Melena born in Havana, Cuba is an accomplished percussionist and educator of Afro Cuban music. Her Afro-Cuban sound is a conversation of melodies that she plays with fierce passion. Melena is a multi-talented percussionist who plays congas, timbales, bata drums, and shekere. She is an artist who exemplifies the sound of legendary players from the past, while combining the modern sounds of today. Melena is proud to be endorsed by LP, Remo, Sabian, and Vic Firth .
Melena studied ethnomusicology at UCLA, where she received her B.A. and M.A. degrees, graduating with honors. Her research was on “The Influence of Abakuá music in Cuban Rumba." As a Cuban American performer and ethnomusicologist, her research and professional work are oriented to dissimenating information about Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean heritage. Specifically,she concentrates on the influence of Afro Cuban religious traditions and their impact on popular Cuban music. Melena states, " Throughout my research conducted in the field .I have been able to examine the significant ramifications of the Abakuá rhythms on Cuban popular music and other contemporary manifestations such as jazz, salsa, etc." Melena studied with scholars and musicians such as Seerafin "Tato" Quiñones, Lino Neira, Ramon Torres Zayas, Frank "El Matodor" Oropesa, Juan Campos Cardenas "Chan" among others. She continues her studies independently in Havana, Cuba and conducts conferenes on Afro diasporic religious traditions of Cuba at Universities nationwide.
Melena fronts her own Afro Cuban Jazz and Salsa band performing nationwide. Her Afro Cuban Jazz sound is expressed from a six to 8 piece instrumental band with an enticing sound and multi-layers of rhythmic and melodic ideas. Her larger 8 to 10 piece Cuban Salsa band features original compostions that will keep you on the dance floor.
Melena also has experience with special needs children and at risk youth, having worked at the Braille Institute (Los Angeles), Camp David Gonzalez and Barry J. Nordof juvenile halls.
Melena has experience teaching rhythm and percussion for the elderly and persons with memory imparing diseases. Her drum therapy classes have been a success throughout Los Angeles and Orange County where she has develped meaningful relationships. The elderly learn to have fun playing percussion such as congas, bongo, maracas and shekere. Classes also include development skills such as memorization, focus, listening skills and emotional expression. In addition, Melena includes cultural and music history lectures with performance demonstrations.
Legacy, Ancestors, Rhythm and Movement
This is a participatory hands-on drumming class where students learn the importance of the fundamentlas of music and dance. Class entails a fun and cultural approach to learning rhtyhm through the pronunciation of words such as Legay and Chekendeke. The meaning and drefiniton of the word legacy is something that has been handed down by the past through tradition. Chekendeke means "heartt" from the Congo/Caaa tradition emphasizing passion, rhythm, determination, self-confidence, all elemetns needed when playing drums. The African Legacy unites dieverse communities through the drum. Students learn leadership skills as well as self-expression, concentration, respect and self confidence. Through rhtyhm, chidren learn to embrace and honor their diverse cultural heritages.
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