THE ENCORE CONCERT FOR CUBA IS LINKED FOR VIEWING HERE
This is a revised and edited version of the original concert and does not include the performances of Tom Morello, Michael Mc Donald and Dionne Warwick.
HotHouse thanks Bea Cabrera for her work creating the encore presentation
Additionally, we thank the many people who made donations to HotHouse which allow us to provide this viewing link for no cover charge. If you enjoy this work and want to support future endeavors like this please donate here
- Cuban solidarity links
- Translations to English (Cuban Speakers)
- Dr. Jorge Fraga (Spanish Version)
- List of Musician Contacts for CDs, etc.
- Margaret Randall Translation
- Poem by Nancy Morejón
On July 18 and 19, 2020, cultural organizers from the US and Canada came together with the Instituto Cubano de la Musica (ICM) in Cuba to host a special virtual tribute recognizing the distinct contributions to the world during the Covid-19 pandemic. The concert saluted Cuba’s heroic and outsized contributions to health care around the world as doctors have volunteered this year to serve in more than 26 countries. These contributions have been in spite of severe depredations imposed by US sanctions under Trump and the ongoing blockade. For these sacrifices and more, many around the world are calling for the 2020 Nobel Prize to be bestowed upon Cuba.
The two-day cultural event feaatured the legendary talent nurtured on Cuban soil and recognized world-wide as virtuoso artists. Musicians located outside of Cuba influenced by numerous Afro-Cuban styles or who are playing in solidarity with the aims of the event also participated. The roster of talent amassed for this historic event signified the concert as one of music history’s most memorable gatherings.
Interspersed with the music, tributes by long-time friends of Cuba, other artists, politicians in the US, religious leaders, academics, and activists joined the program to make remarks and offer context to the program.
The program was exclusively broadcast via the Twitch.tv/HotHouseGlobal channel and LIVE from Havana’s Instituto Cubano de la Musica. More than 4 million people tuned in for the historic concert
The program has been presented for free without paywalls and all labor related to the program has been donated. We encourage you to support the participaing artists by visiting their website and purchasing CD’s or downloadable music.
CONCERT FOR CUBA SUNDAY, JULY 19TH
ARTISTS AND PERFORMERS BIOS (In order of appearance, program subject to change)
EL INSTITUTO CUBANO DE LA MÚSICA (ICM) / THE CUBAN INSTITUTE OF MUSIC
The Cuban Institute of Music (ICM) is a department within the Ministry of Culture of Cuba and is one of the most important cultural institutions of the country. It is tasked with the implementation of the policy of development, promotion, and projection of music inside and outside the island. It has a system of subordinate institutions, which house more than 16,000 artists throughout the country. Today it is the governing institution of the Music Development Programs, whose ultimate objective is to achieve a stronger affinity with culture in the Cuban people, applying a strategy aimed at stimulating, developing and implementing actions supporting musical institutions throughout the country. ICM produces a variety of shows in the country that ensure the development, protection, enrichment, defense, and promotion of the musical heritage of the nation.
MARGUERITE HORBERG AND THE CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE AND EXHIBITION DBA HOTHOUSE
A nonprofit, arts presenting organization formed in 1987 in Chicago, IL HotHouse has been long the city’s principal venue for presentation of contemporary and traditional performance and art from throughout the African diaspora. HotHouse was one of a handful in the entire country to host Cuban artists during the years of the U.S. blockade from groups like Irakere to artists such as Chucho Valdez. In 2017, HotHouse was one of twelve organizations in the U.S. to receive a
U.S. State Department grant via the Embassy in Havana to create the Chicago-Guantanamo Blues Exchange. In March, HotHouse developed an online streaming initiative to serve the NGO ,small business,and cultura lindustries adversely affected during thi health and economic crisis. The HotHouseGlobal Twitch channel facilitates a variety of multi-arts and community- based content and a worldwide network in the social justice and cultural sector. Since March more than 30,000 people have tuned in to HotHouseGlobal.
Raul is the principal at Cuza Talent Agency, a company based in Montreal, Canada specializing in World Music, with a very strong knowledge in Latin and African music. Mr. Cuza has been active in this music field for more than 20 years and has served as Programming Director of Festival Nuits d Afrique, co-owner of Eye For Talent Canada, President of Mango Music, and Vice President of GEM Latina.He has been responsible for the tour of artists like:Septeto Santiaguero, Adalberto Alvarez, Amparanoia, Azucar Negra, Los de Abajo, Paris Combo, Seckou Keita, Sierra Maestra, Qbanito, and OrquestaSensación.
Bill is an immigration attorney who has also produced and managed cultural events in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1973. A native San Franciscan, he is a graduate the University of San Francisco and Hastings College of the Law. He has worked in the Community Law Collective (’74-’79), New College of California School of Law (’79-’83) and the Volunteer Legal Services
Program of the Bar Association of San Francisco (’84-’93). In 1981, he co-founded the Encuentro del Canto Popular, a San Francisco-based Latin American music festival. His work with the Encuentro lead him to become one of the nation’s leading experts in U.S.- Cuba cultural exchanges and artists’ visas. He co-founded the Latino Entertainment Partners which produced historically significant concerts of Cuban artists.
EMCEE – CUBA
ANKUR MALHOTRA– EMCEE
Ankur Malhotra is co-founder of Amarrass Records, a multi-faceted independent record label, artist management and events company based in India and the US. An avid musicologist, he explores, engages, and connects musical traditions from around the world and his work has been featured in The New York Times, NPR, BBC Radio, NBC15 News, Rolling Stone India, The WIRE, Songlines Magazine and more. Ankur works out of Madison, Wisconsin (United States) and New Delhi, India and manages various aspects of Amarrass including artist bookings, tours, music production, technology and marketing. A mechanical engineering and MBA with over 15 years of experience in IT, education, media and new venture development. Ankur also runs Madison Music Review, and is a producer of music festivals in Madison such as Musique Electronique, Willy Street Beats (both in their 9th year of production). He is also a DJ and music producer with the moniker DJ Spincycle. He DJ’s on the weekly Friday Buzz on WORT 89.9FM (where he also co-hosts the Pan Africa Radio Show program), where he was a former Board Member, and has been a music advisor to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA), Music Jury Member and invited speaker at WOMEX 13 and the Peabody Essex Museum. He previously served on the Board of the Madison Area Music Association. In addition he served on the jury of the Russian World Music Awards (RWMA), and has been an invited speaker to the CIAM Congress in Mexico City (International Content Creators Association). An ardent vinyl collector and a lover of the analog sound (read vacuum tubes), Ankur is a prolific photographer, spending a fair amount of time behind the camera lens and in front of stages across the world. More information on his label at amarrass.com.
Michael Francis Moore is an American documentary filmmaker, author and activist. His works frequently address the topics of globalization and capitalism
CÉSAR “PUPY” PEDROSO
César “Pupy” Pedroso is a Cuban pianist who became famous with Orquesta Revé and then as a founding member of Los Van Van. For many years, Pedroso wrote some of Van Van’s most important songs such as “Calla Calla”, “Tranquilo, Mota”, “Seis Semanas”, “El buenagente” and many others.
DIONNE WARWICK (not included in edited version)
Marie Dionne Warwick is an American singer, actress, television host, and former United Nations Global Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization and United States Ambassador of Health. A six-time Grammy Award winner, Warwick has sold over 85 million records worldwide
JANE BUNNETT Featuring DANAE OLANO
Five-time Juno Award winner, Jane Bunnett has turned her bands and recordings into showcases for the finest musical talent from Canada, the US, and Cuba. She has been nominated for three Grammy Awards, received The Order of Canada, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and, most recently, The Premier’s Award for Excellence. An internationally acclaimed musician, Bunnett is known for her creative integrity, improvisational daring, and courageous artistry. Her exploration of Afro-Cuban melodies expresses the universality of music, and her ability to embrace and showcase the rhythms and culture of Cuba has been ground-breaking. She has toured the world bringing her own special sound to numerous jazz festivals, displaying her versatility as a flutist, saxophone player, and pianist.
Two documentaries have been made about Bunnett’s work: Spirits of Havana by the National Film Board was presented at numerous film festivals internationally, on television (CBC, PBS), and in Europe. A more recent film, Embracing Voices, has been shown at film festivals and is awaiting commercial release.
DANAE OLANO was born in Havana, Cuba in 1992 and currently tours as pianist for Maqueque. She obtained a Best Bachelor of Arts at the Conservatory of Music Roldan in Havana, then finalized her studies in the Superior Institute of Arts graduating cum laude. She captured a Juno award in 2015 in the Best Jazz Album category with Maqueque.
PABLO MENÉNDEZ WITH BARBARA DANE
Barbara Dane is an American folk, blues, and jazz legend and the first American to travel to Castro’s Cuba. She co-founded Paredon Records with Irwin Silber. “Bessie Smith in stereo,” wrote jazz critic Leonard Feather in the late 1950s. Time wrote of Dane: “The voice is pure, rich … rare as a 20 carat diamond” and quoted Louis Armstrong’s exclamation upon hearing her at the Pasadena jazz festival: “Did you get that chick? She’s a gasser!” On the occasion of her 85th birthday, The Boston Globe music critic James Reed called her “one of the true unsung heroes of American music.”
PABLO MENÉNDEZ, MEZCLA
Menéndez’s path was paved by his mother, folk-blues legend Barbara Dane, who toured Cuba, defying a US-imposed cultural and economic blockade. Under the direction of guitarist Pablo Menéndez, Mezcla have been a part of the soundtrack of the Cuban music scene for 30 years. Mezcla brings together several veteran masters with some the best of young players on the scene today. When at home in Cuba, they perform regularly at Havana’s premier jazz club, La Zorra y el Cuervo, and at the Havana Jazz Festival.
Menéndez is not your average Afro-Caribbean or Latin jazz musician. His vision of this music stretches back to traditional jazz and show-tunes and up to electric urban blues, modern post-bop, Cuban and Puerto Rican music, and contemporary neo-bop. As a guitarist, he is strong in these varied disciplines. As a bandleader, he stretches out even further, taking his Mezcla ensemble into and beyond Latin sensibilities.
Ron Perlman is an American television, film, stage and voice actor. He played the roles of Amoukar in Quest for Fire, Salvatore in The Name of the Rose , and Vincent on the television series Beauty and the Beast, for which he won a Golden Globe Award. Perlman is also known as a collaborator of Hellboy with director Guillermo del Toro, and roles in dozens of other movies. He is also known for his voice-over work as the narrators in game series.
AINUSKA PALACIOS NOA
Medea Benjamin is an American political activist who co-founded Code Pink and, along with activist and author Kevin Danaher, the fair trade advocacy group Global Exchange.
A native of Camagüey, Cuba, Sosa studied percussion at the Escuela Nacional de Musica and Instituto Superior de Arte. In the 1980s, he started the band Tributo, then worked with Cuban vocalist Xiomara Laugart and several Latin jazz bands. In the 1990s, he moved to San Francisco, and his first solo album was released. Sosa received Latin Grammy Award nominations for his albums Sentir and Eggun. In January 2011, he won the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards in the Jazz Album category for Ceremony.
Yamaha Artist Dayramir Gonzalez, is a three-time Cubadisco award-winner and the first Cuban national to receive Berklee College of Music’s “Presidential Scholarship” and the 2013 Wayne Shorter Award for most outstanding jazz composer. In 2012, he was a headliner in Carnegie Hall’s “Voices of Latin America Series,” invited by Chucho Valdes to represent the young generation of Cuban jazz pianists. His latest album “The Grand Concourse” was named one of the Top 40 albums of 2018 and received 4.5 stars from Downbeat.
Jon Cleary is a British-born American funk and R&B musician based in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he has studied the “musical culture and life of New Orleans”. Cleary is an accomplished pianist as well as being a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and songwriter.
Born Susana Esther Baca de la Colina in Chorrillos, Lima Province, Peru, her music is a mixture of traditional and contemporary influences. Her backing band features indigenous Peruvian instruments such as the cajón (“wooden box”, whose origins lie in an upturned fruit crate), udu (clay pot), and quijada (jawbone of a burro) cheko a dried gourd, as well as acoustic guitar and electric upright baby bass. Although many of her songs are based on traditional forms such as the landó or vals, she also incorporates African elements of Cuban and Brazilian music.
Her debut CD brought her to the attention of World Music audiences worldwide. Her songs are poetic (with lyrics composed by some of Latin America’s premier poets, with whom she collaborates), rich with evocative imagery, and her voice is delicate yet soulful. She has an elegant and engaging stage presence, gliding gracefully about while singing. Her delivery is deeply felt and emotion-filled as to project a spiritual character, even in songs that are not expressly religious in subject matter.
Baca is an important figure in the revival of Afro Peruvian music within Peruvian dancers from the Perú Negro troupe, as well as “Festejo” music), which, like the culture that produced it, had previously been little recognized, but which is now regarded as an important part of Peruvian culture.
Ed Asner is a television legend, the winner of eight acting Emmy Awards including for the popular “The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In all, he has been nominated 20 times for an Emmy Award, with 17 nods for a Primetime Emmy and three for a Daytime award. (All of his wins were for Primetime.)
As well as being one of the most outstanding and most respected actors of his generation, equally adept at comedy as he is at drama, Asner also made a name for himself as a trade unionist and a political activist. He served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild, from 1981-1985, during which he criticized former SAG President Ronald Reagan, then the president of a greater concern, for his Central American policy.
Name of Poem: Our Home Away From Home Written by Obi Egbuna Jr
Get Out Of Cuba’s Way. Produced and Directed by SiaLi Wright, Jaelen Mitchell and Zion Utsey on behalf of the Mass Emphasis Positive Action and Creativity Youth Brigade
WILFRED W. LABIOSA
Wilfred W. Labiosa completed a PhD at the University of La Havana and another in Simmons University School of Social Work. His dissertation title, “ The Role of the Cuban Revolution in the Coming Out and Acceptance of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community in Cuba,” the first of its kind as it was approved by Cuban’s CENESEX and a US institution. He has held numerous executive positions in nonprofit organizations working with marginalized communities, and has conducted evaluations on numerous federally- and state-wide funded programs. He has been working in the public health field for over 20 years with marginalized communities focusing in Latinos, HIV/AIDS prevention and interventions, and those in recovery from substance abuse addictions. Currently the co-founder and executive director of Waves Ahed Corp, a non-for-profit in Puerto Rico focused on the LGBT+ Older community. In addition, he manages and owns the Labiosa Center for the Arts and Cuba Puerto Rico Tours. He resides in Puerto Rico but travels frequently to his beloved Cuba.
Ronnie Malley is a Palestinian-American musician, actor, producer, playwright, and educator. Malley has composed music for award-winning plays and documentary films as well as performed with international artists and music groups around the world.
PROYECTO SOCIO-CULTURAL EL PATIO DE ADELA Y EL CAVERCHELO.COMB WITH BEN LAPIDUS
CAVERCHELO.COMB is a traditional Changüí ensemble based in Guantanamo. The music is a style originating in the early 19th century in the eastern region of Guantánamo Province, specifically Baracoa. It arose in the sugar cane refineries and in the rural communities populated by enslaved peoples.. It’s core group of members work to preserve the African cultural traditions at the popular Patio de Adela and Dra. Adelaida Gomez Blanco and the groups incorporate the music in health practices throughout the region. With Roberto Warner Norman, Ramón Gómez Blanco, Segundo Speck Santray, Yusleikis Mena Aguirre and Pedro Caverdos.
BENJAMIN LAPIDUS teaches popular music of the Caribbean, and the Cuban tres and guitar. He has published a book about changüí and the music of Eastern Cuba has performed and recorded throughout the world with a Who’s Who of musicians in Spanish Caribbean music, classical, and jazz. Since its inception in 1996, he has led the Latin jazz group Sonido Isleno and has produced five internationally acclaimed albums of his original compositions. Regarded as a virtuoso of the Cuban tres and guitar, he remains an in-demand performer, arranger, composer, and lecturer.
MICHAEL MCDONALD ( not included in edited version)
Michael McDonald is an American singer-songwriter, keyboardist, and record producer known for his distinctive, soulful voice and as a member of the bands The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan.
Michael Joseph Farrell Jr. is an American actor, best known for his role as Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on the television series M*A*S*H. He is also an activist and public speaker for various political causes. Farrell was a producer of Patch Adams starring Robin Williams, and starred in the television series Providence.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES, CD 11 COUNCILMAN MIKE BONIN
Mike Bonin is an American politician and the Los Angeles City Councilman from the 11th District. Bonin took office on July 1, 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, is considered politically progressive.
JESSE JACKSON SR
Jesse Louis Jackson Sr. is an American civil rights activist, Baptist minister, and politician. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and served as a shadow U.S. Senator for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997.
Seven-time Grammy-nominated percussionist, John Santos, is one of the foremost exponents of Afro-Latin music in the world today. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in the Puerto Rican and Cape Verdean traditions of his family, surrounded by music. The fertile musical environment of the San Francisco Bay Area shaped his career in a unique way.
His studies of Afro-Latin music have included several trips to New York, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil and Colombia. He is known for his innovative use of traditional forms and instruments in combination with contemporary music, and has earned much respect and recognition as a prolific performer, composer, teacher, writer, radio programmer, and record/event producer whose career has spanned four decades.
John was the director of the Orquesta Tipica Cienfuegos (1976-1980) and the award-winning Orquesta Batachanga (1981-1985). He was founder and director of the internationally renowned, Grammy-nominatedMachete Ensemble (1985-2006), with whom he released nine CDs with special guests from Puerto Rico, Cuba, NY, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. He currently directs the highly acclaimed John Santos Sextet
Ignacio “Nachito” Herrera is acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest Cuban pianists in command of traditional classical and contemporary musical idioms. Herrera stunned Cuban audiences at the age of 12, performing Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No 2 with the Havana Symphony Orchestra. He later joined the famed “Cubanismo ” as the lead pianist, arranger, and Musical Director. He was also a special guest for “Afrocuban All Stars “. Nachito has played at many of the world’s finest concert halls and prestigious jazz festivals. He has had many awards, including City Pages Best Jazz Artist for 4 years, Emmys, Grammys, Minnesota Music Awards, the Immigrants of Distinction Award, among many others. After being hospitalized for 18 days this year with COVID-19, the celebrated Cuban American pianist returned to his home with overflowing gratitude for all those who helped him survive.
Nancy Morejón was born and raised in a district of old Havana to working-class parents, Angélica Hernández Domínguez and Felipe Morejón Noyola both of African heritage
Nancy Morejón graduated with honours at the University of Havana, having studied Caribbean and French Literature. She is fluent in French and English and is a well-regarded translator of French and English into Spanish, particularly of Caribbean writers. In 2008 she was elected president of the writer’s section of UNEAC.
She has produced a number of journalistic, critical, and dramatic works. One of the most notable is her book-length treatments of poet Nicolás Guillén. In 1982 she was awarded the Cuban “Premio de la crítica” (Critic’s Prize) for Piedra Pulida, and in 2001 won Cuba’s National Prize for Literature, awarded for the first time to a black woman.
She has lectured at universities throughout the country and has taught at Wellesley College and the University of Missouri, which, in 1995, conducted a two-day symposium on her work and published the papers in a special issue of the Afro-Hispanic Review. Howard University Press at Washington D.C. published in 1999 a collection of critical essays on her work: Singular Like A Bird: The Art of Nancy Morejon, compiled and prefaced by Miriam DeCosta-Willis, Ph.D. A collection of her poems entitled Richard trajo su flauta y otros argumentos (Richard brought his flute), edited by Mario Benedetti, Visor Books, was published in Madrid during the Spring of 2005.
Miguel Zenón is a Puerto Rican alto saxophonist, composer, band leader, music producer, and educator. He is a multiple Grammy Award nominee, and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship. Zenón has released many albums as a band leader and appeared on over 70 recordings as a sideman.
JUDITH LE BLANC
Judith LeBlanc, Director of the Native Organizers Alliance is a member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma. The Native Organizers Alliance is a national Native training and organizing network which provides Native organizers, tribal governments and non-profits with trainings and support for strategic campaign planning and community engagement based on Indigenous values and practices. She was the chair of the US Preparatory Committee for the 14th World Youth Festival convened in Cuba. The US delegation became the largest ever US travel challenge to the illegal blockade of Cuba.
In 2012, Ethiel Failde (descendant of the creator of the Danzón: the national dance of Cuba) created the Miguel Failde Orchestra (a.k.a. Orquestra Failde). The Orquesta is a group of very talented young people re-contextualize the danzon for today.
RAFAEL FELIPE LAY BRAVO
Latin Music Violinist and Band Leader for the one of the most popular Afro-Cuban Groups, Orquesta Aragon. “Rafaelito” as he is known in the band, is the prodigal son of the famous Rafael Lay Apesteguía, The Cuban born violinist, composer, arranger, and the previous band leader of Orquesta Aragon from 1949 ~ 1982. Rafael Lay Apesteguía tragically perished in an automobile accident in August 1982. In 1984, “Rafaelito” took over the reigns of his late departed father’s ensemble and was able to become the famed band leader left vacant by his father’s early demise. Since then Orquesta Aragon has celebrated their 75th Anniversary under the supervision and leadership of Rafael Lay Bravo with the same passion, style, finesse and wisdom that was once the cornerstone of Latin Music.
Ricardo Lemvo hails from São Salvador Do Congo, Zaire in Northern Angola. He grew up in Congo-Kinshasa where he was introduced to Cuban music by a cousin who owned a large collection of vintage Cuban LPs. His native country and his early exposure to Cuban music have heavily influenced his music. Ricardo and his band Makina Loca perform a blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms with pan-African styles (soukous, Angolan sembaI and kizomba). His innovative music has been described as “seamless and infectious” by the Los Angeles Times.
Orquesta Aragon has been a constant in Cuban music since its founding in 1939. Generations of musicians have grown up with the band. Although the band’s members and approach have changed over the years, ensuring a continuity of sound is important, said Lay, who has led the band since his father died in 1982. As much as many people will think Orquesta Aragon is simply a charanga band, Lay said the musicians are fully immersed in the varied styles that make up Cuban popular music — from son, danzon and bolero to cha cha cha, rumba, guajira and guaguanco. “For us, charanga has to do with musical development,” he said. “I know for other countries, for the world, charanga seems like a style or a genre of music. But in general if people think charanga means party, dance, music, that’s perfect. … [It’s about] the time of music that we are going to play and the genres that we interpret that we have been interpreting for so long.”
The band always starts with the cha cha cha, but on stage it will play everything. In recent years, it has incorporated elements of “timba,” the streetwise contemporary music that has been the rage in Cuba for the last 15 years or so. Lay said if the band can’t master timba like younger Cuban bands, it will make sure it comes close to the rhythm. That, he said, should keep the dancers moving.
ALEXANDER ABREU Y HABANA D’ PRIMERA
Alexander Abreu Manresa is a Cuban trumpet player, songwriter and singer. He currently leads the band Havana D’Primera. Born in Cienfuegos on September 6, 1976. By the age of just 20, he had become a widely recognized Cuban musician after graduating from the National Art Schools of Havana. In Havana, Abreu found himself at the focal point of the timba music upsurge that rocked Cuba in the early 1990s, marking an exciting evolution in the way Afro-Cuban dance music, or salsa, was performed. Abreu has also played and/or recorded with virtually every major act during one of the most exciting and creative eras in Cuban music. He was a member of the popular and esteemed band led by singer Isaac Delgado, who now lives in Miami.
RECORDED MUSIC IN INTRO/OUTRO
ERWIN HELFER – AFTER HOURS
Erwin Helfer, a Chicago boogie woogie innovator and master, has been forging his own piano music legacy. Erwin has been playing and performing for over forty years. His local gigs and frequent European tours have created a strong and loyal following in Chicago and overseas.
REGINALD ROBINSON –SWEET ENVY
Robinson was raised by working class parents in Chicago, for many years living in the Henry Horner Homes, a West Side housing project. His interest in older music started at home in 1984 with his older brother Marlando playing guitar and listening to big band jazz on Chuck Schaden’s old-time radio show. Robinson’s love for ragtime started in 1986, when he was in 7th grade. Trumpeter Orbert Davis visited his school with a jazz group called From Bach to Bebop through Urban Gateways. The group performed a variety of musical works, including Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”. Although he had heard it many times from the ice-cream trucks in his neighborhood, he had never considered it a serious piece of music. Robinson taught himself music. By 1987 his mother purchased a piano from a neighbor who was moving. He spent the next three years of his life submerged in the self study of music.
In 2004 Robinson nearly stopped playing the piano until learning that he had won the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius award”.