“I play because I need to play. For me.”

Havana, Cuba native, Horacio “el Negro” Hernandez, has been said to be one of the most innovative and skilled percussionists in the world. He has had a very rich musical life growing up in Havana and then many years later when he left home to become an internationally acclaimed musician. It did not come easily but as Horacio describes in this interview, it has always been his passion in life and he has never considered doing anything else.

Horacio has had the pleasure of working with so many incredible artists throughout his career including Carlos Santana, Zucchero, Steve Winwood, McCoy Tyner, Michel Camilo, and the Tropi-Jazz All Stars of the late Tito Puente. Horacio is also a Grammy Award-winning artist, which he received in 1997.

I have personally been in love with Horacio’s playing for 20 years. Back when it was new, he was featured on the Modern Drummer 2000 DVD. I remember watching his clips, along with Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Lombardo, Billy Ward and Hilary Jones over and over. Among the roster, it was Horacio who captured my attention the most. He was always smiling and acting so casually while playing incredibly demanding music and displaying some of the most advanced independence I have ever seen before or since then. To have a moment with one of my heroes was simply incredible and it is an interview that I will never forget.

In this episode:

You will hear about…

  • Horacio’s performance at Drumeo Festival 2020
  • What drumming means to him
  • Why he was imprisoned at the age of 13
  • Imitating our idols and Horacio’s thoughts on the younger generations
  • His three year stay in Rome back in 1990
  • Horacio’s appreciation for a great instrument to play
  • His career once he was given permission to emigrate to the USA
  • Horacio’s health concerns from roughly five years ago
  • What Horacio learned from playing 20 hours a day at the EGREM studios
  • Why you don’t see Horacio much on Instagram

Why you should listen:

It is rare to see an interview with Horacio in English. It’s even rarer to hear and see an interview with Horacio with good sound and video quality. He is usually quiet online and isn’t that concerned with publicity. For Horacio, this was just fun for him to talk about his life and I feel fortunate that he took the time to do it. Again, he is a veteran musician with a storied career and has almost no need for publicity.

However, this interview covers a lot of his musical career, his thoughts about drumming and music, and a nearly catastrophic medical issue that could have ended his career that he has never spoken publicly about. So, if you are a fan of Horacio you won’t want to sleep on this episode.

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Photo: Ronn Dunnett


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