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Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Biography: VOICES FOR PUERTO RICO  (Voces por Puerto Rico) is a nationwide grassroots humanitarian and nonpartisan initiative by Puerto Rican artists and influencers residing in the US to support rural and/or disconnected local communities affected in... read on
Events News
In Conversation with Oskar Cartaya
voices for puerto rico
Oct 14, 2017
Written by Adriana Teresa Letorney/ Visura Magazine
During the course of a full career playing bass, composing, arranging and acting as musical director for an amazing array of artists, Oskar Cartaya has a long prolific career working with the likes of Spyro Gyra, Herb Albert, Jennifer López, Celia Cruz, Rubén Blades, Tito Puentes, Robbie Robertson, Willie Colón, Dave Valentín and Justin Timberlake, amongst many others. On a personal front, Oskar the influences of his homes in Puerto Rico, New York, and Los Angeles has helped shaped his very unique personal style, which resulted in his most recent album titled, Bajo Mundo, nominated for a Latin Grammy for 2017 Best Latin Jazz Album. Recently, he is producing a Benefit Concert at the Conga Room in Los Ángeles for VOICES FOR PUERTO RICO, a nationwide grassroots humanitarian and nonpartisan initiative by Puerto Rican artists and influencers residing in the US to support rural and/or disconnected local communities affected in Puerto Rico by natural disasters and economic challenges, most recently hurricane María.


Adriana Teresa: Tell me about your upbringing and how it led to your musical career?
Oskar Cartaya:
I was born in NYC but at age 6 my parents moved to Puerto Rico. No one in my family played even the radio but It’s documented that I was making music since I was 3 years old. I like say that I didn’t choose music but music chose me.
ATL: You have worked with legendary musicians including Tito Puentes and Celia Cruz, Arturo Sandoval and Spyro Gyra—what did you learn from working with them, both professionally and personally?
OC: It’s crazy because as long as I can remember I have always been more impress by the personal aspect of anyone than their talent, with that said playing with people like Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Herb Alpert, Steve Winwood you realize that their musical greatness comes from being in touch with their soul and they feel and react to music different than the average person.  




                                                                                                                     
 
ATL: You have worked with legendary musicians including Tito Puentes and Celia Cruz, Arturo Sandoval and Spyro Gyra—what did you learn from working with them, both professionally and personally?
OC: As long as I can remember, I have always been more impressed by the personal aspect of anyone than their talent. With that said, when you play with people like Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Herb Alpert, Steve Winwood you realize that their musical greatness comes from being in touch with their soul. They feel and react to music different than the average person.  

ATL: What inspired your album, Bajo Mundo, for which you have received a Latin Grammy nomination for 2017 Best Performing Artist?
OC: Bajo Mundo was a very ambitious idea that somehow came to fruition. I wanted the music to express the experience of what it means to travel around the world with my bass and a backpack, and meeting people in the different places. I took that and created music that resulted from a combination of my personal background and experiences with whatever country I played in.
    
ATL: Throughout the album, you dedicated songs to several musicians including Israel Lopez “Cachao”. What is the story with each dedicatory song?
OC: I found myself looking back at the roots of the styles of music I was writing and started reflecting on all the people that made it possible for me to play this kind of music. I was lucky and blessed to be able to have played with most of them; so, since I have a direct connection both musically and emotional with them, this was my way to say GRACIAS for allowing me do what I do, today.
 
ATL: You are now producing a benefit concert for Voices for Puerto Rico in order to raise funds to support local non-profit organizations in Puerto Rico working directly with the people. Tell us more about the concert?
OC: The night hurricane Maria was pounding Puerto Rico, I was on my way to a show and stopped at a local club, where I perform regularly. That night, I said to the owner:  “I need the first available night that you may have to do a benefit concert”. The very next day,  a group of BORICUAS in the United States got together and started trying to figure out what we were going to do to help the island.  I volunteered to  “put together a benefit concert” and here we are.
 
ATL: What inspired you to produce this event?
OC: The immense feeling I have for the Island and its people. I feel that I have an obligation to take action. This is beyond a voluntary response.


ATL: Puerto Ricans in the Diáspora have struggled to connect with their families and friends living on the island after hurricane María. What do you want to say to them?
OC: Stay strong! we have to continue fighting for them, supporting them in any way we possibly can. 



ATL: What message do you want to send to the people living in Puerto Rico?
OC: "NO ESTAN SOLOS”,  You are not alone. If any good thing has come out of all this disaster is that the Puerto Rican community has come together and with the help of some many good people that have come forward to help.




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