I have to search … I seek to find … not just a sound or a technical expression resulting from extensive practice, but a feeling of release, and relief - a sort of catharsis. I call it freedom. And it’s just as much an internal search and quest as it is a spiritual stretch about as far out as my mind can possibly go. And when I feel that I’ve been able to achieve this expression through my music - when the combination of preparation, environmental/musical support, and inspiration connects, I feel that I’m understanding something deep and that I’m also being deeply understood. Then, when this is achieved - maybe - I’m doing my musical ancestors and muses some justice and they can stare down in approval. Then, maybe, I’m ready for some more information and I’m ready to experience a deeper feeling that can bring me closer to God and humanity … closer to life and nature … maybe even closer to love and embrace. At the very least it can bring me closer to my Self.


This may be a lot to say of music that can sometimes be simply classified by genre and subjected to quick categorization. Yet, this explanation is not to take anything away from the genres which I practice. I love Jazz, I love Bomba, Plena, Merengue, Guaguanco and Yambu, and the 100+ other Yoruba diasporic expressions … I love Latin, Reggae, and Blues and I love to express them in their full authenticity - bringing to life a rich history and culture - being honored to feel what all of my greatest inspirations have felt in their truest language and expression. In interpreting these standards - just as in writing a new lyric or composition in any style - the idea is to add new elements which can most sincerely express what I feel, and share the summation of what I have learned and experienced on this short journey: all of the happiness, the joy, and the pain. In this feeling, maybe my listeners and vicarious participants can relate, and also feel what I feel, and we can all experience the embrace together in one moment. 


My current works are my greatest joy and challenge. Working together with musicians and arrangers I admire most, I have been aiming to bring many Yoruba classics to life in instrumental music, challenging the instruments through complex harmonies and rhythm, to carry the feeling of a chorus of voices and ancient cadences and tumbao. In this Latin-jazz project, we also explore original compositions that reflect a story of the times, merging both the old and the new. Apart from this collective work in progress, my current solo project is a fusion of all of the styles and experiences that have influenced me in the last 10+ years - from the church, cathedral, to the jazz club … to the street and beyond. In it, I have the pleasure of writing lyrics and using my voice as a vehicle to navigate through dynamic chord changes in diverse pulses and meters. The intent is to be able to connect with everyone in some way; at that place where our experience meets, and where a collective vision and feeling is shared.

© 2020 Joel Santiago All Rights Reserved.