prejudice when you said you liked percussion?

Not from my family, but I did at school. When I started there were almost no girls studying percussion. Someone would always say that this was a man’s job. In fact, I was never called to play in the school groups.

I have to thank a handful of friends who liked jazz and put together a band. Since they couldn’t find anyone interested in that genre, they called me.

How was Yissy & BandAncha born?

When I finished school, I did my (community service) at the Orquesta Anacaona and all the while kept playing in bands like Interactivo. I had always wanted to start my own band and play my compositions, but I could never take the step. Then I left for Angola for a while and when I came back to Cuba I wasn’t part of any group. My producer, Yoana Grass, told me, “All right, it is time you created your
own band and played all the music you want.” I founded BandAncha on August 21, 2012.

These days there are many projects by young jazz players; what makes BandAncha different?

I think what distinguishes us
is the presence of El Jigue, a
 DJ that comes from hip-hop and works a lot with scratch. What we do is not electronic jazz. Our DJ works live, like the other musicians, and that gives the band a very interesting sound. I try to have him play solos on stage, and to have him work collaboratively with pianist Jorge Aragón, the band’s musical director. Julio Rigal uses pedals to modify the sound of his trumpet. I think these things distinguish BandAncha from other groups.

Last year was important because you created Última Noticia, the band’s first album, which was supported by crowdfunding and a grant from the Asociación Hermanos Saíz. What is happening with the CD?

The CD is called Última Noticia, as is one of the
tracks. We chose that name because the latest news is that BandAncha’s CD is ready. It was released in March 2016 and is available on our website (yissigarcia.com/en).

I am very proud of this 
CD. It is fun and intended
for all audiences, not only
jazz aficionados. It has rumba, funk, abakuá rhythms, batá drums, the mix of the DJ with voices and filters. It is different from the Latin jazz being produced nowadays. People will want to dance when they listen to it.

Quiroga is a journalist based in Havana.

Translated by Sebastián Zubieta

Tags: Cuba, Cultura
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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
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