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Getting into a true holiday spirit can be tough in South Florida, where palm trees, expansive beaches and balmy skies signal perpetual summer. Ever-earlier store décor and the incessant push to buy presents – more about commercialism than celebration – can make many of us feel more anxious than festive. Not to worry. Just squeeze in a trip to Miami’s Arsht Center, where City Theatre h..

One of the centerpieces of this year’s Art Week is not a static art work, and it is also one of the most sensuous and disorienting. Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is producing her “Gardens Speak” for the week, courtesy of MDC Live Arts, a piece that has been applauded in cultural capitals throughout Europe and the United States. “It is a work,” she says, “that can only co..

Since its founding in 1996, City Theatre has been an important part of South Florida’s theatrical landscape, though the company’s visibility has always been highest in the month of June. That’s when its popular Summer Shorts festival takes place; for more than a decade, its high-profile venue has been the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami’s Arsht Center. Though the company founded by S..

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We are born. We live, have families, grow old. We die, leaving those who loved us to mourn. Playwright Thornton Wilder brilliantly captured the eternal verities of our journey through life in “Our Town,” his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life, love and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century. If you’re at all drawn to theater, you’ve probably ..

“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” written by Juan C. Sanchez, directed by Tamilla Woodard, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, is a site-specific, immersive theater experience that interweaves narrative, performance, history and architecture. Nine short plays take place in nine hotel rooms on the second floor of the Tower Hotel, right off Calle Ocho on Seventh Street. Sanchez, ..

Artistic director and founder of Juggerknot Theatre Company, Tanya Bravo, had her first brush with immersive theater in New York City when she met director Tamilla Woodard. Working on the play “Broken City,” Bravo and other actors led audience members on a theatrical journey through the streets of the Lower East Side. “I was so blown away by the concept and the lines that were crossed between ..

We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..

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Yissy Garcia: The Girl is a Drummer and Boy, She Can Play

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Written by: Fernando Gonzalez
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The daughter of Bernardo García, an influential drummer in Cuban music, charter member of the fabled Afro-Cuban jazz rock group Irakere and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval’s band, Yissy García was supposed to be a dancer, a ballerina. Her brother was the designated heir in the family. “They would take me to dance lessons and I’d go crying, all the way. I didn’t want to go. They would give the sticks to my brother,” recalls García, 27, with a sly smile at a lunch at Miami Light Project in Wynwood.

“Now my brother is a dancer, a choreographer, and me ….” As laughter erupted in the room, she didn’t need to finish the sentence. She is now a professional drummer, leading her own group, BandaAncha, a fascinating ensemble of Afro-Cuban jazz-funk that includes a deejay contributing an array of sounds and effects.

“Since I was in my mom’s belly I knew I was going to be a percussionist,” she says. “I would be going around the house beating my little drums and, at first, my parents thought it was just child’s play. But later they realized it was for real.”

Horacio “El Negro” Hernández, arguably the premier Cuban drummer of his generation, was at the lunch (he’s known García since she was a child and they are now planning a project together) and called her “the leading figure in modern Cuban drumming.”

García studied classic percussion since age 10 and at 15 she started playing the drum kit. She won a Special Award at Fiesta del Tambor competition (Drum Party, 2005), a Special Mention for Performance at the Festival Internacional de Jóvenes Jazzistas JOJAZZ (International Festival of Young Jazz Musicians, 2006), and was the runner up at the JOJAZZ competition in 2010.

She organized Yissy and BandAncha in 2012, and the group is completing its first album and on its first tour of the United States, coming to Miami this weekend thanks to presenters FUNDarte and Miami Light Project.

While there is a tradition of female groups in Cuban popular music, getting accepted as a female drummer in male-only groups must’ve taken some doing. How was that?

Actually, I liked the process of establishing myself in the world of professional musicians in Cuba a lot. Years ago I was much thinner, much smaller, and being a woman, many groups, especially those comprised just by men, didn’t consider me at all. I had friends who knew bands looking for drummers and when they recommended me, they were told things like ‘Yeah, but she’s a girl, I dunno.’ But that actually strengthen me. I always tell the story that in those days I kept a list of all those groups that said ‘no.’ and one by one I ended up crossing them off the list because I ended up playing with them.

How did you come up with the idea of mixing Afro-Cuban tradition, jazz, and turntables?

The idea comes from a video I saw of Herbie Hancock from a concert in 2002 with a deejay, and Terri Lyne Carrington. It really had a impact on me. When I saw that, I decided that that’s what I wanted to do. I loved to see the people at the concert dancing. That was terrific and that’s how the idea of having a deejay and using electronic sounds came about, but mixing it with our roots music: rumba, Afro-Cuban grooves.

As far as female drummers, there is by now a long list in pop and rock, but in jazz there are few notable names. Who were your influences?

When I started playing drums, which was because of the encouragement of Jorge Aragón, who is the keyboardist in my band and has been a jazz fan since he was a kid, I started listening to Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta, Dennis Chambers, Brian Blades. It’s funny, because as we learn we often start at the end and then we go back to the beginning, but that was the style we were playing at school at the time so those were the drummers I was listening to. It was later that they organized a jazz band [at the school] and I went back and started listening to guys like Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, and Tony Williams. I’m always checking new drummers, especially the gospel drummers, then I make my own mix.

Jazz was once dance music and has sometimes suffered from being presented in very formal concert settings. You seem to want people to listen -- but also dance.

The reason I put this band, this fusion, together is because I love to see people dancing, enjoying themselves and ignoring that chip that says that jazz is not for dancing.

Yissy y BandAncha, part of the Global Cuba Fest, perform March, Friday 13 and Saturday 14 at 8:00 p.m.; at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 N.W. 26th St., Miami. $50 VIP, General Admission $10-$25; www.miamilightproject.com; 305-576-4350.

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Music writer, associate editor of the Latin GRAMMY Print & Special Projects for The Latin Recording Academy

Emmy-winner and GRAMMY®-nominated writer, critic, and editor Fernando González is the associate editor of The Latin GRAMMY Print & ..

About the Writer

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