“Dafnis Prieto has been one of the most impressive musicians in New York jazz over the past 15 years,” a New York Times review posted in May 2015 concluded about the Cuban-American drummer.
It’s not the first time Prieto has been hyperbolically praised by the American media. His arrival in the U.S. has been compared to that of “an asteroid hitting New York,” according to drummerworld.com.
The comparison may seem exaggerated, but his music can convince us that the acclaim is well deserved.
Prieto was born in July 31st, 1974. He comes from the same “school” that has produced some of the most successful Cuban musicians in the 21st century: the Columna B ensemble.
The list of stars includes Descemer Bueno (1 million views in You Tube, several Grammy awards and a Goya award), Yosvany Terri (multi-awarded musician, a professor at Harvard University), Robertico Carcassés (multi-awarded composer, arranger and producer, director of Interactivo).
In 2011, Dafnis Prieto became the first Cuban musician to win the Genius Grant of the MacArthur Foundation.
He has performed along with renowned musicians such as Steve Coleman, Eddie Palmieri, Chico and Arturo O’Farrill, Jane Bunnett, Michel Camilo, Chucho Valdés, Roy Hargrove, Don Byron, among many others.
In Cuba, however, it is not easy to find his music playing on radio or television stations. That is one of the many limitations for jazz in Cuba: the poor presence even the most important musicians have in the media.
Additionally, as Leonardo Acosta has pointed out, many jazz clubs have been shut down – something that does not help either.
Although Cuba has produced great musicians and bands, and important festivals are organized every year, the influence of Irakere, Afrocuba, Emiliano Salvador, Chucho Valdes and the Jazz Plaza Festival is very little.
Dafnis Prieto is not going to make a living with the royalties that local television and radio stations could pay for broadcasting his work, but it’s something that should be arranged for the sake of the audience.
Cubans would greatly enjoy the virtuoso drummer and the power of his compositions.
His six records and his current work with Triangles and Circles should find a space in the local media, so that Cubans can have a taste of that Latin jazz brewed in the Big Apple.