Toni Drums Part II

Toni.jpeg. Toni Drums is a Panamanian percussionist, drummer, and musician. Courtesy of Señor Loop.

Feature image: Toni Drums is a Panamanian percussionist, drummer, and musician. Courtesy of Señor Loop.

PART II: How Toni Drums Tours Around The World Creating Percussive Latin American Culture

Toni Drums is a legendary Latin Grammy-nominated Panamanian percussionist, drummer, and musician. His passion for percussion and music has taken him on tour worldwide with everyone in the Latin American music industry. This is the story of how Drums has polished his vibrant art of percussion since his childhood.


In PART I, you learned how Toni Drums discovered his art of percussion in Panama. Now, you’ll travel, tour the world, and experience an intensely fascinating musical adventure with Drums. Let’s start with his journey with the Panamanian experimental band Señor Loop. Remember, you already learned about the band’s multisensorial music and art that honors nature.


Drums is an essential member of the band with his percussion. Lilo Sánchez, the band’s vocalist, described him as the member who keeps the ongoing love, care, and union alive. For Drums, Señor Loop is about a brotherhood where everyone treats each other with love and respect while creating music. It’s a band that feels like family.


It has taken them a long time to achieve that family bond. To understand Drums' development as a percussionist, you have to go back to when he joined the band. It started almost 18 years ago when Drums traveled from Panama City to Los Santos to play with Panamanian musician Iván Barrios.

“Iván Barrios told me: I have to show you some music, Toni. I said: well, play it. He played [the albums] “Madretambor” and then “MCMLXXXII.” All the albums. I was like: wow, who are these guys? Which country are they from?” Drums said. “Iván said they’re from Panama, and I couldn’t believe it. He said they were the real beasts of Panama.”

 Toni&Lilo.JPG. Toni Drums and Lilo Sánchez performing live with the Panamanian band Señor Loop. Courtesy of Toni Drums.
Toni Drums and Lilo Sánchez performing live with the Panamanian band Señor Loop. Courtesy of Toni Drums.

With that introduction to Señor Loop, Drums continued with Barrios on their four-to-five-hour road trip to Los Santos. Drums listened to each album twice, and when they got to their venue, he noticed Señor Loop playing after them.


When Señor Loop finished playing, Iñaki Iriberri – the band’s keyboard and guitar player – introduced himself to Drums. He told Drums they saw him playing and enjoyed his art of percussion. They wanted him to join one of their rehearsals.


Drums said he’d loved to join but had no idea what being part of Señor Loop implied. He thought of the band as a group he’d just listened to and discovered. Not the beasts of Panama, as his friend Barrios said.

The Painting Mask for the Smoke

Then came rehearsal day. He learned the songs and was well prepared to face the new challenge, but his friend Barrios told him some information that might be important for Drums to know beforehand.

“He told me this band is great and all, but they blow a lot of smoke. I asked him what that meant. Do they have small smoke lamps on? Like the lamp I have here in my studio blowing smoke,” Drums said. “He said no, they blow smoke. Ah, they smoke then? Yeah. Ah, normal. No. No. They smoke the other thing [weed]. Ohhhh. Really?”

Drums easily solved that inconvenience at the time.

“I thanked him for telling me and told him I was going to bring a painting mask. The first time I rehearsed with Señor Loop, I came with the mask saying: good afternoon. How are you? They stared at me, and Lilo asked me why I was coming with that,” Drums said, laughing loudly. “I was told there was a lot of smoke here. I can’t deal with that because I work with the police. I couldn’t breathe it because it was going to come through in the anti-doping test.”

ToniPanamaPolice.JPG. When Toni Drums worked with the Panamanian Police. Courtesy of Toni Drums
When Toni Drums worked with the Panamanian Police. Courtesy of Toni Drums.

In Drums’ mind, he thought that by just breathing the weed, it would be positive in the test. Once again, for the second rehearsal with Señor Loop, Drums went there with his painting mask. However, that time, Sánchez threw away his mask and told him he’d have to get used to the smell because he was now part of the band.

“I was like: what? I’m in the band? And Lilo told me that since I was able to play the first four songs, it meant I could handle the rest of the songs. So, I went little by little learning the songs because I hadn’t played them before,” Drums said. “I was also getting to know the band. How the drummer and bassist played. How Lilo played and his way of singing.”

He started learning everything from zero, just like a child, to understand what each member of Señor Loop did. That way, he’d also get to know everyone more personally because he thinks of them as people he lives and shares time with. In that learning process, he also mentioned that the previous percussionists for “Madretambor” and “MCMLXXXII” were Óscar and Rey Cruz, Drums’ masters. Drums emphasized the importance of learning from the percussionists and musicians who came before him.


It's a chain of percussionists who came before Drums, whom he honored to hone his craft with Señor Loop. Once he got used to the band, everything flowed. Now, fast-forward to the past few years. Every time he performs live with Señor Loop, he prepares his “percussion station” for the concerts.

“Did you notice all of the things I used to play with Loop? I have the congas, bongos, and drum pad where I throw sequences and effects. I have a standing bell next to the congas. Next to that, there’s the timpani. I have maracas, the triangle, a plastic salsa güiro, and a Dominican güiro for merengue,” Drums said. “I’m just missing a broom to clean there.”

Aside from his station, Drums incurs an unconventional methodology before performing. He does not have a ritual. He prays and asks God to help him. He sits down, relaxes, rehearses the songs in his mind, and whenever they scream “chivo” (concert), he’s ready for the concert. However, he has an unusual ace up his sleeve.

“I like playing with the feeling that I need to pee. I’m about to pee. We’re going to play, and I don’t know. It’s a very crazy thing. They tell me to go to the bathroom. No. No. Relax. I’ll go when I finish [playing],” Drums said. “I play more avispado [aware] because I need to pee. I’m careful not to pee and to play. So, it’s strange. I’m always ready for the ‘war’.”

Discovering His Brother Sech

That initial preparation with Señor Loop mixed with his musical process in church, was the foreshadowing for what was to come next with his brother Carlos Isaías Morales, better known as Sech. Between 2014 and 2017, Sech was on his rise in reggaeton both locally in Panama and internationally.

Toni&Sech.JPG. From left to right, brothers Sech and Toni Drums. Courtesy of Toni Drums.
From left to right, brothers Sech and Toni Drums. Courtesy of Toni Drums.

While Sech was on the rise, Drums and his relatives had given certain musical lessons for Sech. Since Drums was the music director of the group at church, Sech was attending those gatherings. Drums decided to give him drums’ lessons for a while so that Sech could have more advanced knowledge and rhythm, the sabor (seasoning), as Drums described it. Then, Drums and Sech’s brother-in-law taught him how to play the piano, and Drums’ wife gave him singing lessons.

“We were building someone we didn’t know would end up as an artist. We were teaching him because he was part of the church’s group. We noticed that it was the three of us who first got him into music. We did the damage to the muchacho [young man],” Drums said laughing. “Poor thing.”

Toni&Sech3.JPG. Toni Drums and Sech performing together. Courtesy of Toni Drums.
Toni Drums and Sech performing together. Courtesy of Toni Drums.

Besides their musical training, Drums explained that Sech has many musical references, including R. Kelly, Nelly, Beyoncé, Snoop Dogg, Pharrell, Timbaland, Eminem, 50 Cent, and Usher. His musical taste tends toward African American music, and that’s why Sech sings differently within reggaeton.


With that musical background, Sech began developing himself as a musician and artist on the rise. Yet, Drums discovered his brother’s fame in the funniest way possible.

“At some point, I listened to his music, and I asked my neighbor whose music was playing. She told me: the muchacho [young man] who came to your house yesterday to see your newborn. He’s the artist of that music,” Drums said.

To that, Drums answered surprised and in awe.

“How so? My brother? And she said: yes. Your brother is Sech. I knew he called himself DJ Sech when he was a DJ, but I didn’t know what was happening. And she said: well, Sech is your brother. He’s the number one artist in Panama right now,” Drums recalled.

After that funny conversation with his neighbor, Drums spoke with his brother during his next visit to his home. Sech confirmed it. He was on the rise, and he was doing well in music. To that, Drums offered his help and services to whatever Sech might need.

Toni&Sech2.JPG. Sech and Toni Drums performing live in one of Sech’s big concerts. Courtesy of Toni Drums.
Sech and Toni Drums performing live in one of Sech’s big concerts. Courtesy of Toni Drums.

Then, around 2018, Sech asked Drums to join him as his drummer for his live performances. At that point, Drums was quite experienced with concerts. He had already toured with Basilio and had traveled to Costa Rica multiple times with Señor Loop. Additionally, he performed at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas.He was ready for whatever challenge came ahead with his brother.

“The beautiful thing was that the first time I played with my brother and I saw how the public sang the songs. I was playing and crying. It was an incredible thing. I’d play and clean myself because it was beautiful,” Drums said.

His brother’s success took Drums on tour internationally, which resulted in the creation of his percussive Latin American culture. They toured through Latin America, Europe, and the United States. Playing in the United States was the moment that opened his mind to realize what was happening and the level of global stardom and success that his brother was achieving.

“When we went to the United States, I said: I can’t believe I’m here in the United States with my brother. After being in Colombia, Costa Rica, and other countries, when we were in the United States, I said: this can’t be. We’re in the north playing my brother’s songs,” Drums said. “It can’t be [real]. What is going on?”

Playing with his brother and being part of a musical family is a tremendous source of pride and joy for Drums. It’s a beautiful and incredible collaboration that happens to him. He recalled that he saw his brother arrive home, took care of him, bathed him, fed him, saw him growing up, and took him to school.

Toni&Sech4.JPG. Toni Drums, Sech, and Sech’s team. Courtesy of Toni Drums.
Toni Drums, Sech, and Sech’s team. Courtesy of Toni Drums.

Since Sech was born, he’s shared music with him and Sech has always seen him performing. Sech’s music brought a sense of purpose for their family in terms of collaboration and union. Their brothers Moisés and Josué are also part of the creation of Sech’s music and art.


Moisés takes care of the filmmaking and Josué is their manager. They all come together to create musical and artistic greatness.

“We’re all paying attention to the baby because the baby was the one who took us out from the monotony to something big. We’re aware of that big thing because everything can come from there for all of us, but we have to be supportive,” Drums said. “Always being a family. Never forgetting he’s the boss. We all respect him.”

But when they’re together as brothers, the dynamic changes. Drums gets into his oldest brother role and spreads his love and care to his siblings.

“I take them, kiss them, hug them, and they push me away. But they know they can’t with me, so I keep insisting until they let me [hug them],” Drums said. “But that’s playing as a family. It’s always keeping that love alive, and sometimes it’s my job to keep it going because they’re thinking about other things.”

Making a Dream Come True: NPR’s Tiny Desk

That love and compromise they have for each other merged with Sech’s musical success that led them to achieve one of the most significant goals ever: participating in NPR’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert for Hispanic Heritage Month in 2021.

TinyDesk3.JPG. Photo from behind the scenes of Sech’s Tiny Desk at the Biblioteca de la Autoridad del Canal de Panamá Roberto F. Chiari in Panama City, Panama. Courtesy of Toni Drums.
Photo from behind the scenes of Sech’s Tiny Desk at the Biblioteca de la Autoridad del Canal de Panamá Roberto F. Chiari in Panama City, Panama. Courtesy of Toni Drums.

The Tiny Desk is one of Drums’ favorite things ever. He’s constantly checking out who participates. So, when he got Sech's news that they would do a Tiny Desk, it was the greatest thing ever for Drums.

“My brother called me, and I answered: what happened, Papi? He said we were doing a video for the Tiny Desk. I hung up, screamed, and did everything [in celebration],” Drums recalled laughing. “I then called him back and asked him if what he was saying was serious. He said yes and told me everyone was desperate to start.”

TinyDesk2.JPG. The whole team who played with Sech for his Tiny Desk video for NPR at the Biblioteca de la Autoridad del Canal de Panamá Roberto F. Chiari in Panama City, Panama. Courtesy of Toni Drums.
The whole team who played with Sech for his Tiny Desk video for NPR at the Biblioteca de la Autoridad del Canal de Panamá Roberto F. Chiari in Panama City, Panama. Courtesy of Toni Drums.

Once the news was out, it was then time to rehearse and get ready for the performance. Along with Sech’s band director, Drums was given the freedom to suggest where to make arrangements for the songs. He collaborated with the rest of the musicians and the chorus girls.

TinyDesk.JPG. Sech and Toni Drums for NPR’s Tiny Desk. Courtesy of Toni Drums.
Sech and Toni Drums for NPR’s Tiny Desk. Courtesy of Toni Drums.

“I want to highlight that they’re now the chorus girls for Arjona. After doing the Tiny Desk, it was an immediate signing for them. We’re happy for them because they’ve done a great job with Arjona in his Blanco y Negro tour. They’re a beauty of singing women. An incredible thing,” Drums said.

For Drums, the Tiny Desk is a great source of pride and synonymous with making a dream come true. He thanked his brother for his great musicality, which reached the sky because thanks to him, Drums and the other musicians achieved a huge goal.

Creating Guaynaa’s First Live Band

Drums is always looking to achieve greatness with whatever artist and gig he commits himself to. One of his other greatest adventures in touring the world while creating percussive Latin American culture was with Puerto Rican artist Guaynaa. At some point, Rolo, who was Drums’ manager, reached out to him with the opportunity that Guaynaa wanted to create his first band for concerts. Drums was tasked with being Guaynaa’s first band director, creating a strong friendship between them.

“I met Guaynaa and it was the first time I played with him. I’d be part of the band that was coming together. It was very nice because I didn’t feel any pressure. No one treated me badly and the DJ was epic,” Drums said. “It was epic having him by my side because he knew everything. He sat down with me to explain everything.”

 Toni&Guaynaa.JPG. Toni Drums and Guaynaa. Courtesy of Toni Drums.
Toni Drums and Guaynaa. Courtesy of Toni Drums.

After the initial explanations, he went deeper with the DJ to know which was the song list. Meanwhile, Rolo was watching over Drums to see him execute the job and see if he was fit for the position. Drums flew from Panama to Miami to create the musical link and assemble the band.


Drums loved the experience because Guaynaa gave him complete freedom to put everything together. However, the process occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Drums ended up in Mexico with Guaynaa playing in different places. It was a heavy yet gratifying experience for Drums.

“I really loved playing with him. He’s very, very perfectionist. He really gets into the thing and that’s why he triumphs. The man is very, very devoted, perfectionist, and a tremendous person,” Drums said. “He treats you as if you were family. He makes you part of the family. It’s a really nice thing.”

The family relationship allowed Drums to create the band well. The process started with choosing the songs, playing them, doing rehearsals, and carefully examining the dancing time. It was about mapping out which songs the dancers came through and when Guaynaa performed alone. Then, a timeline was set for when the balloons came out and when Guaynaa had a change of clothes.


While Guaynaa changes his clothing, he plays the drums or makes noise with the other musicians and dancers. Afterward, he comes back on stage and makes the dancers dance.

“More than making music, it’s giving a show to the audience. The public then says: did you see the show this people made? The drumsticks were thrown. The dancer made a split, and water fell on her,” Drums said. “You get out of there, and you don’t even know what to do. You get home and also want to do a split. You make people get excited and fill them up with emotions.”

Whenever Drums plays on stage, he says there’s no better thing than watching people’s faces and seeing their happiness. It means everything was worth it—the lack of sleep. After the first show, he then lays down to rest, knowing that the rest of the shows will feel as if they’re in a rehearsal.

Toni&Guaynaa2.JPG. Guaynaa, the dancers, the band, and Toni Drums in the background performing. Courtesy of Toni Drums
Guaynaa, the dancers, the band, and Toni Drums in the background performing. Courtesy of Toni Drums.

Understanding the dynamics of a tour with Guaynaa led them to travel to Mexico, the United States, Colombia, Panama, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and many other countries.


Thanks to Guaynaa and his brother Sech, Drums has played with some major reggaeton artists. With Sech, he played three-day concert shows at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot, popularly known as El Choliseo, an essential venue for any reggaeton artist. During those concerts, Drums performed with transcendental reggaeton artists like Daddy Yankee, Wisin & Yandel, Bad Bunny, Arcángel, and many more.

Drums’ performances and ongoing collaborations with Señor Loop, Sech, and Guaynaa are the results of his art of percussion, which creates Latin American culture worldwide. They’re examples of the many Latin American artists that Drums has worked with as a legendary percussionist, drummer, and musician who creates iconic Latin American culture and identity.

“There’s no better country to have been born in than Panama. This country has given me so much. Every type of music and people reach Panama. You have to listen to everything here – quieras o no [whether you want it or not] – as the song says. Hay que menearse quieras o no,” Drums said. “I feel being born here helped me a lot with my percussion education.”

To learn more about Toni Drums, follow him on Instagram at @toni_drums and on Spotify at Toni Drums.


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