Machete Kisumontao is a Puerto Rican music band from Pittsburgh that blends Puerto Rican rhythms and Afro-beat music through Afro-Latin percussion, horns and plugged instruments. They have performed around the city for the past ten years. Events and venues include: Pittsburgh's First Night, Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh Opera House, Kelley Strayhorn Theater, Pittsburgh Winery, Sewickley Center for the Arts, Mr. Smalls Theater, Shadow Lounge, The Rex Theater, Club Café, Smiling Moose and other clubs around the city. They also performed at the Latin American Caribbean Festival; at benefits for schools in Bangladesh and Ghana; and at Go Tell It On the Mountain---a benefit for Climate Ground Zero. Machete’s unique sound has awed parents and children at the Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival, and other family friendly events around the city. Machete Kisumontao also plays colleges and universities in and around Pennsylvania such as CMU, PITT, W&J, AC and more... They've also been guests at Advance Calculus, SLB Radio, and Barrio Latino on WRCT 88.3FM. They are a versatile group who can adapt to any venue, either stripping down their big band sound to focus on African roots style songs or bringing in the horns on salsa and dance-style songs.
The band formed in order to perform at the Latin American Cultural Union as part of their 20th anniversary celebrations in 2006. Geña (Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, vocalist, percussion) asked friends and music colleagues Vijay Bakrania (guitar, percussion), Dino Lopreiato (congas, percussion) and Ketan Bakrania (bass, percussion) from Pittsburgh's very own experimental progressive band, Chaibaba to collaborate on a musical experiment. All four musicians had been at different times performers of the African Drumming Ensemble from the University of Pittsburgh. They loved the product of their experiment, and so did the audience. It didn’t take long before they were asked to perform again and again, each time infusing the crowd with a tidal wave of world unity and love.
Although the musical instruments played are not traditional, the search for the true rustic sound of Afro-Caribbean rhythms is found through experimentation, capturing the feelings of bomba, plena, criollo, nova-trova, and salsa--- music mostly rooted in African beats and Caribbean grooves.
In May 2007, they were joined by trombone & trumpet players Greg Sinn and Lars Cleath. In late 2011 Lars Cleath decided to step down after the arrival of his first son to focus on his family. Kristin Yahner joined on trumpet and perfect Spanish harmonies from Summer/Fall 2012 til Fall 2014. The latest addition to Machete Kisumontao is Gloria Rodríguez Ransom on vocals and traditional Puerto Rican dance. Ocassionaly they bring special guests to the stage such as: Preach Freedom, Jay Ashby, José Alberto Morán, Miguel "Cha" Sagué, Hill Jordan, Joel Polacci, and most recently Rick Matt (sax) and JD Chaisson (trumpet), among others.
Machete Kisumontao continues to perform and collaborate in schools and community events throughout the city of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.
Pete Matthews, writer of the New York City music blog, Feast of Music (www.feastofmusic.com), captured the essence of Machete’s sound and audience appeal:
“Guaracha got everyone up and dancing with a set that ranged from to salsa to Cuban son. They were followed by the astounding Machete: a seven-piece ensemble that blends Puerto Rican music with Afrobeat via horns, African drums and guitar. Tying it all together was the earth-mother like Geña: a sheer life force who sang and danced like a gypsy, occasionally conducting the scoreless ensemble. It was hypnotic, psychedelic - and impossible not to groove to. Clearly, this Geña was tapping into something well beyond our immediate understanding, which she attempts to describe on the band's website: ‘Machete is the sound of your soul, the root of your heart beat, the respect for our Great Foremother, the laugh of a child, the silent tear of a mother, the love of gods, the strength of un CICLÓN, the peace of the dead and alive like the ocean.’ Took the words right out of my mouth.”
Calle Bomba is a music ensemble of Puerto Rican locals Bomba drummer, dancer, singer María Eugenia “Geña” Nieves Escoriaza, Bomba performer and dance instructor, Gloria Rodríguez-Ransom, and accompanied by some of the best percussionists from the Tri-State area. Calle Bomba is based on Puerto Rican Bomba ‘rumbones’ (unplanned, generous, block parties) that are spontaneous community generated celebrations that respond directly to community happenings, needs and values. Puerto Rican Bomba is the principal musical genre deployed by island residents for the purpose of spontaneous, non-programmed, individual, and community expression. The Puerto Rican Bomba rhythms, music, dance, lyrics and tradition emerged back in the 17th century from the synergy created by the coming together of Indigenous (Taino), African, and European cultures call-and-response musical forms and drumming patterns, but also incorporate aspects of Taino ‘areito’ (song/dance at a designated court). Performances and/or workshops will include interactive performance/instruction in the three, basic, Bomba skills: drumming, dancing, and lyric composing depending on the event and project.