Singer-songwriter Robert Palomo describes himself as "an American of Hispanic descent, living in Russia, playing and writing music for the banjo, an instrument of African origin".
His "banjo-centric" approach to songwriting and arranging draws on his love of that instrument, although it is just one of half a dozen he plays competently enough to be the proverbial 1-man band on his recordings to date.
"Most singer-songwriters base their music around the acoustic guitar," he says. "I love the guitar, and I've entertained people and cats with it for decades. But only a few, like Pete Seeger and John Hartford, based their music around the banjo. I don't pretend to play in the same league as those gents, but I've found that people seem to enjoy it when I show up with a banjo and not a guitar. So I'm running with it to see where it might lead."
Robert draws not only upon American traditional music from Missouri Ozark Mountain roots on his mother's side, but also on his father's family's Latin heritage, as well as his experience as an expatriate American living in Russia, "a country I could never have imagined even visiting in my wildest dreams not so many years ago". So you are likely to hear "down-home" banjo picking mixed with Latin percussion and mariachi trumpets, and who-knows-what-all... maybe even singing in Russian.
An on-again-off-again professional musician during the 70s and 80s, Palomo abandoned music in favor of IT as a career in the early '90s. He met his Russian spouse, a journalist and newspaper editor, in Seattle, Washington in 1991 where the couple married and Palomo adopted two Russian step-daughters. The family moved to St. Petersburg in 1996, ostensibly to spend 1 year and keep the kids from losing their native Russian language. So why is he still there after 15 years? "My grandmother was fond of the proverb 'Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans'. I'm a classic case in point, but looking back, well, I wouldn't have missed it for the world." (By the way, both the kids grew up into thoroughly bilingual adults.)
Over the years Palomo has been, is his own words, "a closet songwriter". After decades of "playing the music folks wanted to hear with their beer", and following the deaths of both his parents in 2010, Palomo decided to begin recording and sharing his own brand of "banjo-centric acoustic music" with music fans around the world via the internet. All his songs are free to download in MP3 format. Downloaders may opt to make a donation, the proceeds of which go to charity.
"At this point in my life, it's not about making money. I fear I may have been hiding the proverbial light beneath the proverbial bushel. My talent, such as it is, is a gift and I feel the obligation try to spread a little cheer, and maybe do a modicum of good in today's world which I feel is suffering from a severe lack of both."
A novel approach, perhaps. But coming from an American of Hispanic descent, who lives in Russia, and who plays and writes music for the banjo which originated in Africa, well, it's no stranger than that, now is it?