Roberto Pla

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Roberto Pla
Birth nameRoberto Enrique Pla García
Born (1947-02-13) February 13, 1947 (age 72)
Barranquilla, Colombia
GenresSalsa, descarga, Latin jazz, Latin pop
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, bandleader
InstrumentsTimbales, drum kit, hand percussion
Years active1964-present
LabelsTumi Music
Associated actsAlfredo Rodríguez, Cayenne, Gonzales, Valdez, Sonido de Londres, Paz, Guillespiano Big Band, The Hot Orange Big Band, Dave Hammer's Little Big Horn Band

Roberto Pla (born February 13, 1947) is a Colombian percussionist and bandleader based in London, England. Primarily a timbalero, he is best known for his contribution to the Latin music scene in the United Kingdom.[1] He has toured with Carlos "Patato" Valdés, Alfredo Rodríguez and Adalberto Santiago, among others.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Roberto Pla was born in Barranquilla on Colombia's Northern Atlantic coast, a tropical area rich in music and folklore. As a boy, Roberto studied percussion with Pompilio Rodriguez, at that time one of Colombia's greatest percussionists. In 1964 he left Barranquilla for Bogota the country's capital, and while he was there he became an active session musician playing with some of the best bands in his country including Los Ocho De Colombia. From 1968-78 he played drum kit with Orchestra Lucho Bermudez, Colombia's leading Big Band, and national institution with whom he toured Latin America and the United States, recorded numerous albums and appeared weekly on Colombian television.[2]

New York and London[edit]

In 1979, Roberto left Colombia for New York, where he became a busy salsa session percussionist working with, amongst others, Orchestra La Tradition. In 1980 the attractions of the European pop scene drew him to London, where he joined the jazz fusion band Cayenne and Latin funksters Gonzalez (world tour), and by 1982 he was touring the world with pop megastars Boney M. In 1984, he was one of the earliest members of the London School of Samba, the first samba school to be set up in the UK.[3] Since then, Roberto has been a resident in the UK. Artists that he has played and toured with include Joe Strummer (ex-Clash) with whom he featured in the French film I Hired a Contract Killer, Caribbean Soca artist Arrow (US tour), Spanish pop band Radio Futura, Japanese duo The Frank Chickens, and rock heavyweights Motörhead[4] (with whom he featured in the film Eat the Rich). In 1987 he toured Japan and the far east with the legendary Slim Gaillard , and performed in North Africa with Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez. He has also recorded for Kate Bush and M People. In 1992 he toured Europe and America with Virgin Records-signed popstar Sonny Southton. In summer 1993, he toured Europe with Blue Note Records- signed rap act US 3. Fania Allstars vocalist Adalberto Santiago and Azuquita. In 1998 he toured Europe with Sidestepper and the Newyorican Poets, and in November 1999, toured China with Trevor Watts’ Moire Music. In September/ October 2000, Roberto toured Canada, USA and Latin America with Watts. In 2009 Roberto played with the Ronnie Scott Allstars Orchestra conducted by Peter Long with special guest world-famous N.Y. trumpeter John Faddis. In 2010 Roberto guested with Jazz At The Lincoln Centre Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis at The Barbican Centre in London. Roberto is also a regular member of Gillespiana, an all-star big band featuring the crème de la crème of the UK's session musicians. In 2011 Roberto performed at the Southbank's Vintage Festival (R.F.H.) where he performed in the orchestra conducted by Sid Gauld backing acts including Adam Ant, Sandie Shaw and The Christians.

In 1991, the band released a track on The Freedom From Debt CD (WDM Records). In 1993 they received a bursary from the Arts Council of Great Britain to tour the UK and in Autumn 1993 they toured the far east. 1995 recorded a follow up CD for Tumi Records. And a further release in Spring 1997. In Spring 1996, the band participated in the Salsa Legends Tour, featuring, among others, the great Azuquita on Vocals as a special guest, plus Alfredo Rodriguez on piano. Justo Almario on tenor saxophone.-Also (ex-Eddie Palmieri orchestra and Dizzy Gillespie United Nations Orchestra) Steve Turre on trombone. Other Latin superstars that the Latin Ensemble have accompanied in the UK and Europe include Cheo Feliciano, Marvin Santiago, Tito Allen, Pedro Arroyo and Tito Gomez.[5]

Recent years[edit]

Recent major live highlights for Roberto Pla and the Latin Ensemble have been Brecon Jazz Festival(2007),[6] Expo Festival Lisbon, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2009), Canada Square Festival (Canary Wharf, Docklands. (2009), Under the Stars Festival (2010), Jazz at The Boisdale (Canary Wharf), Ronnie Scotts Club (Dec. 2011). In April 2012 the band celebrated their 25th anniversary with a concert at the Assembly Hall in Islington and won their first LUKAS award for 'Lifetime Achievement and contribution to the Latino Community in the UK'. In June 2013 Roberto Pla and his Latin Ensemble headlined the 'Glasto Latino Stage' at Glastonbury Festival and subsequently won their second LUKAS for 'Concert of the year' in spring 2014.[7] In August 2017 Roberto performed at the Royal Albert Hall as a special guest on "BBC Prom 57: Swing No End" led by Claire Teal and conducted by Guy Barker.[8]


Roberto was a founder member of the UK's first Salsa band Valdez.[9] He was also the Co-founder of UK salsa band Sonido De Londres who recorded two albums. In 1986 Roberto founded his own 12 piece all-star band: the Roberto Pla Latin Ensemble who since have made numerous European Festival and TV appearances .


  1. ^ © 1997–2014 GLASTONBURY FESTIVAL Retrieved 6 August 2014. Missing or empty |title= (help); External link in |website= (help)
  2. ^ Ronnie Scott's. 2014 Retrieved 6/08/2014. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^
  4. ^ BBC Retrieved 6 August 2014. Missing or empty |title= (help); External link in |website= (help)
  5. ^ Retrieved 6 August 2014. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ "Brecon Jazz BBC interview". YouTube. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  7. ^ "LUKAS 2014". Copyright The LUKAS 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014. External link in |website= (help)
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Barbican Music" (PDF). This is the [website] of the Barbican Centre, which is owned, funded and managed by the Corporation of London. Retrieved 6 August 2014. External link in |website= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • Steward, Sue (1999). Salsa Musical Heartbeat of Latin America. London: Thames and Hudson ltd. p. 9,132,142,144. ISBN 050028153X.
  • Broughton, Ellington, Muddyman, Trillo, Simon, Mark, David, Richard (1994). World Music the Rough Guide. London: Rough Guides ltd. pp. 539–591. ISBN 1858280176.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)