Artist Spotlight

Omar Sosa

Omar Sosa

| Interview by Michelle Wright conducted on November 19, 2016.

Multi-instrumentalist Omar Sosa was introduced to music while growing up in Cuba, starting with drums as a boy in Camagüey, then piano at the Escuela Nacional de Música in Havana as a teen. His influences range from Afro-Cuban, to European classical, to Monk and Coltrane. He performs in about 100 concerts annually on several continents, including a few stops in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived for many years. Audiences have enjoyed his music (solo and with other vibrant artists) at the Blue Note (New York, Milan, and Tokyo), Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Getty Center, London's Barbican and Queen Elizabeth Hall, Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall, and Berlin's Haus der Kulturen der Welt; festivals including Monterey Jazz, JVC Jazz, Montreal Jazz, Marciac Jazz, North Sea Jazz, Helsinki, Grenoble Jazz, Montreux Jazz, Naples Jazz, Roma Jazz, Spoletto, WOMAD, and many more. Omar has released several solo and collaborative albums, many of which were nominated for Grammy Awards, like Across the Divide, Sentir and Mulatos.

Omar got in touch with Sonoma Wire Works because he had been experimenting using GuitarJack Model 2 with his iPad, and found it "sounded great, was reliable, lean and sturdy for touring use." He was excited when he realized that our newer model, the StudioJack Mini audio interface for iOS/Mac/Win, can conveniently charge his iPad while he's using it. I caught up with Omar during his tour in November to ask how he uses his new StudioJack Mini during performances.

What are your current projects?

I have a handful of touring projects going on at the moment, including my Quarteto AfroCubano, NDR Bigband, Creole Spirits, Duo with Paolo Fresu, GFS Trio with Trilok Gurtu and Paolo Fresu, JOG Trio with Manolo Badrena and Joo Kraus, Duo with Yilian Canizares, and Duo with Gustavo Ovalles. I do upwards of 100 shows on five or six continents each year. My next U.S. tour will be in April 2017, starting with four nights at SFJAZZ in San Francisco (including Quarteto AfroCubano with special guest John Santos, JOG Trio with special guest Yosvany Terry, and GFS Trio, and continuing with GFS Trio on tour. The SFJAZZ dates are April 20-23. GFS Trio will also be at Kuumbwa in Santa Cruz on Monday, April 24.

What gear do you use during your performances?

I play grand piano, together with a Fender Rhodes and Yamaha Motif XF8. I use an array of electronic effects and samples, including Roland Loop Station, Roland Dr. Sample, and a Korg microKorg. Plus I have various effect pedals within the iPad which the StudioJack Mini allows me to access.

How do you use StudioJack Mini in your performances?

StudioJack mini acts as an interface for me. I get signal from a pick-up (Yamahiko) I have on the grand piano through a DI. That signal goes into a loop station, then into the StudioJack Mini, and then into my iPad. Within the iPad I have an effects pedal App that allows me to manipulate the signal. From there it goes back out to the StudioJack Mini and into a DI for signal into an audio console.

What's coming up for you?

I'm releasing a CD called Transparent Water that I did with U.K.-based Senegalese kora master and singer, Seckou Keita, on February 24, 2017. We have a tour in place in France in March next year. I also recently did a second CD with the NDR Bigband, based in Hamburg, Germany, called Es:sensual, which I'm super excited about. It's been released in Germany and Northern Europe, and we'll be doing some concerts in April and May next year. I've been working on a recording project with some folkloric musicians in the northern part of South Africa, called Badzimo, and will be heading to Pretoria in January to do the mixing.

Where can we hear more of your music?

All of my recordings (about 30 of them) are available on iTunes and all the other online music platforms, as well as from my website,

We can't wait to see your show when you are back in the Bay Area in April! See you then, Omar!

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