The young, mohawked percussionist Yissy & Bandancha, self-describes her music as “high speed Cuban jazz.” Yissy grew up surrounded by rhythm and melody in Cayo Hueso, a colorful and musical barrio of Havana. She was raised in a family of musicians led by her father, renowned Cuban percussionist Bernardo Garcia of Irakere fame, who promptly enrolled Yissy into the music conservatory at age 10.
Following graduation, Yissy completed her two-year servicio—mandatory government service required of all Cubans after high school—as part of a female salsa orchestra, travelling throughout Cuba and representing the country on international stages. When she’d had enough of playing other people’s music, she established Yissy & Bandancha after seeing a YouTube video where Herbie Hancock incorporated a DJ into his set up.
“All the rhythms that we make aren’t pure,” she explains. “They’re more like developed rhythms, more fusion. For example, we love to use a street conga and mix it with a little drum and bass, funk; mix it up with the rumba. The tradition of Cuba is very strong to me—carrying rhythm in your blood.”
Earlier this year Yissy & Bandancha released their debut album Ultima Noticia, a shapeshifting work of jazz, funk, electronic, and Afro-Cuban notes. Almost as extraordinary as the LP was the method in which it was actualized—via crowdfunding. The idea was concocted to sidestep having to make a deal with a typically government-owned Cuban record label, where they end up owning everything. But to achieve crowdfunding success in a country where internet barely exists almost felt like an exercise in oxymoronic madness.
She performed with well-known figures such as Dave Matthews, Omara Portuondo, Bobby Carcassés, Joaquin Betancourt, Alexis Bosh, Orlando Sanchez (CubaJazz), Yasek Manzano, Emir Santa Cruz, Interactivo and Roberto Garcia, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Arturo Tappin and Roy Hargrove among others.5 in band