Flamenco Percussionist Israel 'Pirana' Suarez Honored by Berklee College of Music

Israel Pirana Suarez
Michael Spencer

Matthew Nicholl, executive director of the Mediterranean Music Institute; María Iturriaga, executive director of Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain;  Israel Piraña Suárez; and Javier Limón, artistic director of the Mediterranean Music Institute.  

Called "Miles Davis of the cajón," Piraña has performed with Ricky Martin, Lenny Kravitz & others.

Madrid native Israel "Piraña" Suárez received the Master of Mediterranean Music Award for his mastery of the cajón and flamenco percussion.

The recognition was presented during the Mediterranean Music Institute spring concert, The Rhythm of Lorca.

“For the cajón, this recognition elevates it and opens new horizons for it in the future," said Piraña. "This is an instrument that is mainly for accompanying soloists and maybe now this will open a door for cajón players all over the world who might want to be band leaders or soloists."

Javier Limón, artistic director of the Mediterranean Music Institute, said Suárez is the Miles Davis or Bill Evans of the cajón, taking his work to the maximum musical level.

"We are deeply grateful he has been able to come to Berklee and share the stage with our students," Limón said. "It is a great honor for us to give him this award."

Considered a vital reference for percussionists and one of the most accomplished cajón musicians, Piraña toured with the late flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía's band for more than 10 years and has played with artists such Chick Corea, Paquito D'Rivera and Wynton Marsalis.

During the March 26 concert at the Berklee Performance Center, Piraña joined students who performed their own compositions set to Lorca's poems. Afterward, Piraña proudly posted a close-up of his award on Instagram, ending his gratitude with "We'll see you soon BOSTON!!!"

The award encourages the cultural exchange of the folk-based music traditions of the various regions of the Mediterranean, promoting international traditions, while supporting young and emerging talent from the area. Previous recipients include flamenco singer José Mercé, flamenco guitarist Pepe Habichuela and composer Pepe de Lucía, among others.


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