My name is Ralph De Palma I am a Key West based photo journalist that specializes in presenting the amazing Key West music scene. I am also the author of a series of books about the amazing music scene, the Soul of Key West, Volume I & II (and soon Volume III).
I have photographed music performances in Key West for well over fifteen years. My passion for Key West’s vibrant music scene led me to spend countless hours photographing and interviewing over 150 musicians. The photographs capture the rocking spirit of a tiny island filled with over fifty venues featuring live music, and the words roll out the stories, struggles, and triumphs of musicians who play for us night after night.
I credit my lovely wife for encouraging me to compile the first book after photographing the 2011 Key West Musicians Festival. The Soul of Key West started out as a typical coffee table photo book project. I started interviewing some of the people photographed to add small captions with the photos. The stories became so compelling that the tenor of the book changed dramatically-for the better. It’s still a photo book but the stories of these great musicians take the book to another level.
“The Soul of Key West, Volume I” is a 104 page anthology of the Key West music scene, as told by the musicians. Their stories are the true description of the lives of professional musicians. The book includes 46 interviews, and over 200 hundred photographs culled from a collection of close to 10,000.
Continuing a journey that started in 2011 at the Key West Musicians Festival. The next installment of “The Soul of Key West, Volume II” further defines the dynamic Key West music scene. The goal of Volume II was to help explain the Key West music phenomena, provide some scale and scope to the understanding. It contains interviews with 65 musicians over 160 photos of their performances.
Volume III of the Soul of Key west will be published in 2023. It will include presentations of Nashville Hall of Fame Songwriter, and long-time Key West resident, Shel Silverstein, also the long time singer songwriter Michael McCloud will be highlighted, along with Key West born and raised jazz trumpeter Fats Navarro, plus a full slate of active Key West musicians.
Key West is becoming a music destination much like Nashville or New Orleans. Our island is full of talent that migrated here from those much larger music cities. If Nashville is the “Music City” then Key West is most certainly the “Music Island”.
A survey of most of the 54 venues for live music indicates over 17,000 performances are scheduled annually with over 330 live music performances a week in a compact city the size of a small mid-western village. I have written a weekly column for the Key West Citizen since early 2021, published on Thursday in the “Paradise” section.
I have also written a book title The Soul of Havana, published in 2017. It’s a beautiful depiction of Cuba, its music and culture, and especially it’s very talented musicians.
Get your copy of the Soul of Key West, Vol. I , Vol.II & Vol. III and The Soul of Havana: