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) and Afro Cuban All Stars. In Havana, Cuba she has been invited as a special guest to perform with Los Papines, Pablo Menendez and Mezcla, Raices Profundas, Canela, Anacaona and Cuba’s national treasure the Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro
Melena has conducted clinics and Master Percussion Classes nationally and internationally such as Montreal Drum Festival, Puerto Rico Music Conservatory, Los Angeles Music Academy, USC, Brownsville University, Duke University, University of Texas at Austin and International Socio-Religious Conferences in Havana, Cuba amongst others. Melena has a diverse teaching experience from University residencies to cultural organizations with children of all ages, at risk youth adults, special education and non profit organizations such as: ISBL- International Society of Black Latinos, Latin Ballet of Virginia, Boys and Girls Club of San Fernando Valley, Remo Drum Center, Culture4MyKids, Barry J. Nirdof and Camp David Gonzales. Classes were designed to embrace and nurture the cultural identity and cultural growth of the youth as well as uniting diverse communities. Melena also has experience with teaching percussion at the Braille Institute of Los Angeles, and persons with memory impairing diseases. In addition to healing through the drums, Melena incorporates Cuban music history lectures and performances on the black diasporic religions of Cuba; Yoruba, Congo, Arara, and Abakuá.
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 Melena represented Cuba as the featured guest artist backed by Jerry Medina y Su Banda. Melena 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. In 2019, Melena continued her studiens in Havana, Cuba on the influence of Afro Cuban religious traditions in Cuban popular music, salsa and jazz. Melena is an independent artist and fronts her own Afro Cuban Jazz and Salsa band performing at festivals worldwide. Melena is proud endorser of: LP, Remo, Sabian and Vic Firth! Melena is someone to be recognized as one of the most accomplished and proficient female percussionists in the Latin Music industry!