This extraordinary composer, guitarist and singer’s entire life goes against the grain. His childhood in Puerto Limon marked him as an abandoned child and a likely candidate for marginalization and poverty; however, the artistic spirit made him change course and the young Ramon Jacinto Herrera went in search of his artistic destiny.
This temperament of the chosen led him to other countries and cities, stopping off in Bogotá, where he was nicknamed Ray Tico; he continued on his travels through different destinations and in Havana discovered his vocation as a composer. Next he headed for Washington and New York, where he consolidated his singing and guitar-playing style that was heavily influenced by Havana filin.
He soaked up the best of every one of those Callejón de Hammel masters, where filin had flourished. From Jose Antonio Mendez, “The King”, he took in urban inspiration and learnt how to approach the muse without the modernist aftertaste. He admitted Cesar Portillo’s iconoclastic guitar rhythm with its “son” dazzle and intimacy of the interpreter. That “tumbao” that brings out the instrument’s strings and percussion at the same time comes from Niño Rivera, while Ñico Rojas taught him the ambition of originality uniqueness within the filin trend, and Frank Emilio showed him versatility in reinventing the past. Ray Tico thus created his own style from the most outstanding figures of filin, and he took it to all the corners of the continent.
His career began in Colombia; in Cuba he rubbed shoulders with Latin American pop superstars and, also in Cuba, he composed his best music. In Miami he was acclaimed by the Latin community who declared 13th April April 13th as Ray Tico Day; his concerts in New York and Washington were unforgettable, and in Costa Rica he has become a pop culture legend.
His music has been interpreted by important Latin American singers and musicians (Olga Guillot, Marco Antonio Muñiz, Alberto Beltrán, Los Chavales de España, Roberto Ledezma, Paquito D’Rivera, Bebo Váldes, Hugo Enríquez, Los Sabandeños, Panchito Riset, the Berlín Symphonic Orchestra and, in Costa Rica, by Jorge Duarte, Rafa Pérez and Arnoldo Castillo, among others). Few can boast this background and still be popular with the public’s current tastes and in their country’s memory. However, there is also another peculiarity factor where Ray Tico is concerned: his art transcends the generation gap. His music has permeated youth culture, won over new generations and looks set to stay the course for years to come.
There is nothing conventional about Ray Tico’s life. Excess courage made the artist overcome adversity as a child; excess ambition left behind the temptation of complacent youth and excess originality made him transcend the average artist’s comfortable superficiality. In the words of the English poet William Blake “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”. Nothing describes Ray Tico better.