Rafael Zaldivar was born in Camagüey, Cuba. Growing up in a family of musicians, he began playing percussion and piano at the age of 10 and went on to pursue his musical education at Havana's Superior Institute of Arts. The great Cuban pianist Chucho Valdès awarded him second prize in Cuba's prestigious Jo-Jazz competition on two different occasions.
At the age of 22, he moved to Canada in order to broaden his musical horizons and perfect his art. He rapidly earned both a bachelor's degree from Université de Montréal and a master's degree from McGill University. His undeniable talent did not go unnoticed among his teachers and the jazz community as a whole. In 2009, he won the prestigious Jazz en Rafale New Talent Contest presented at Espace Dell'Arte. First prize consisted of a professional recording, and in November of that year he recorded Life Directions, accompanied by Nicolas Bédard and Kevin Warren.
He has been invited to every major jazz event held in Québec this year, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival, OFF Festival, FestiJazz de Rimouski, Festival de Jazz de Québec, and Festival de Jazz de Mont-Tremblant. Later this year, Zaldivar will go to Paris to participate in the prestigious Martial Solal Jazz Piano Competition, followed by his first tour of Italy, Spain, France, and Belgium.
During the course of his musical career, Zaldivar has performed with Terri lyne Carrington, Steve Coleman, Tony Coleman, James Cammack, Francisco Mela, Steve Turre, and Oliver Jones. His teachers have included Barry Harris, Kenny Barron, Danilo Pérez, Greg Osby, and Francisco Mela.