Born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in Miami, Florida, Mayra Casales’ early influences began with the Afro-Cuban musical culture of her surroundings. She has studied with Carlos "Patato" Valdez, Julito Collazo, and several of the great percussionists of Cuba. Before long she was performing with some of the biggest names in Afro-Cuban music including Celia Cruz, Machito, Joe Cuba, and Miguelito Valdés.
In 1978, Mayra moved to New York City where she continued her musical journey playing with the soulful vocals of Phyllis Hyman, Carmen Lundy, Jon Lucien, and Angela Bofil, as well as jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Walter Bishop Jr. and Ray Barretto. The list of legendary musicians that Mayra has played with and the styles of music she has mastered are exhausting, yet they seem only to fuel her passion.
Mayra has a fiery and loving spirit, which can be felt undeniably in her playing. While her roots as a Cuban percussionist are strong and refreshing, Mayra is one of the most versatile and well rounded percussionists of her generation.
After completing a nine-year worldwide tour with violinist, Regina Carter (a guest performer on Mayra's CD "Mujer Ardiente") she's pursuing a busy freelancing and performing with some of the greatest musicians of this time.
Her debut solo album, "Mujer Ardiente"(Woman on Fire), is a tribute to all of the World Music influences and artists that Mayra has had the joy and honor of playing with. This fresh, new recording is igniting and climbing the "World Music" charts. Mayra Casales (vocals and percussion) is one of the founding members of Cocomama, and other members include: Nicki Denner (piano), Jennifer Vincent (bass), Jessica Rodriguez (timbales), Reut Regev (trombone), Shannon Barnett (trombone), Christelle Durandy (vocals), Sofia Tosello (vocals) and Ariacne Trujillo (vocals and keys).