Steve Roitstein and his Grammy-nominated band, PALO! have become a
must-see in Miami, and most certainly in Miami’s Little Havana, so we just had to have more than just a mention of him and decided to do an introduction in the form of an interview, for those that might not know him,
his talent and his band.
Hope you enjoy the interview that follows and take the opportunity to listen to his music and his amazing band.
Ladies and Gentlemen – Steve Roitstein.
Q: Who is Steve Roitstein in your own words.
A: I’m a musician, songwriter, producer, music educator, good friend to my good friends, and bandleader of PALO!, a band that plays what we call “Afro-Cuban Funk”.
Q: Where were you born?
A: I was born in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Q: How does a Jewish-American person become so Cuban and so fluent in its language and music?
A: I’ve always been attracted by Cuban music, even before I was a musician. When I had the chance to join a Latin band as a young musician, it changed my life; I felt like I had landed where I should be. I quickly got immersed in Cuban culture because I found it so interesting. I got some lucky breaks and ended up working with great artists like Celia Cruz, Willy Chirino, Tito Puente and many more. I’ve been blessed to have opportunities to learn from some wonderful people.
Q: When did you learn you had such amazing talent for music?
A: I started playing the French horn at 12 years old. I loved it, worked hard, and all of a sudden, I began to get pretty good at it.
Q: When did you start your music career?
A: I did my first professional recording when I was in high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy.
Q: When and how was PALO! established?
A: In the late 1990s I started to think about forming a band. PALO!’s first show was in 2003 at a club in Little Havana called Hoy Como Ayer.
Q: You have great musicians in your band. Please introduce us to each of your band members.
A: PALO!’s lead singer and co-founder is the amazing Leslie Cartaya. Our timbale player and singer is Raymer Olalde. On congas and vocals is Dayron Gallardo. Our sax player is Aldo Salvent.
Q: You are respected and admired by people in Miami. Tell us what you feel for Miami and its people.
A: I love Miami. I’m a happy person, and much of that happiness is because of the people that surround me.
Q: What do you like most about Miami?
A: Miami’s cultural diversity is always invigorating for me.
Q: Many of the people that live in Miami, enjoy it as a tourist. How do you enjoy living in this city? What do you do for fun?
A: I like to hang out in Little Havana or other parts of Miami that have developed their own personality and character as neighborhoods than as tourist destination.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Probably some good Cuban Vaca Frita or some southern fried chicken.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Miami?
A: El Nuevo Siglo is a small grocery store in Little Havana. Their lunch counter is spectacular. They’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Their focus is Cuban food. It’s so good that you’d swear a Cuban grandmother worked in the kitchen for six hours to prepare your meal. Unpretentious but picturesque surroundings and very economical pricing.
Q: Who was your biggest influence as you initiated yourself in the music industry?
A: Salsa artist Willy Chirino was the person who gave me my first big break. He became my mentor and my main influence. All of the wonderful things that happened to me in my music career took place after I worked with him as co-producer and musical director. We made a lot of great music together, collaborating on Medias Negras, Ya Viene Llegando, Oxigeno, Mr. Don’t Touch the Banana, Lo Que Esta Pa’ Ti, and many others.
Q: Tell us about your first song and/or music arrangement.
A: My first compositional attempts sucked, and I knew it. I was around 16 years old. But I enjoyed the process and vowed to get better by continuing to work hard at it.
Q: Our job at CouplesBest.com is to have our readers learn about the cities they might be visiting. We feel music is a big part of Miami’s culture and you represent Miami’s music diversity very well. How can our readers learn where they can go enjoy your music when visiting and after they have gone back home?
A: PALO! is all over the internet. Just search “gopalo” and you’ll find everything. Our website is gopalo.com – we love it when people subscribe to youtube.com/gopalo
Q: When and where was the first time you performed professionally in front of a live audience?
A: The first time I got paid as a musician was as a French horn player in a 1978 Miami holiday concert.
Q: What music do you listen to when at home, driving, alone?
A: When I have friends over I let them program the playlist, which they want to often please me with by playing Celia Cruz, Beny Moré, Fania Allstars or El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico. In the car I usually listen to old school Salsa or Funk. Sometimes I’ll check out what some of Miami’s newer YouTube stars are doing, like Faruko, Lary Over. Or I keep up with the latest Cuban salsa from the incredible Havana d’ Primera.
Q: What message do you have for people worldwide thinking of possibly visiting Miami?
A: Please come to Miami. You won’t be disappointed! I urge everyone to seek out some of Miami’s neighborhoods like Little Havana or Little Haiti. Try to catch Dr. Paul George’s free Little Havana tours. Check out some of the music venues in Little Havana like Ball & Chain or Hoy Como Ayer. There’s so much culture and history in our city that is worth seeking out. Take a car trip up 27th or 22nd avenues and its like, going through five or six different cultures. You’ll find great places representing the food and cultures of Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and some of the best African-American barbecue and soul food anywhere.