La Timbera- Afro-Cuban Percussionist
Born in Havana Cuba, Melena is an accomplishedt, performer and eductor Afro Afro Cuban Music and history. She performs traditional rhythms that have traveled from Africa to Cuba, to the dance floors of America! Melena is a multi-talented percussionist who plays: Congas, Timbales, Bongos, Shekere, and the Sacred Bata Drums. She is an artsit who exemplifies the sounds of legendary players from the past to the modern sounds of today. Melena studied with the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional De Cuba as well as with the many notable Cuban percussionists, such as: Miguel "Anga" Diaz, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot, Yaroldy Abreu, Adel Gonzalez, Margarita Uguarte and Jose "Pepe" Espinosa. She studied Bata with Mario Jauregui, Regino Jimenez, Cristobal Larrinanga and Lazaro Galarraga.
Melena has performed with legendary artists such as; Barry White, Stevie Wonder, Julio Iglesias, Chayanne, Macy Gray, Byron Miller, Ndugu Chancler, Will Calhoun,Chucho Valdes & Irakere, Francisco Aguabella, Lazaro Galarraga, Bennie Maupin, Ray De La Paz, Chino Nunez, Peru Negro, Eva Ayllone, Poncho Sanchez, Juan de Marcos and Afro Cuban All Stars and Oscar Hernandez (Musical Director of Spanish Harlem Orchestra). On television Melena was the featured percussionist on HBO's Loco Slam with Carlos Mencia, and was a featured guest artist on The Fernando Hidalgo Show in Miami.
Melena is in the Departmental Scholar program for Ethnomuscology at UCLA, which allows students to pursue a B.A. and M.A. degree at the same time. Her research focus is on the African diaspora in Cuba and the Americas. Melena conducts Master Classes and Clinics worldwide such as: Montreal Drum Festival, Puerto Rico Music Conservatory, LAMA (Los Angeles Music Academy), USC, UCLA, Brownsville University, Remo Drum Center, Seattle World Rhythm Festival, Just Drums Percussion Day (with master percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo). She also conducted a percussion clinic and performance at the Percussion Festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico where she was backed by the island's top musicians to include Eric Figueroa, piano and Musical Director of Batacumbele.
In 2016, Melena recorded with Cuba's national treasure the Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro, at the legendary EGREM studios in Havana, Cuba making history to be the first female conga player to ever record and perform with the Septeto Nacional since their founding in 1927. This single "La Timbera Mayor", was written by Frank Oropesa "El Matador", the Director of the Septeto Nacional about her life being born in the province of Marianao, a neighborhood known for the customs of rumba music and culture, and becoming a world-renown percussionist. Melena was also invited to San Juan, Puerto Rico as a featured artist for "Las Tres Potencias de La Salsa- Puerto Rico, Cuba and Colombia", being backed by one of Puerto Rico's premiere artist Jerry Medina and his band.
Melena performs world-wide as an independent artist and also fronts her own Afro-Cuban Jazz and Salsa band. Festivals she has performed at include: Bakersfield Jazz Festival, Santa Barbara Caribbean Festival, Fiesta Patronales, Richmond Latin Jazz & Salsa Festival, Brownsville Salsa Festival, Altadena Summer Concert, Manhattan Beach Summer Concert, LACMA, and more. She is presently working on her dream project of recording an album where she was born. Her first single, recorded in thge legendary EGREM studios in Havana, Cuba is called "Son de La Naturaleza", lyrics written by her mom Myrna Valdes and arranged by the master Joaquin Betancourt. Melena is someone to be recognized as one of the most accomplished female percussionists in the Latin Music Industry.