Roberto Fonseca is a Cuban pianist, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and bandleader. Havana-born and based, he has released nine solo albums, collaborated across genres, been nominated for a Grammy Award and toured the world several times over. Along the way he has achieved the aim with which he began his professional career in the early 1990s: “Wherever people are, I want them to hear my music and say, ‘This is Roberto Fonseca’.”

An artist of prowess and ideas, with a questing jazz sensibility and deep roots in the Afro-Cuban tradition, Fonseca continues to astound. ‘The most exciting pianist in Cuba,” avowed Britain’s Guardian newspaper. *Does something new with the old, without ever denying its origins, and opens himself to the world,” insisted France’s Le Figaro. “Makes all possibilities seem possible, and the moment feel perfect, intensely true,” declared the New York Times.

Born in 1975, Fonseca grew up in San Miguel del Padrón in the unassuming Barrio Obrero on the southeastern outskirts of Havana. His father, Roberto Fonseca Senior, played the drums. His mother, Mercedes Cortes Alfaro, was a dancer at the legendary Tropicana Club and is renowned within Cuba as a singer of boleros. His two elder half-brothers are a drummer and a percussionist; the young Roberto was four-years-old when he started playing drums – his first professional gig was in a Beatles cover band – before taking up piano aged eight. He has been composing his own music since adolescence.

His technique is as percussive and muscular as it is agile and delicate. His tastes were always eclectic: hard rock, for its energy and basslines. American jazz, taught at school, consumed in between, with Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett and Oscar Peterson on rotation. Funk and soul. Music made in Africa and Brazil. Reggaeton, electronica, hip-hop. Classical music: “Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Grieg, Bartok,” says Fonseca. “Every day, still.”

Combining jazz sensibility and deep roots in the Afro-Cuban tradition, Yesun is the Havana-born artist’s ninth solo album. The record delves into the music of Fonseca’s homeland of Cuba while keeping its sights set firmly on the future, weaving in electronic beats, spoken word, retro-modern keyboards, Fonseca’s vocals and more.

“Yesun is the album I’ve always wanted to make,” says Fonseca of a record that combines everything from jazz and classical music to rap, funk, reggaeton and electronic music. “All my influences are here. All the sounds and vibes that make me who I am.”

Yesun delves even deeper into the music of Fonseca’s homeland, weaving in beats, spoken word, analogue keyboards, Fonseca’s sonorous vocals and more.

Episode #206

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