PODCAST: Israel "Piraña" Suárez Plays Cajón on Funk Tune with Abraham Laboriel

Israel "Piraña" Suárez has adapted the cajón for musical styles outside his native flamenco. In this episode, we'll hear him play it in the funk tune "Aguas de Funk." Suárez will receive the Mediterranean Music Institute's Master of Mediterranean Music Award on March 26.  

March 13, 2018

The box drum known as the cajón has never been among the more celebrated components of flamenco. An almost atavistic instrument, it has none of the pageantry of flamenco dance nor the pathos of its vocals. Yet, beat by beat, Israel “Piraña” Suárez has elevated the cajón from rhythmic workhorse to center-stage star. 

“Piraña has been one of the main contributors and lead actors in the evolution of the cajón. He has adapted this instrument to other musical genres, developed cajón technique, and raised the instrument’s musical standard,” Berklee’s Mediterranean Music Institute said in its decision to award Suárez with a Master of Mediterranean Music Award. The institute will give him the award at its spring concert on March 26. Suárez will also perform at the concert, which pays tribute to Spanish poet Federico García Lorca.

Born in Madrid the son and grandson of flamenco singers, Suárez has spent his life steeped in the genre. His career started in his teens, when he subbed for his brother on Niña Pastori’s first album. In his 20s, he joined flamenco great Paco de Lucía’s band, where he spent 10 years working on his craft.

In 2015, Suarez appeared on the album Entre 20 Aguas, which one the Latin Grammy for Best Flamenco Album that year. In this episode of Sounds of Berklee, we’ll take a listen to one of the tracks off that album. Alongside bassist Abraham Laboriel B.M. '72, here’s Suárez on cajón in “Aguas de Funk.”

Recorded and engineered by Tony Brown
Produced by Kimberly Ashton