Yosvany Terry

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2015

New York, NY

Yosvany Terry has played a pivotal role in defining the sound of Afro-Cuban jazz in the new century. He received his earliest musical education from his father, legendary Cuban chekeré master and violinist Eladio “Don Pancho” Terry. He graduated from the National School of Arts and Amadeo Roldán Conservatory in Havana before moving to New York, where he soon performed alongside Roy Hargrove, Steve Coleman, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. He has received grants from the French American Jazz Exchange (2014), the MAP Fund (2013), and Chamber Music America (2009), among others. His latest release, the GRAMMY Award-nominated New Throned King (5Passion, 2014), features music based on Arara cantos and rhythms and has been called the “musical culmination of his spiritual exploration” (All About Jazz). In 2015, he will premiere the music of the opera Makandal, with libretto by Carl H. Rux, at Harlem Stage, and his latest project Ancestral Memory will premiere at Yerba Buena Garden Festival.

  • Photo Credit: Govert Driessen
    Yosvany Terry
  • Okónkolo Concertante by Bohemian Trio
  • Yosvany Terry- “Son Contemporaneo,” Today’s Opinion (Criss Cross, 2012) : https://soundcloud.com/yosvany-terry/08-son-contemporaneo-1
    “Son Contemporaneo,” Today’s Opinion (Criss Cross, 2012)
  • Yosvany Terry- “New Throned King,” New Throned King (5Passion, 2014) : https://soundcloud.com/yosvany-terry/02-new-throned-king
    “New Throned King,” New Throned King (5Passion, 2014)
  • Photo Credit: Jonathan Chimene

What are the creative challenges you face as an artist?

I face the challenge of finding the time to introduce my music and the legacies that inspire it to a broader audience while continuing to seek out masters of these various traditions and do the research necessary for me to grow as a composer and tradition bearer. Much of what I need to do in the "business" of music is outside of what I prepared for over the course of my musical studies. My music is informed by traditions that came out of the African Diaspora into the Americas and the Caribbean, and I need to have the time to organize and conduct in depth research about these cultures. The type of work necessary to connect and communicate with new audiences, manage a band, and promote my work through targeted publicity and social media takes a different thinking process than the one I use to create and perform music. I am forever toggling between these demands.