ABOUT THE FILM
OMAR SOSA'S 88 WELL-TUNED DRUMS is a documentary film on the life and music of Cuban-born pianist and composer Omar Sosa. CHECK OUT THE OFFICIAL TRAILER:
The film traces Sosa’s origins from his birth in Camagüey, Cuba’s third-largest city, conservatory education in Havana, and relocation to Ecuador where he briefly wrote and arranged commercial jingles. Sosa’s story continues with a fateful mid-90s move to the U.S., a stint as a sought-after sideman in the Bay Area’s Latin jazz scene, and partnership with manager Scott Price that continues to this day.
Since 1997, Sosa has released nearly 30 albums and received four Grammy nominations and three Latin Grammy nominations. Performing over 80 concerts on six continents annually, Sosa is known for a rhythmic style (hence the “Drums” of the film’s title) and musical influences as varied as his travel itinerary.
Since 2013, whenever Sosa appeared in the northeastern U.S., Providence-based filmmaker Soren Sorensen (MY FATHER'S VIETNAM, 2016) was granted unprecedented access to Sosa and his bandmates for interviews, rehearsals, and performances. OMAR SOSA'S 88 WELL-TUNED DRUMS includes glimpses of the globetrotting artist in duo with celebrated Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, with the Afri-Lectric Experience, and with his latest band, the Quarteto AfroCubano in storied venues including New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club.
Sosa’s Quarteto AfroCubano features fellow Camagüey natives Ernesto Simpson on drums and Leandro Saint-Hill on alto saxophone and flute and bassist Childo Tomas, who hails from Maputo, Mozambique. Perhaps most thrilling for fans is the full-circle nature of Sosa’s 2015 album Ilé, which reunited Sosa’s music with its Cuban roots. LEARN MORE ABOUT ILÉ:
I was first introduced to Sosa’s music late in 2011 by Tony Aguilar, publisher and editor-in-chief of an arts magazine called Tribe. Aguilar had hired me to write and edit for Tribe and we decided that Omar Sosa would make a great addition to the magazine’s first issue. Alma, Sosa’s 2012 collaboration with Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, was to be released in early 2012. After a few phone conversations and email exchanges with Scott Price, Sosa’s affable Oakland-based manager, it was decided that I would interview Sosa via Skype. What I thought would be a fifteen-minute conversation promoting ALMA stretched into an hour or more.
Sosa’s story captivated me.
His otherworldly talent as a pianist, composer and bandleader is only equalled by his enigmatic charisma as a person. It was obvious that other people loved his music as much as I did. Figuring that, like me, Sosa’s fans and admirers around the world might like to know more about the artist, I asked some very generous friends, who happen to be excellent cinematographers, for some help.
During the last three years we captured live performances of Sosa in duo with Paolo Fresu, with the Afri-Lectric Experience and with his Quarteto AfroCubano, who we visited at Systems Two Recording Studio in Brooklyn, NY during sessions for their 2015 album, Iié. Conversations with Sosa and his collaborators including Fresu, Leandro Saint-Hill, Ernesto Simpson, Childo Tomas and Peter Apfelbaum bring the audience closer to Sosa’s music than anyone has ever been.
Other interview subjects deeply familiar with the history of jazz and the Afro-Cuban roots of Sosa’s music serve as the film’s panel of “expert witnesses.” They include Jeff Levenson, Jason Olaine, Ted Panken, John Schaefer, and Ned Sublette.
Sosa and manager Price have been extremely supportive of this project, making footage, archival material, and themselves available to me during this process. The crazy thing about this project is that production is now complete! My small team and I need money not for ourselves but for graphic design, festival submissions, legal fees, errors and omissions insurance, marketing, and publicity.
I know $19,000 is a lot of money. But landing distribution and delivering this film to streaming services will likely cost more than the film did to make. I know this from experience—my directorial debut was released earlier this year. We have some excellent rewards available including signed posters and CDs, concert tickets, executive producer credit, and even a private piano lesson with Omar Sosa himself!
Check out the film’s trailer and a promotional video for Ilé I made last year. Visit omarsosa.com to learn more about the artist and omarsosafilm.com to learn more about the film and me. Please make a donation and help us bring OMAR SOSA'S EIGHTY-EIGHT WELL-TUNED DRUMS to audiences all over the world!
Risks and challenges
It's sort of a cliché to say that film production is a risky business. Even after making it through planning, shooting, and editing a feature-length project, a filmmaker may not have the time and money to get the film to festivals, distributors, theaters, streaming platforms and DVD vendors.
I learned a lot of this "the hard way." After I completed MY FATHER'S VIETNAM (2016), I really wasn't sure what to do. After some successful festival screenings, interest from a company that offers indie film advisory services (Circus Road Films), a great lawyer (Dean Cheley of Donaldson + Callif), and essential advice from friends, I was able to make a deal with Gravitas Ventures who released MY FATHER'S VIETNAM earlier this year.
For OMAR SOSA'S 88 WELL-TUNED DRUMS, we've decided to use crowdfunding not only because we need the money (we do) but also because Sosa's music is enjoyed throughout the world and we want fans to be involved!
I'm confident in our ability to overcome any risks and challenges associated with completing this project because we've been through this process before!
This film is a work-in-progress but we are well into postproduction now and hope to have the film completed by January of 2017. We can't finish it without YOU!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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