It's All About Connections
A native of Lima, Peru, Ricardo Solis has a passion
for world percussion.
But it wasn't always that way. Before coming to the United States, Ricardo
was a rock and roll fan.
One day while living in the Los Angeles
area, friend and musicologist, Silvio Alava, invited him to an Afro Cuban
music and dance show at the University of California at Los Angeles.
It changed his life.
The band was called Skins - after the
animal skins that are used to cover the drums - and they were playing
Rumba. At the same time Skins was playing onstage, members of an African
Dance Troupe, who had just finished performing, were standing on the
side watching and listening to Skins play. Suddenly Ricardo noticed that
they had started to dance to the music. He was mesmerized by their movements
and transformed by the rhythms of the music and decided right then and
there that he wanted to learn everything about Latin music as well as
about African rhythms, the source of all percussive sounds.
It so happened
that his friend, the musicologist, was acquainted with Mike Cruz, the
director of Skins, and introduced Ricardo to him. Mr. Cruz offered to
teach Ricardo how to play Rumba.
And that is how his thirty-year love affair with world percussion began.
Mike Cruz, Ricardo met William "Bucky" Andrade,
formerly with the Willy Colon Band. From Bucky, Ricardo learned about
the rhythms of Salsa. Soon after, Ricardo was introduced to another
percussionist named Bobby Matos, an expert at playing a Cuban instrument
called the Chekere, a large gourd surrounded by a beaded net. Bobby also
made these instruments and made one for Ricardo. He also invited him
to a venue in Los Angeles called Malcolm X where he could practice playing
the Chekere. Many Africans also went there to practice Djembe, and other
types of African drumming. That was his first step into the world of
While studying at El Camino College
in Torrance, CA, Ricardo played with a number of bands, including Rudy
Calzado's Salsa Band, Peter Torrelli, a disco band, and the Afro-Cuban
group Madera. After finishing his studies, he returned to New York City
and took Bata classes with Luis Bauzo (thanks to an invitation from musician
and percussionist Manny Rivera). Through Luis Bauzo he met an excellent
percussionist named Eddie Montes. It was through Eddie Montes that Ricardo
would eventually make the acquaintance of Andre Martinez.
In the meantime,
Ricardo continued to expand his musical abilities as a percussionist,
playing with a number of bands in New York City including the Orestes
Vilato Group (Charanga), Vince Benedetto (Soft rock Chicago style music),
the house band at Brother's Three in Sayreville, NJ, The Paulo Braca
Sextet (Brazilian Jazz), Keith Lambert (R & B),
and Paul Chelemon (Rock).
Ricardo finally met Andre Martinez when
Eddie Montes invited him to a jam session on Dean Street in Brooklyn,
NY where Andre lived. Andre was teaching Eddie how to play the trap drums.
The two had met through an ad in the paper; Eddie was looking for someone
to teach him drums and Andre got the job.
That same day Ricardo met two
other great musicians - Jimmy Cruz and Jesse "Papo" Miranda and together
with Eddie Montes and Andre Martinez formed the group El Monte. Ricardo
played with El Monte for several years, creating a worldwide sound by
playing an array of percussion instruments from around the globe.
"El Monte is where my craft came to a full circle given that this group
played Afro, Cuban, Brazilian, rock, jazz, and avant-garde music." says
band still plays together on and off and in the past has played background
for theatrical plays, as well as several concert halls, the Pratt Institute,
Columbia University, Brooklyn Art Museum, The Door, radio programs from the
Nuyorican Poets Café,
and for several years at the Atlantic Antic Street Festival in Brooklyn.
has now been playing percussion with Andre Martinez for more than 25
years and is a percussionist in the avant-garde band Earth People. Ricardo
continues to play with Andre because he places no limits on the capabilities
of the musicians that play with him, instead stretching the boundaries
of their imagination and talent.
Ricardo's interest in avant-garde music developed after meeting
the master himself, Cecil Taylor. Andre lived in the same building as
Cecil and would get together and talk about music, art, and life, occasionally
play percussion instruments or simply relax with a glass of wine. Ricardo
became the road manager for Cecil Taylor's New England Tour. Soon after
that, Cecil was honored with the McCarthy Award. Ricardo was rewarded
with a memorable musical experience.
Ricardo is currently involved with the new CDs for Earth People
and Morcilla. He is also an accomplished painter. Visit
his website to see some of his work in the series, Influence
of Africa in Latin America, which translates Ricardo's musical experience
to the canvas.
International Experience and Recordings:
Manuel Rada's Group
Name of CD: "Llamarada"
Recorded in Barcelona, Spain
New Wave Group
Name of CD: Traps
Recorded in Berlin, Germany
Erik Kepps Salsa Band
Name of CD: Alma Latina
Recorded in Munster, Germany
Name of CD: Sortilegio
Recorded in Lima, Peru
Name of CD: Amazonas
Recorded in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Name of CD: Colo Jazz
Recorded in Bogota, Colombia
Name of CD: Fruit Drinks
Recorded in Rio do Janeiro, Brazil
Name of CD: Waking the Living
Recorded in New York, New York