Afro Cuban Percussionist and Music Educator


Melena, born in Havana, Cuba, is an accomplished percussionist and educator of Afro Cuban music. She studied ethnomusicology at UCLA, where she received her B.A. and M.A. degrees, graduating with honors. 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 studied privately with the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba as well as with the many gifted percussionists on the island such as: Miguel “Anga”Diaz, Yaroldy Abreu, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot, Cristobal Larrinanga, Mario Jauregui, Lazaro Ros, Regino Jimenez, and Daniel Herrera. 


Melena has toured, performed, and recorded with legendary artists such as: Barry White, Stevie Wonder, Macy Gray, Julio Iglesias, Giovanni Hidalgo, Chucho Valdes and Irakere, Francisco Aguabella, Bennie Maupin, Byron Miller, Will Calhoun, Ray De La Paz, Mario Ortiz, Jr., Chino Nuñez, Chayanne, Poncho Sanchez, Frankie Morales, Eva Ayllone, Peru Negro, Oscar Hernandez (Musical Director of Spanish Harlem Orchestra), Afro Cuban All Stars, and Cuba’s national treasure the Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro .


Melena has conducted clinics and master percussion classes nationally and internationally at Montreal Drum Festival, Puerto Rico Music Conservatory, Percussion Gallery (Ponce, Puerto Rico), Los Angeles Music Academy, USC, and Brownsville University, among others. In 2016, Melena was invited to perform in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for “Las Tres Potencias de la Salsa: Cuba, Puerto Rico y Colombia,” where she represented Cuba as the featured guest artist backed by Jerry Medina y Su Banda. She also returned to her homeland Cuba making history as the first woman to perform and record conga drums with the legendary Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro since their founding in 1927. Melena also fronts her own Afro Cuban Jazz and Salsa band performing at festivals world wide. Melena is proud to be endorsed by LP, Remo, Sabian, and Vic Firth and is recognized as one of the most accomplished and proficient female percussionists in the Latin music industry!