- On December 17, 2020
- In Culture
AN EVENING TO DANCE, LAUGH, CRY AND REMEMBER PUERTO RICO
One of the biggest Puerto Rican musicians right now, Daniel Díaz, began in the world of music from a very young age. Today, he is recognized, among many other things, for his creation: The Tripandero. This instrument helps him play the rhythms of Plena, just the way he enjoys them - with panderos (tambourines) all around.
This week, Daniel Díaz will share with us - virtually - a night of music, memories and a lot of Puerto Rico. He will be joined by great musicians, friends and family in a concert that he describes as intimate and with special moments that will surely fill everyone's soul.
We had the opportunity to chat with him about his life as a musician, his achievements, and of course, this concert.
We would love for you to tell our audience a little about who Daniel Díaz is. How did you get started in the world of music and especially percussion?
I am a Puerto Rican from Naranjito, for those who do not know, it’s a town close to the metro area. My dad, despite having a great passion for music, had to find another job to be able to support us, but at home he had his little music corner. Every day when he got home from work, he’d listen to salsa and start drumming along. I grew up listening to music and watching him play. When I told my father, at 11 years old, that I wanted to learn how to play, he immediately enrolled me in classes with wonderful Puerto Rican percussionists and I joined the school band. That was one of the best moments of my life. After playing in different bands, festivals and as many parties as possible, I went to study in Cupey, because that was the only program for “musica popular” in the metro area. It had just opened up and that’s when my life changed. This university gave me so many musical friendships, such as my great friend and colleague Jafet Murguia, teachers, and incredible connections in the musical world. One of my piano teachers was the musical director of Jerry Rivera, and with him I went on a tour of Mexico which I loved. It is a privilege to make people dance and laugh through my music.
Being able to do that is what pushes me to constantly make an effort and challenge myself to do different things.
We know that drums are your thing and what you have based your career on, but there is one instrument in particular that you have focused on: The tripandero. Tell us, what is it and how did you come up with that idea?
The tripandero is a creation, like a tripod that supports 3 tambourines. When I had to play Plena by myself, I played it with congas, but it didn't sound the way I liked, which is with tambourines, so I always had to call two more people in. I always practiced alone and had to solve that issue. So, in order to be able to play three tambourines at the same time by myself, I asked my father and my uncle for help and together we created this accessory where we put two tambourines on the right side and one on the left side. When I saw that, I sat for a while just looking at it, enjoying what we had just achieved. Then the challenge was to strengthen my left hand. I am right-handed so keeping the rhythm with both hands was something that I had to work very hard on, a big challenge.
It wasn’t until after a lot of practice that I felt that I was ready. I played in the Viejo San Juan, on a tiny stage, a short performance that suddenly became an incredible party with thousands of people. Someone there took a video of me and put it on Facebook, that thing went crazy. That made me realize it was time, and I spent all my savings making a good quality video for YouTube and I uploaded it to see what would happen. It went crazy again, everyone saw it, artists called me, and René Pérez “Residente”, personally invited me to his studio. That was another one of the key points in my life. We recorded “Hijos del Cañaveral” and that led me to tours and to perform at the Latin Grammys. Everything exploded from there and it has been incredible ever since. The tripandero is my baby, it was and continues to be the key to what I am today.
We are very excited, but we also want to get our audience excited, so ... what can people expect from your performance?
This is one of the concerts in which I’ve planned the most surprises, not only for the public, but on a personal level, I’m bringing my family, my father, my childhood friends, different drum sets, congas, the tripandero. A tour of Daniel and his drums. And to add to this, we are going to broadcast the concert from the place where the tripandero was played in public for the first time. We are going to enjoy, dance, laugh, cry. It will be something very special that we are all going to enjoy and of course, for those who do not know what a parranda is ... do not miss it!
Lastly, we’d like to hear your thoughts on the IBA's mission to promote the Latinx culture through the arts. How important do you think this is for the Latinx Community in this country?
I congratulate IBA for encouraging and supporting this type of music movement that is perhaps not so well known or does not reach so many people. This is a key piece to continue motivating young people who have doubts about whether they can play Plena, if it is worth it, if people will listen to them, etc. Institutions like IBA that motivate people are very important, they allow us to sow in other Latinx, and in new people, the heart of what Puerto Rican culture is. For me, promoting these movements is key to not letting our culture die.