Creator of the mind-blowing "Third Hand" drumming technique, Enildo Rasúa is an innovator extraordinaire who has been performing internationally for over three decades. Anyone who has seen Rasúa play is an instant and devoted fan - he will take your breath away.
Grammy and Juno award winning percussionist Arturo Stable (Paquito D’Rivera, David Sánchez, Jane Bunnett) says Rasua "has a very distinctive voice and unequalled talents" and calls him "one of the greatest Latin drummers of our generation".
Indeed, Rasúa’s style and sound are utterly unique. Classically trained, at one moment Rasúa plays with the exquisite, light touch of a classical technician, the next, he is a powerhouse of expressive Afro-Cuban soul and Latin groove. Dominating an impressive range of instruments, including drumset, congas, marimba and vibes, Rasúa is a master of Cuban musical traditions, such as Son Cubano, Changüí, Salsa, Rumba, Tumba Francesa, and Abakuá.
To this mélange, Rasúa adds his cutting edge “Third Hand” technique: he plays the drums with not two but THREE sticks in his hands, while his feet play additional rhythms, playing an astounding SEVEN different rhythms at once. The result is something other worldly, leading one French critic to call Rasúa “the alien drummer". Indeed, a recent video clip of Rasúa playing his stunning technique garnered over 15,000 views in its first few days alone!
Growing up in Guantánamo, Cuba to a family of mixed African and Spanish heritage, Rasúa’s childhood was infused with the sounds of Changüí, Conga and Son Oriental, beats that form the base of modern salsa music. He was equally inspired by the American soul, jazz and rock that flowed on the radio waves from the nearby US airbase. Rasúa counts among his earliest musical influences the legendary Cuban salsa group, Los Van Van, plus Stevie Wonder, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Earth, Wind and Fire.
A product of Cuba's rigorous music education system, Rasúa began studying percussion at age six. Consistently medalling in national (and later, international) competitions, by 13, Rasua had won a spot in Cuba's prestigious Escuela Nacional de Artes in Havana. For five intense years, studying alongside the likes of Horacio "El Negro" Hernández, Tata Güínes and Páncho Kinto, Rasúa received a first-rate classical music training.
It was during his youth that Rasúa's passion for Latin Jazz was born. First, he heard the sounds of Irakere, the game-changing Afro-Cuban jazz group led by Chucho Valdés with Paquito D’Rivera. Then, he caught wind of American jazz players like Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and Freddie Hubbard. Progressive jazz trailblazers like Weather Report and Yellowjackets also shifted his musical consciousness. Rasúa knew had found his calling in Latin Jazz, but he wanted to add his own style to the mix, one which seamlessly blended his Afro-Cuban roots, his respect for classical precision and restraint, with his passion for American soul and rock.
At the age of 19, Rasúa became the youngest ever Director of the Percussion Department of the Escuela Provincial de Música Regino Boti. Alongside Alfredo Thompson (Afro-Cuban All-Stars), Rasúa also founded his first quintet, Afrojazz, which played at numerous important Cuban music festivals.
Returning to Havana at age 22 to study at the Instituto Superior de Arte, the country's top university music program, Rasúa found himself at the forefront of a new movement in Cuban music. Afro-Cuban Rumba (specifically, the new guarapachanguéo rhythm) was penetrating popular music for the first time, transforming both the Havana music scene and the face of Cuban music overall.
Hungry to learn, Rasúa played up to 10 hours a day - studying classical, contemporary and Afro-Cuban music at ISA by day and performing in orchestras and jazz clubs by night. Rasúa spent weekends in Matanzas - a hotbed for Afro-Cuban musical development - taking master classes with percussion stars Tomás Jimeno Díaz and Justo Pelladito, son of the founder of Cuban Rumba and Munequitos de Matanzas.
Thriving in Havana
Rasúa was thriving, both professionally and creatively. Driven to innovate, he sought new ways of playing and interpreting music. He began experimenting with playing drums with THREE sticks, foreshadowing what would later become Rasúa’s famous Third Hand technique.
With his formidable and diverse training as a classical, contemporary Afro-Cuban percussionist, along with his love of American jazz, pop and rock, Rasúa became a truly dynamic performer, as passionate about rhythms and arrangements as he was with connecting with the audience. He was at once explosive, funky, playful and tender – Rasúa mesmerized audiences and was in high demand.
Rasúa was the drummer for renowned Cuban composer/singer Pedro Luis Ferrer as well as top 80’s Cuban pop band, Grupo Montespuma, recording with the Cuban star Pablo Milanés. He was also the drummer for Nicolas Reynoso's Latin Jazz group and performed as special guest with Latin Jazz innovator Bobby Caraces and famed Rumba group Clave y Guaguanco.
Rasúa also played with Cuba’s legendary Orquesta de Cabaret Tropicana as well as the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional. In addition, as principal percussionist with Orquesta Cubana de Radio y Televisión, Rasúa played in the country's most prestigious concerts and festivals and accompanied music legends, including Omara Portuondo, Ibrahím Ferrer, Elena Burque, and Celina González, along with international stars such as Michel Legrand and Johnny Mandel. Rasúa also played in live radio and TV performances and participated in recordings for movie and television soundtracks.
Rasúa headlined as a solo percussionist at multiple, critically acclaimed Encuentros de Percusion in Barcelona, Spain. This included collaborations with bass player Carlos Benavent (Paco de Lucia) and Flamenco guitarist Chicuelo. He also toured Germany, Mexico, Spain and the former Soviet Union with the Coro Nacional de Cuba and Grupo Montespuma.
Relocating to Barcelona in 1997, Rasúa and his now mastered “Third Hand” technique continued to be in high demand. He played with diverse artists, confirming his remarkable versatility and breadth of talent. Rasúa accompanied one the most famous dancers in the history of flamenco, Joaquín Cortés, and was Musical Director for a world tour of Spanish contemporary dance troupe Gelabert Azzoparti, performing in China, Mexico, England and Europe.
Rasúa also collaborated with Indian superstar percussionist Trilok Gurtu and preformed with both jazz and classical orchestras, including Croatia’s legendary Jazzorchestar de Zagreb and Camerata de Saint Cugat de Valles. Plus, he played with flamenco/ contemporary jazz fusion group Cajonmania, Indian jazz fusion group Tasama Project, and Senegalese world music group Tukupa.
In 2000, Rasúa founded the Enildo Rasúa Quartet, with Aruán Ortíz on piano, Dave Pybus on saxophone and Dick Them on bass. With his Quartet, Rasúa toured Spain, performing at numerous festivals, including Circuit Ressons de Catalunya, Festival de Jazz de Tarraza, Parla Jazz Festival, Festival Jazz Vic, Festival de Jazz de Tete Montoliú, L'Hora del Jazz and Interparla Festival. The Quartet also headlined at top jazz venues, including Barcelona’s Jamboree Jazz Club and La Jazz Cava de Tarraza.
Rasúa was also highly sought after as a master teacher. Opening the Enildo Rasúa Escuela de Percusión in Barcelona in 2001, Rasúa has taught some of the world's best Latin percussionists. His students include Ramsés Rodriguez Baralt (Chucho Valdes), Arturo Stable (Paquito d'Rivera), Isel Rasua (Emiliano Salvador), Eugenio Doria (Gloria Estéfan), Oliver Valdés (Silvio Rodriguez) and Fernando Favier (Joaquin Cortes). In addition, Rasua can transcribe by ear (!) even the most complicated of rhythms and has written numerous books on Cuba music.
In 2013, Rasúa made his U.S. debut with a new Enildo Rasua Quartet, with Troy Roberts on saxophone, Ben Winkelman on piano and Ricky Rodriguez on bass. The Quartet debuted at the Jazz Standard in New York City to rave reviews.
In his short time in the US, Rasúa has performed with Giovanni Hidalgo, Meme Solís, Juan-Carlos Formell, Robbie Ameen, Ritmosis and Joe Berger, among others. He is also the drummer for Latin pop fusion band Más Allá, with whom he performed on Telemundo TV in 2014.
Rasúa was also invited to Los Angeles to perform and demonstrate his "Third Hand" technique on Terry Bozio's show on Drumchannel.com in 2013. Bozio, Rasúa and Alex Acuña also thrilled fans with a live webcast jam session. Also, Rasúa was Afro-Cuban music composer for the critically acclaimed Good Bread Alley at the New York Theater Workshop, for which he also appeared on Telemundo TV.
With a devoted fan following around the world, Rasua is a master of “la calle” who employs his Third Hand technique to bring a completely new twist on Latin Jazz. Whether he's playing solo, swinging with his new Quintet, or collaborating in an ensemble piece, Enildo “The Third Hand” Rasúa will thrill audiences.