​​Latin Jazz & More

Latin percussionist, composer and bandleader Bobby Sanabria .The Grammy-nominated artist says that those musical genres all share roots to the sound and soul of West Africa.


​Sanabria says the conversational call-and-response sections found in Latin and jazz music — such as in Tito Puente's folky, Yoruba-inspired song "Obatala Yeza" and the bembe rhythms of Santana's "Incident at Neshabur" — also took elements from Africa.

"The music in its root form," he says, "is utilized to communicate with sacred deities and take you to the beyond, to the spiritual world. In the secular world, when we're on the bandstand, we're trying to get the same type of energy happening — and, if it's dance orchestra, transmit that to the dancers."

Bobby Sanabria

Latin music, he says, has become mainstream in the jazz community because of the recent influx of young musicians from Latin American countries coming to universities to study jazz. Sanabria says that when he was a student at Berklee College of Music in 1975, he was one of the only Puerto Ricans at the school. Now, he says, the majority of the students attending Berklee are from Latin America.


​"They're the dominant force there," Sanabria says. "In many ways, Latin jazz is the real, true representation of the jazz tradition, because it has all of these elements on equal levels: the rhythmic roots of West Africa, complex arranging techniques and the virtuosic improvisational qualities that are found in the jazz musician. So the music has come full circle."