Juan de Marcos was born in Havana in 1954 and grew up surrounded by music (his father was a singer and played with the great Arsenio Rodriguez, among others). He studied classical guitar at the Havana Conservatory and privately with the great maestros Vicente Gonzalez and Leopoldina Nunez. Also contemporary harmony and orchestral conducting. Later, at university, he turned to studying Hydraulic Engineering and Russian and English Languages before working as a consultant at the Agronomic Science Institute, gaining his doctorate in 1989.
While at university he co-founded the group Sierra Maestra in 1976. Styled as a traditional Cuban septeto group (tres, trumpet, bass, percussion, and arid vocals), the dynamic young band’s aim was to bring about an appreciation of Cuban son by the youth of the island. The band achieved great success, recording fourteen albums in Cuba, Africa and Europe, touring many countries and receiving various awards.
In 1994, Juan de Marcos began his association with the London-based record label World Circuit, when the band recorded the album ‘Dundunbanza’. For this recording, World Circuit’s Nick Gold encouraged the group to expand their line-up to include piano, congas and a trumpet section in tribute to the forties and fifties styles of silagra Arsenio Rodriguez. Having found both success and a common ground, Juan de Marcos and Gold looked to develop them further with a big band recording in Havana, featuring the neglected stars of the ‘golden age’ of Cuban music (the 50s).
The Afro-Cuban All Stars album ‘A toda Cuba le gusta’ (Grammy Nominee ’98) was the first to be recorded in the now famous Buena Vista Social Club sessions and Juan de Marcos proved to be a springboard for the success that came up. Following the albums’ release, Juan de Marcos led Afro-Cuban All Stars and Ruben Gonzalez Ensemble on their debut European and U.S. tours and directed the Buena Vista Social Club in the only concerts of the original line up at the top theatres ‘Le Carre’ in Amsterdam, New York’s Carnegie Hall and Mexico’s Auditorio Nacional.
Having been instrumental in these various projects Juan de Marcos is set to move into the limelight with his new projects and ambitious new ideas. “We have to use all the heritage of Cuban music to create a sound of the future” says Juan de Marcos “it’s important to have that continuity and fight for our identity”.