Martín Perna is a musical polyglot: a Grammy-nominated producer, musician, writer and music scholar, he has performed over two thousand concerts in forty-three countries on five continents. He began his music career on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label in 1995, and helped build the soul revival movement as a founding member of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and associated bands. As founder/bandleader of the group Antibalas, he has served as musical director at Carnegie Hall for several all-star homages honoring Paul Simon (2014), David Byrne & Talking Heads (2015) and Aretha Franklin (2017) as well as The Music of Billie Holiday at the Apollo Theater (2017).
He has lived and worked in diverse locales, from the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, where he arranged and co-produced an album with Creole Palo de Mayo music legend Mango Ghost, to Sicily where he helped produce and arrange work by Palermo troubadour Fabrizio Cammarata. In 2017, he traveled to Benin, West Africa to collaborate with Angelique Kidjo and student musicians at the CIAMO arts academy to produce the “Kids Against Malaria” PSA song and video. In 2018, he served on the faculty of African American Studies at Pennsylvania State University teaching Africa Diaspora Music. He was named director of the SF Jazz / Oakland Public Conservatory’s youth jazz orchestra for their fall 2019 season. As a writer he has authored liner notes for the 2018 Grammy-nominated Orquesta Akokan and liner notes/bios for several contemporary global music artists. In July 2020, he scored and performed music for Daveed Diggs’s performance of the poetry polemic “Fourth of July.” He is a contributing editor for the literary travel magazine Stranger’s Guide.
Among his collaborators in recent years: Angélique Kidjo, Mark Ronson, Jeff Bhasker, Greg Phillinganes, Willie Weeks, Dr. John (RIP), Michael McDonald, Ledisi, Anthony Hamilton, Gregory Porter, Valerie Simpson, Eric Harland, Ed Sheeran, The Roots, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Brian Jackson, Steven Bernstein, Saul Williams, Miguel Zenón, William Bell, Ricki Lee Jones, Bettye Lavette, Lizz Wright, Zap Mama, Santigold,, Lorenzo “Jovanotti” Cherubini, Sam Moore, Don Bryant, Kenny Loggins, Sarah Dash, Taj and Deva Mahal, Todd Rundgren, Cee-Lo Green, Melissa Etheridge, Ruthie Foster, Living Colour, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Mike Dillon and many others.