Cuban-born master percussionist Román Díaz, also known as “El Poeta Bohemio” is a “living repository” of Afro-Cuban culture,” a noted scholar of Cuban religious and folkloric music and a composer and performer of contemporary Afro-Cuban music and Jazz.
He has performed and recorded with Mercedíta Valdes, Jane Bunnett, Juan Carlos Formell, Paquito D’Rivera, folkloric artist Orlando “Puntilla” Rios, and Pianist Danílo Pérez. He has also recorded with the Afro-Cuban folkloric groups; Yoruba Andabo, Raices Profundas, Los Marqueses de Atares, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, and the Smithsonian Museum.
As a member of the seminal Rumba ensemble, Yoruba Andabo, Díaz aided in the creation of the sound that has defined contemporary Rumba since the 1980s in Cuba and around the world. In 2016 UNESCO designated Cuban Rumba a “World Heritage,” elevating the importance of the Rumba as a human cultural art form.
A new rhythm called Guarapachangeo which incorporates Bata and the wooden cajón (box) into modern Rumba, is the legacy of the late Pancho Quinto, Yoruba Andabo’s founder. Díaz continues innovating the song style and migrating the conical two-headed Bata drum from religious music into contemporary Jazz. 
Román Díaz has been a foundational member of New York-based pianist, composer Michele Rosewoman’s 11-piece New Yor-Uba ensemble since 2008, recording on New Yor-Uba, 30 Years!, The 2013 #1 NPR Latin Jazz Recording of the Year and “Hallowed,” released in November 2019, featuring “Oru de Oro” (Room of Gold), a 10-track suite of original music written around a sacred sequence of Bata rhythms honoring 23 Orishas (Yoruba deities) with Mr. Díaz directing the Bata section. “This work was built from the earth up and from the sky out on the foundation of the form, contours, and mastery of folklorist, percussionist Román Díaz,” said Rosewoman of Diáz’s contribution to the recording. Roman is also a member of Francisco Mora Catlett’s AfroHorn and, as producer, brought together some of the finest interpreters of Cuban Rumba for the 1998 recording “Wemilere.”
Román Díaz migrated to New York City twenty-one years ago. Since then, he has been much sought after as a teacher, musician, and collaborator with top Rumba and Jazz artists. He is featured alongside Orlando “Puntilla” Rios in the critically acclaimed 2000 documentary, “Calle 54”, and also in the 2004 documentary, “Dame La Mano .”The film chronicles the life and times of Union City’s Esquina Habanera, the Grammy-nominated Rumba ensemble, Raíces Habanera, and their fans. His mastery of Batá can be heard on countless recordings, and he also does solo performances incorporating spoken word while playing various Afro-Cuban instruments.
Román Díaz is a noted scholar of Afro-Cuban traditions. He taught at Havana’s Escuela Nacional de Instructores de Arte (the Cuban National Academy for Arts Instructors). Since moving to the U.S., Roman has also been a guest lecturer at Berklee College of Music, Harvard University, Yale University, Rutgers University, Humboldt State University Afro-Cuban Camp, and New York’s New School. He has traveled globally, performing and teaching master classes on Afro-Cuban culture and percussion in Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, Israel, and Panama. One of his lecture topics concerns the once clandestine male secret society, Abakuá, brought to Cuba from Calabar, West Africa (Nigeria). His most recent academic lecture and performance was for U Mass in May of 2020 and was executed using the digital video platform, Zoom, bringing Díaz and his folkloric lectures and performances into the digital age.
Román Díaz is the subject of Director, Onel Mulet’s BRIC short documentary film “Roman Diaz Como El Agua (Like Water),” which was recently accepted to the Queens Underground International Film Festival.
Great artists build upon the traditions of their masters to evolve their art forms. Román Díaz’s foundation is built on 500 years of Afro-Cuban religious and folkloric culture, taught from master to student for generations. His most famous student and Godson is Grammy winner Pedro Martínez, with whom he has also performed and recorded. In Cuba, they have a saying for a person rich in cultural knowledge and traditions. They are called a “mina de oro” or gold mine. Roman Díaz is a gold mine and someone whose wealth of cultural knowledge is worth exploring.


Afro Horn MX (2013)
David Virelles – Continuum (2012)
Román Díaz – L’ó Dá Fún Bàtá (2015)
Román Díaz, Pedrito Martinez – The Routes of Rumba (Rumbos de la Rumba, 2008)
Rosewoman, Michele – Hallowed (2019)


Featured Photo: Motema Music
A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.


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