Martín Perna is the founder of the group. He lives and works in Texas.
He began his path as a professional musician in New York in 1995 at age 20, making many of his first recordings and performances as a founding member of the Soul Providers and part of stable of musicians on the Desco Records label that would later become Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Inspired in part by his participation on the seminal Daktaris “Soul Explosion” album he founded Antibalas in 1998.
Perna began his informal musical studies listening to samples of funk and jazz saxophone in hip hop of the late 80s and early 90s, and through eclectic pieces of his parents’ LP collections which included Carlos Santana, Baba Olatunji, Otis Redding, Billy Cobham, the Beatles, and the Talking Heads. Briefly exposed to the saxophone while growing up, he returned to the instrument at age 19, and studied informally, learning from the trained musicians around him. Later, he began studying music formally including studies in shekere with Madeleine Yayodele Nelson of Women of the Calabash, and flute with Felipe Mustelier at the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana, Cuba.
Outside of Antibalas, his latest musical project, Ocote Soul Sounds, is a fixture on from dancefloors to underground radio to HBO’s Entourage. This project has grown from a solo project to a rich collaboration with Austin-based Adrian Quesada of Grammy nominated Grupo Fantasma and other musicians spanning from Austin, to LA, to New York to Sao Paulo Brazil. The duo created their first album “El Niño y El Sol” in Texas after a chance meeting in 2004. The album was rereleased in 2006 on the ESL Music label followed by “The Alchemist Manifesto” (2008), “Coconut Rock” (2009), and “Taurus” (2011), produced by Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation.
Since 2002 Perna has collaborated with the group TV on the Radio recording on Satellite, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, Return to Cookie Mountain, and Dear Science. He has also performed and/or recorded with an array of artists including Burning Spear, David Byrne, Public Enemy, the Roots, Baaba Maal, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Sinead O’Connor, Scarlett Johansson, Angelique Kidjo, and many others.
Off-stage he works on advocacy and policy issues related to music and the arts with the Future of Music Coalition in Washington, DC. He has performed at benefits for New Orleans musicians (2009, 2012), spoke at the 2009 FMC music policy summit in Washington, DC, and has made visits to Capitol Hill to speak with US senators and representatives about open internet, media consolidation, performance rights royalties, and aid to New Orleans.
Perna serves on the board of Artists in Hospitals, an Austin-based non-profit arts organization which builds collaborative healing projects with hospitalized youth and their families in Houston, Texas.
In 2011 he completed a Masters of Education/ Education Technology degree (summa cum laude) at the University of Texas-Brownsville and is a curriculum developer, course designer, and instructor at Dubspot.