Arts & Entertainment


We often hear about visiting American or UK musicians groaning about the long plane trip to Australia, even though many of them are afforded the luxury of business class seats. They need to fly from Havana in Cuba to Sydney to appreciate what a really long plane trip is all about. With an embargo on connecting flights in the US, Cuban musicians are still forced to fly a torturous route via South America that can take up to thirty hours to reach our welcoming shores.

Despite this marathon journey it’s great to see that many Cuban musicians have come to Australia over the past few decades including Sierra Maestra, Los Perlas del Son, Cubanismo and more recently Havana D’Primera. The latest cultural ambassador to shrug off days of jet lag is acclaimed Cuban percussionist Roman Justo Pelladito Hernandez who arrives in Sydney later this month to introduce local audiences to traditional Cuban music styles including rumba, danzon and bolero. For his first visit to Australia he will be performing with the massive nineteen piece Palacio de la Rumba big band, a group that merges the cream of Sydney’s Latin and jazz music communities.

The project began when Sydney saxophonist and arranger Gai Bryant visited Havana in 2012 to research rumba styles. He struck up a friendship and musical partnership with Roman Justo Pelladito Hernandez – ‘Justo’ to his friends. One of Cuba’s most respected percussionists, Justo is an expert in Cuban rumba and is a founding member of the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba as both a percussionist and dancer. He created the Cuban Percussion Department at the Higher Arts Institute (ISA) and was awarded a Diploma of Artistic Worth by ISA for his contributions to teaching and performing Cuban percussion. Widely travelled he has performed and conducted workshops in Mexico, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Japan, Russia and China. At home in Cuba he has been a featured artist with the National Symphonic Orchestra and continues to perform with his group Africa America playing traditional Cuban music styles.

Justo points out that, “It is important to see and hear rumba live as it exemplifies the way Cuban people walk, how they behave, how they live.”

Bryant’s task has been to successfully adapt these styles for a nineteen-piece big band, determining the music and dance elements that are specific and inherent in each style and orchestrating that information across the ensemble. Justo has stated, ”This music needs to be constantly evolving to stay alive. Gai’s big band interpretations will help to achieve this.”

Roman Justo Pelladito Hernandez is the featured artist with the Palacio de la Rumba big band for one night only when they play the Independent Theatre at 269 Miller Street in North Sydney on Saturday October 26. It’s a sit-down concert but we are reliably informed there will be plenty of room for dancing in the aisles!

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