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Drummer Database

Horacio Hernandez

Name - Horacio | Born - 04/1963 | Nationality - Cuban | Genre - Various

Horacio picture

Hernandez is without doubt one of the best Cuban drummers in the world today. He's played with jazz legends such as McCoy Tyner and Michel Camilo; with rock legends like Carlos Santana and Stevie Winwood; and with latin groups including the Tropi-Jazz All Stars of the late Tito Puente. Quite a list!

He's proven himself as one of the most versatile and talented drummers in many different styles other than latin, and this was rewarded in 1997 when he won a Grammy award for his playing. One aspect of his playing that really sets him apart is his incredible limb independence. It allows him to play sensational rhythms with his feet while his hands are free to explore more complex and contrasting rhythms.

Aside from his drumming, one of the other reasons Horacio is so popular is that he's a very friendly and warm guy. It's no wonder that he's so in-demand on the session scene.


Horacio playing live with Michel Camilo and at the Modern Drummer Festival


Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez as he's also known, was born on April 24, 1963 in Havana, Cuba. He came from a musical family and his grandfather played trumpet in the traditional Cuban group Septeto National. His father listened to a lot of jazz music on the radio, while his older brother listened to rock groups including Led Zeppelin and The Beatles on Miami radio stations. Growing up in this environment introduced Horacio to a wide range of music that had a big influence on his later career.

At a young age Horacio started to become interested in percussion and showed a fledgling talent for it. First he played on whatever percussion instruments where available from the family, then was lent a drum set so he could further develop his playing.

As he talent grew, Horacio started taking professional drum lessons first with Fausto Garcia Rivera and then with Enrique Pla, percussionist with the excellent Cuban group Irakere. With some formal training under his belt, Horacio then went on to study at the National School of Arts in Havana. Here he met many other great young musicians including pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba who Horacio played with in saxophonist Nicolas Reynoso's group. He learned a lot from playing with these aspiring musicians and by the end of his studies he was ready to become a paid professional.

The next milestone for Horacio came when he got the opportunity to work as resident percussionist at EGREM Studios, one of the biggest groups of studios in Cuba. Here he worked hard drumming in rehearsals and recording in sessions sometimes for as long as twenty hours straight. He had to travel between studios across Cuba, grabbing sleep whenever he could in empty studio rooms. It was tough work but the experience proved to be invaluable to Horacio.

His hard work paid off when he was offered the job as permanent drummer in the group Proyecto. He first played with the group abroad which earned him an international reputation in the music community as a hot new talent. Horacio went on to tour with the group for the next seven years and released seven albums with them. His success with the group only increased his reputation as a phenomenal player. Audiences at their shows were simply amazed by his unusual way of playing and incredible limb independence.

By 1990, Horacio decided he wanted to take his playing to a wider audience so while on a tour in Italy, he applied for political asylum in the US. However, he was refused entry by US officials who advised him that they "didn't need any more professional musicians". Not deterred by this, Horacio tried for the next three years to gain entry while he lived in Rome working as a percussion teacher.

Finally in 1993 he was granted entry, but was only allowed to live in New York and wasn't to leave the city boundaries. This made life as a working musician quite difficult for Horacio who had to work in clubs for $50 a night to support himself. It was especially hard as he had to turn down many offers to go on tour with various high profile groups.

But, this wasn't a completely bad thing for Horacio. As he was stuck in New York he decided to make the best of it and intensified his studio work. He also started to become well known on the local music scene and played live with musicians including Dave Valentin, Paquo Vazquez, Daniel Ponce, Ed Simon, and Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra.

Eventually, Horacio was free to travel were he wished and branched out, promoting himself and his playing around the US and the rest of the world. He became one of the hottest young percussionists in the US and was in high demand for live and studio work.

Some of the most notable work he did was with great jazz pianist Michel Camilo who Horacio recorded and played live with. But, what truly broke Horacio as an international drumming force was his playing on Carlos Santana's 1997 album Supernatural. The album brought Horacio his first Grammy award and cemented his place as one of the best drummers in latin, rock, and jazz music.

Following this success, Horacio has gone on to record and tour with many great groups and also leads his own latin jazz ensemble called Italuba. He has also released popular instructional materials including the DVDs Conversations In Clave and Traveling Through Time.

Today, Horacio Hernandez continues to play live and record all over the world. He is a popular performer at drumming clinics and is active is many different styles of music. The future is only looking bright for this Cuban drumming legend.

Author: Mark Brownlee.


Drums - Pearl | Cymbals - Zildjian | Sticks - Zildjian | Heads - Evans

Horacio's set up

Horacio plays Pearl Reference series drums including 10"x8", 12"x8", 14"x12", and 16"x14" toms; a 22"x16" bass drum, a 14"x5.5" snare, and a 10"x6" Popcorn snare. He also uses Pearl hardware, signature Pearl cowbells, plus medium and low clave blocks by Pearl.

As for cymbals, Horacio plays Zildjian's including two A Custom Fast Crash cymbals, an A Custom Splash, a K Dark Crash (Thin), a K Constantinople Medium Thin Ride, and an Oriental China Trash.

Horacio also plays with his own signature drum sticks by Zildjian and uses Evans drum heads. The heads include a 22" EMAD batter and 22" EQ3 resonant on the bass drum; 14" Power Center Reverse Dot batter and 14" Hazy 300 resonant on the snare drum; plus G2 and G1 Clear heads on other drums.

Horacio's set up


Click to enlarge (opens in new window)

Selected Discography

* Havana (Roy Hargrove)

* Supernatural (Santana)

* No Es Lo Mismo (Alejandro Sanz)

* Italuba (Horacio Hernandez)

* Listen Here (Eddie Palmieri)

* Live At The Blue Note (Michel Camilo)

* Italuba II (Hernandez)

Books and Dvd's

* Horacio: Live At The Modern Drummer Festival (DVD)

* Drummers Collective 25th Anninversary (DVD)

* Conversations In Clave (Book)

* Traveling Through Time (DVD)

Hernandez Has Played With...

* Sanata

* John Patitucci Quartet

* Torsten DeWinkel

* Tito Puente

* Michel Camillo

* Anthony Jackson

* Gonzalo Rubalcaba

* Cuban Allstars

* Chico O'Farill

* Papo Vazquez

* Roy Hargrove Crisol

* Paquito D'Rivera

* Tropic All Stars

* Cuban All Stars

* Ed Simon

* Victor Mendoza

* Kip Hanrahan

* Steve Turre

* In The Spirit

* Santi Debrianno

* David Sanchez

* And More...



"The mountain doesn't come to you, so you better go to the mountain. So, I guess that's what I did."

"Every melody has a rhythm...but not every rhythm has melody."

Talking about a drum lesson he had - "The lesson was about showing me technique and showing just a single stroke very slow...while I was watching my hands making sure they were in the correct manner. But, I all wanted was to have fun, so I told my more."

"One day we were playing on a beach in Havana and the special forces came...and they put all of us in here, in a maximum security prison...I was there for two weeks."

"You are only going to be able to make a nice groove or a song if you definitely can connect to some...historical stuff of the music you are playing, and you can bring that into your song."

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