The band's first album Las 7 salves de La Magdalena / 7 Songs of Praise for The Magdalene debuted in March 2011 on the World Music Charts Europe Top 20. Their work has been lauded for striking a cutting-edge balancing act between tradition and innovation as an independent band that has managed to get featured in NPR’s Alt.Latino, Radio France International, the NY Daily News, and Latin Beat Magazine, while receiving accolades and support from folklorists at City Lore and the Journal of New York Folklore, among many other organizations, and also earning artist grants from the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (2014), Manhattan Community Arts Fund (2013; 2012), Rockefeller Foundation NYC Cultural Innovation Fund (2011) and the Association of Hispanic Arts (2009).
Raquel Z. Rivera, Ph.D. is a singer-songwriter, author and scholar. She has received artist grants from the Association of Hispanic Arts (2009), the Rockefeller Cultural Innovation Fund (2011), the Manhattan Community Arts Fund (2010; 2012, declined; 2013) and the National Association for Latino Arts and Cultures (2014). A founding member of Boricua roots music group Yerbabuena, the Afro-Puerto Rican music ensemble Alma Moyo, and the all-women's percussion and vocal collective Yaya, she has also performed with Grammy nominated Los Pleneros de la 21, internationally renowned Dominican fusion artists Luis Dias and Xiomara Fortuna, as well as Pa' lo Monte, Kalunga, Palo Mayor and various other New York-based roots music groups and artists. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology and is currently a Visiting Scholar at the University of New Mexico. Co-editor of the anthology Reggaeton (Duke University Press 2009), she is author of New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone (Palgrave Macmillan 2003) and numerous articles on Caribbean/Latino popular music and culture. She has received post-doctoral fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2004-2006) and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (2007) at Hunter College, and a Visiting Library Scholar Award from the University of New Mexico (2011). Born and raised in Puerto Rico, she moved to New York City in 1994, and now "commutes" between New Mexico and New York. www.raquelzrivera.com
Guitarist Bryan Vargas has performed on stages around the world. As a sideman Vargas has performed with legends of pop, jazz & Latin music such as Patti Labelle, Arturo O’Farrill, William Cepeda, Mario Rivera, Yomo Toro, and more. Vargas is the original guitarist and cofounder of both the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra and Tato Torres’ Yerbabuena. He spent two years as one of the principal guitarists in “Fela!” on Broadway and was featured on the national tour. Latin Jazz great Arturo O’Farrill produced Vargas’ debut CD Afro Latino Soul. Vargas has led his own band, Ya Está, on international tours and performed at some of the largest music festivals in the United States. He was also the musical director and conductor for the award winning Off-Broadway musical “A Tres Voces,” a tribute to the great Latin American guitar trios. He holds a B.M. in Music Performance from New York University and an M.A. in Music Performance from SUNY Purchase.
Yasser Tejeda, born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, is a guitar player, arranger, composer and producer currently based in Brooklyn, NY. A recent Berklee College of Music graduate, Yasser is a proficient player in rock, funk, jazz, R&B, fusion, and Caribbean music. Yasser is producing, arranging and recording for various artists throughout NYC and Boston, as well as Dominican Republic. Yasser’s original projects include the duo aStridd and their debut EP Colliding Galaxies (2013), which features his lush guitar driven arrangements, compositions and production as leader together with Canadian vocalist Jill Peacock. His project in Dominican Republic, Palotré, is a quartet that brings invigorating rock, jazz and fusion sounds to traditional Dominican rhythms. The Dominican Republic's Association of Art Writers (Acroarte) dubbed Palotré's debut CD Mezclansa (2009) one of the "100 essential recordings of Dominican music."www.yassertejeda.net
Camilo Ernesto Molina-Gaetán is a twenty two year old percussionist born and raised in East Harlem, New York. At the age of two, Molina-Gaetán began studying with Grammy-nominated Los Pleneros de la 21 in their children’s workshop. It was there where he met his first teachers: Alberto “Tito” Cepeda and NEA Heritage Fellow Juan Gutiérrez with whom he studied Afro-Puerto Rican folkloric music. He has progressed from student to percussion teacher for the community workshops offered by Los Pleneros de la 21. He has also studied at Boys and Girls Harbor Conservatory with renowned percussionists Johnny Almendra and Louis Bauzo since the age of four. Under Mr. Almendra’s guidance, Molina- Gaetán studied salsa and jazz percussion instruments. Under the tutelage of Mr. Bauzo, he studied Afro-Cuban folkloric rhythms and instruments. Molina-Gaetán is also a graduate from the Julliard School of Music (2003) under the MAP/PATH program. He has performed with Eddie Palmieri, Carlos Santana, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Tito Puente, Dave Grusin, Chucho Valdez, Adalberto Álvarez, and Los Pleneros de la 21, among numerous other artists. He has recorded with Eddie Palmieri, Los Pleneros de la 21, Viento de Agua, John Santos and the Machete Ensemble, Insight and Papo Vázquez.
Percussionist Jonathan “JBlak” Troncoso was born in 1982 in Los Mina, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. At age five he picked up the tambora, his first instrument, and soon began playing güira and bongó. Learning percussion for merengue, bachata, and salsa, Troncoso played professionally as his father’s protégé. He moved to New York City in 1992 and began training in Afro-Cuban and Afro-Dominican traditional percussion. By 2000 he was invited to join Claudio Fortunato y Sus Guedeses, an ensemble of Afro-Dominican musicians in the Dominican traditions of palos for sacred and popular functions. He has performed Spanish hip-hop and reggeatón and is now dedicated to the African musical traditions of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, including such genres as palo dominicano, Puerto Rican bomba, and Afro-Cuban rumba, batá, palo, and abakuá rhythms. Troncoso cofounded Grupo Ilú Ayé in 2003, a group of Afro-Caribbean percussionists versed in the drumming traditions of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Troncoso is known for his stylistic fusions and versatility. He has performed with Raíces Habaneras, Felix Sanabria’s Aña Ade, Los Afortunados, Pedrito Martínez, Elio Villafranca, Oriki Omi Odara, Yerbabuena, Palo Monte, La 21 División, and Alma Moyo. In early 2012 Jonathan introduced his own project, Palo En Cuero, at Hostos Community College.
Anabellie Rivera is a singer-songwriter born and raised in Puerto Rico. Her childhood music professor was her father, classical pianist and folk accordionist Jorge H. Rivera “El Gato.” He was key in the development of her earliest musical influences, from Verdi and Bach… to Quique y Tomás, Benito de Jesús, Mercedes Sosa, Frank Sinatra, Cat Stevens and Paul Simon. Anabellie was a member of the University of Puerto Rico's Choir between 1995-1998 and, during that time, also performed with the Puerto Rico Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1998 she was part of Coral de Israel, a 200-member choir from Puerto Rico that toured 11 cities inIsrael. Since 2004, she has been making music in Puerto Rico, Miami, New York, Madrid and Barcelona with artists such as La Mala Rodríguez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Jerry Medina, Andrés Jiménez, Kacho Montalvo, Ricardo Pons and Ricky Villanueva, among others. Music critic and scholar Ned Sublette dubbed her "my new favorite bolero singer" through his e-newsletter after seeing her perform with Ojos de Sofía in December 2013.