Rodolfo “El Panga” Hechavarria

Renowned as "Panga," Rodolfo Hechavarria is a self-taught percussionist who embodies the pulsating heart of Afro-Cuban rhythms. Born in Santiago de Cuba, a city steeped in a rich musical heritage, Panga's connection with music was ingrained from the very beginning. His family's lineage resonates with a deep engagement in music, particularly percussion, tracing back to his African ancestors hailing from Senegal, Guinea, and Congo. The ancestral rhythms of Papa Guide, Yoruba, Rumba, Tumba Francesa, and Tahona were woven into the tapestry of his upbringing, sowing the seeds for his rhythmic exploration.

Melbourne Film Festival

Panga's musical journey began at just 11 years old in Santiago de Cuba, where he immersed himself in Afro-Cuban rhythms during lively Carnivals. In 1993, he joined Sonora La Calle, a group dedicated to preserving traditional Cuban music. Panga's natural talent for percussion breathed new life into classic songs by iconic composers like Felix Chapotin and Lili Martinez.

In 1996, Panga's career took a significant turn when he embarked on a European tour with Sonora La Calle. This journey allowed him to share the stage with celebrated Cuban musicians at major festivals, including Oscar D’Leon, Issac Delgado, Eliades Ochoa, and Buena Vista Social Club, expanding his influence beyond Cuba.

In 2006, Panga relocated to Melbourne, Australia, enriching the local music scene with his captivating performances and transformative workshops. With over 25 years of experience, he left a mark on different musical genres, spanning continents.

Panga's rhythmic mastery led him to share stages with globally renowned artists like The Wailers, Los Van Van, La Orquesta Aragon, Celia Cruz, Eliades Ochoa, and Ibrahim Ferrer. His performances carry the spirit of Santiago de Cuba, a city renowned as the "Capital of the Caribbean" due to its rich musical heritage, including styles like Son, Bolero, and Guaracha.

As a part of Santiago de Cuba's esteemed ensemble, "Sonora de La Calle," and the renowned Cuban production "Lady Salsa," Panga's rhythms have reached audiences worldwide, from Australia and New Zealand to England, Scotland, South Africa, and beyond.

Rodolfo "Panga" Hechavarria's journey showcases the enduring power of rhythm and the unifying force of music. From his roots in Santiago de Cuba to the global stage, Panga's rhythmic expertise has kindled passion, transcended boundaries, and celebrated the timeless legacy of Afro-Cuban music.