Venissa Santí, 2008 Pew Fellow. Directed by Glenn Holsten.
"The Cuban music, it really just talks to my soul, my roots. And so I start to combine jazz and Cuban rhythms and my own experience. I start to get something that's an expression, an immediate expression of me. And then, as an artist, it's really my impulse to share that with the world."
Venissa Santí (b. 1978) inherited her musical passion from her grandfather, a composer in Cuba. Santí moved to Philadelphia when she was 17 and attended The University of the Arts. She became a trained vocalist with classical- and jazz-based technique, all the while seeking to find her own voice. Santí began an intense listening regimen of early Celia Cruz, which inspired her to travel to Cuba and find a master to train her. At the same time she began teaching at the Asociacion de Musicos Latino Americanos, a community music school in North Philadelphia. Santí has become an active participant in the Latin community and the Latin music scene of Philadelphia as a soloist in many world and jazz groups' concerts and recordings.
Santí has done multiple one-month research trips to Havana and Matanzas, Cuba. Working with master singers she immersed herself in African Yoruba religious music and Rumba. From 2002, Santí studied with master singer Jorge Salazar in Havana, Cuba. She mentored with Orlando Fiol, pianist, from 2002–06. Her first solo recording, Bienvenida (unreleased), is a bilingual album of jazz and Cuban standards and Afro-Cuban folkloric songs, written and arranged by Santí.