John Santos Septet

Following the day of Thanksgiving, the John Santos Septet celebrated the closing of the 2015 Friday Nights at the de Young Museum in San Francisco by performing a wide variety of original Danzón and traditional Cuban dance music.

Cuban music originates in Europe and Africa. The danzón evolved from the Cuban habanera, or contradanza, which has English and French roots and was most likely introduced in Cuba by the Spanish.

The group was led by John Santos, a five-time Grammy-nominated percussionist and one of the most influential Afro-Latin musicians in the world today. He is known for his innovative way of mixing traditional and contemporary styles and is widely respected for his devotion to Afro-Latin music.

Not only is Santos a percussionist, he is also a composer, educator, writer, record and event producer, radio programmer, the list goes on!

The septet is composed of Santos (handling a variety of percussion instruments), bassist Saul Sierra, pianist Marco Diaz, percussionist David Flores, flutist John Calloway, saxophonist Melecio Magdaluyo, and violinist Anthony Blea.

The entire museum was filled with people sharing the festive mood of the holiday season. While their music added to the festivity, I also felt transported to Cuba. Their music was smooth and airy, but powerfully rhythmic at its base. Each instrument was like a different spice, weaving in and out of harmony, tempo, and mood. The audience, inspired by the vivacity of the music, spontaneously began dancing.

The musicians, the people, and the vibrant culture of the music were alive, reminding me of the pure joy of experiencing music together.