Musician Daniel Susnjar finds Afro-Peruvian Spark in Big Apple

Daniel Susnjar. Picture: Andrew Ritchie
Daniel Susnjar. Picture: Andrew Ritchie

A HANKERING for a pisco sour led Daniel Susnjar to find his life’s purpose in a New York club.

While studying music at the University of Miami in 2010, he made a brief visit to the Big Apple where he discovered Afro-Peruvian jazz and set the course of his celebrated drumming career.

“A friend said: ‘Why don’t we go out to this Afro-Peruvian jazz club that has this really nice drink called a pisco sour, a famous Peruvian cocktail,” the Perth muso and WAAPA teacher said.

“I didn’t know what Afro-Peruvian jazz was at that time, so we went to the club and a friend of his was playing and we had a drink and hung out and then another band played called the Gabriel Alegra Afro-Peruvian Sextet.

“That band blew my mind and it has changed my life.”

Susnjar introduced himself to Alegra and asked for some charts or recordings so he could learn the music.

“I started learning the music, just out of the sheer love of what I heard, and then a few months later I took another visit to NY and called Alegria as I wanted to see him play again,” Susnjar said.

“And he said: ‘Our drummer is sick and can’t make the gig – you know the music, could you play?’.

“I said: ‘Yeah, sure’ – and that was my induction into Afro Peruvian jazz performance. It was a baptism by fire.”

From there, Susnjar toured Peru, researching the music, performing and fine tuning his craft.

He has since released three albums with the ensemble – album three, Spark, launches next month – won several awards including Best Drummer/Percussionist, 2016 WA Music Industry Awards and worked with music legends Pharrell Williams and Bobby McFerrin.

“Afro-Peruvian jazz is a lot of fun and it’s very exciting and powerful and certainly takes you on a journey,” Susnjar said.

“My vision now is to create opportunities for other musicians to learn about this form and push a way forward where we can hopefully inspire younger generations to listen to this music too.”


What: Live Spark album launch

Where: Ellington Jazz Club, Perth

When: April 12