Composer-pianist-bandleader Omar Sosa was born in 1965 in Camagüey, Cuba's largest inland city. At age eight, Omar began studying percussion and marimba at the music conservatory in Camagüey; in Havana, as a teenager, he took up piano at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Música, and completed his formal education at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. Among his influences, Omar cites traditional Afro-Cuban music, European classical composers (including Chopin, Bartok, and Satie), Monk, Coltrane, Parker, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Chucho Valdés, and the pioneering Cuban jazz group Irakere. Moving in 1993 to Ecuador, Omar immersed himself in the folkloric traditions of Esmeraldas, the northwest coast region whose African heritage includes the distinctive marimba tradition. He relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1995, and soon invigorated the Latin jazz scene with his adventurous writing and percussive style.
Annually performing upwards of 100 concerts on six continents, Omar has appeared in venues as diverse as the Blue Note (New York, Milan, and Tokyo), Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Walker Art Center, the Getty Center, London's Barbican and Queen Elizabeth Hall, Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall, and Berlin's Haus der Kulturen der Welt; festivals including Monterey Jazz, JVC Jazz, Montreal Jazz, Marciac Jazz, North Sea Jazz, Helsinki, Grenoble Jazz, Montreux Jazz, Naples Jazz, Ravenna Jazz, Roma Jazz, Spoletto, WOMAD, and Cape Town International Jazz; and universities on several continents, including a visiting artist fellowship at Princeton University in March 2008, and a visiting artist residency at Dartmouth College in April 2008. Omar will return to Dartmouth College for a second artist residency in February 2011.
Mr. Sosa received a lifetime achievement award from the Smithsonian Associates in Washington, DC in 2003 for his contribution to the development of Latin jazz in the United States. He has received two nominations from the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards, in 2004 and 2006, both in the 'Americas' category. In 2003 Omar Sosa received the Afro-Caribbean Jazz Album of the Year Award from the Jazz Journalists Association in NYC for his recording Sentir; and a nomination from the Jazz Journalists Association for Latin Jazz Album of the Year in 2005 for his recording Mulatos.
Omar Sosa received an orchestral commission from Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and the Oakland Easy Bay Symphony, supported by grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the MAP Fund (Multi-Arts Production Fund). During 2001-2002, Mr. Sosa composed a 45-minute work in three movements for symphony orchestra entitled, From Our Mother, which received its world premiere in January 2003 by the Oakland East Bay Symphony under the direction of Michael Morgan. In 2009, Mr. Sosa received an orchestral commission from the city of Girona, Spain and the Festival de Músicas Religiosas y del Mundo de Girona. The 20-minute work for symphony orchestra, entitled Oda Africana, received its world premiere in July 2009 by the Jove Orquesta Athenea, conducted by Lluis Caballeria. Also in 2009, Mr. Sosa received a commission from the Barcelona Jazz Festival to present a tribute to Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue recording, featuring Afro-Cuban interpretations of the seminal Davis work on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. The project was performed at L'Auditori in Barcelona in November 2009.