Home / Interview / Interview with Latin percussion icon Sheila E.

Interview with Latin percussion icon Sheila E.

Sheila E. featuring Gilberto Santa Rosa “El Rey Del Timbal” (mambo/Latin dance)


She needs no introduction, yet she merits a parade—Paisley Park’s Queen of Percussion, here she is: Sheila E.! Hailing originally from a working-class, melting-pot family in Oakland, Sheila E. rapidly gained success in her early 20s, playing with fellow superstars George Duke, Lionel Richie, Marvin Gaye, Herbie Hancock, and Diana Ross. While launching her solo career, she simultaneously released a record with her father, renowned Latin drummer Pete Escovedo, and contributed vocals and percussion to Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Over a career glittering with awards and high-profile collaborations, she’s never lost the authoritative and joyful energy she brings to performances and recording sessions worldwide. Sheila E.’s friend and collaborator “Gilberto Santa Rosa” is Puerto Rico’s “Caballero de La Salsa.” A six-time Grammy winner as a bandleader and vocalist, Santa Rosa is also an accomplished actor and comedian.

In 2021, both Sheila E. and Gilberto Santa Rosa received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 22nd Annual Latin Grammys. Their new single, “El Rey del Timbal,” serves as their collective victory lap and a tribute to those who inspired their illustrious careers. With horns blaring and hearts racing, Santa Rosa croons out the braggadocious lyrics over Sheila E.’s devotional and deft drumming, paying homage to their mutual idol, original songwriter Tito Puente. Grab a partner and surf out a salsa on the spicy confidence of this refreshing cover of the Latin classic.

For extra inspiration, jump into the music video for “El Rey del Timbal.” Beginning in black and white, the film becomes peppered with color as Sheila E., the reigning Reina del Timbal, hammers out her impressive percussion alongside her father and the suave Santa Rosa. With a portrait of Tito Puente looking over them, the band is graced with swagger and skill as they dance their way through the masterpiece. If you find trying to keep up with Sheila E.’s fists of fury is futile—just surrender to salsa!

Follow Sheila E.:

Why was this the right time to release a tribute to Tito Puente, the “El Rey del Timbal” music video?

I recorded this song last year, and I knew I was going to do this tribute to Tito Puente not only because he was my godfather, but because he has inspired my entire family as percussionist.

It was the right time to release the single because it was Tito’s 100th birthday. I believe he would be proud of the body of work from all the incredible musicians and artists who took part in recording this amazing song.

What is it like working with Puerto Rico’s “Caballero de La Salsa” Gilberto Santa Rosa, and how did this collaboration come about?

Gilberto Santa Rosa is an amazing artist, songwriter, producer, and arranger. He is a gracious man and I believed his voice would be perfect for this historic rendition of “El Rey Del Timbal.” 

Who have been a few of your favorite artists to perform and collaborate with throughout your musical career, and why?

There aren’t too many to mention, and it is an unfair question because every single person that I’ve been able to perform and or collaborate with in my career thus far has taught me something.

What have you learned about the music industry while creating and performing?

What I’ve learned about the music industry is that it’s unfair to the artist. So much needs to change and how we treat artist fairly. Recognizing their artistry and being paid for their services. It’s just one of many things that is on the top of the list.

How do you hope to impact your listeners and the music industry as a whole?

Encourage people to purchase music as opposed to streaming. We as artists and musicians cannot make a living on streaming our product. If you think it’s fair for us to only make $352 after 100,000 streams, somethings wrong. Let’s fix it.

About Michael Stover

Check Also

Interview: Seth Rafkin (A Doll’s House) discusses debut single, “Hey Wait”

Despite debuting this year, the roots of A Doll’s House actually stretch back much further. …

%d bloggers like this: