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 percussionist and ethnomusicologist, her research and professional work are oriented to examine, perform, and expand the socio-cultural influences of the Afro Cuban heritage. Specifically,she concentrates on Abakuá rhythms and their impact on popular Cuban music. Melena states, "There is a general misconception that associates African diasporic religions with cultural stereotypes; however, throughout my research conducted in the field .I have been able to examine the significant ramifications of the Abakuá (Carabalie) rhythms on Cuban 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 conerenes 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 five to six 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 offers drum therapy classes at Kensingotn and Silverado,Brookdale, Oakmont and Cedars living asissted homes for the elderly and persons with memory imparing diseases. Her drum therapy classes teaching latin rhythsm percussion and dance such as : cha cha cha, mambo and afro cuban. jazz. The elderly learn to have fun playing percussion such as maracas, sherkere, bongo and conga drums. Her classes also include cultural and music history lectures with performance demonstrations.
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