2011 Festival del Cuatro Performers
Carlos Gabriel Cabrera Rivera, was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, September 18, 1999. His parents are Carlos Alberto Guzman
and Marilyn Rivera Cabrera Vazquez. His first musical experience was with Mr. Ramon Zayas and his wife Judith. As they
cared for him one day Mr. Zayas put a cuatro instrument in his little hands and could sense his great musical aptitude.
An aptitude backed by a rich musical legacy by his paternal grandfather, Manuel Cabrera Nieves (RIP), a native of Naranjito.
It was a guitar given to him as a gift on Three Kings Day, which was instrumental in establishing his place at festivities
where his father was participating as well as on Sunday's in his father's church choir. In pre-kindergarten and on the way to
school, the child learned songs with his father and sister Getsemary. He also learned by listening to great cuatro players
Maso Rivera, Nieves Quintero, Edwin Colon Zayas, Pedrito Guzman and Prodigio. These were his inspiration.
His first instrument was a cuatro constructed of clear mahogany as a gift from his father. Even without taking classes and
without any preparation, he wanted to extract melodies from his new toy. Once enrolled into Francisco Lopez Cruz Foundation,
his first class led by Professor Carmen Jasmine Latorre, Carlos Gabriel was instructed in the program of the Foundation
thereby increasing his interest in our national instrument.
Carlos Gabriel had the opportunity to graduate in four years at the Foundation, while studying he also participated in several
presentations at malls, schools and many activities in the headquarters of Ballaja and playing simple pieces participated
alongside his father at family gatherings. At the Foundation he was part of the youth group "Sons of the Cuatro." He is currently
studying Music Foundation and playing the cuatro at The School of Fine Arts in Carolina.
Some of the courses and musical experiences Carlos Gabriel is involved:
- Choir and School Band of Santa Gema College, Carolina
- Rondalla Juvenil and Popular Music Ensemble at School of Fine Arts in Carolina
- Had charge of the background music in the concert TunAmerica: "For the World Our Way", August 2010.
- Enrolled at the School of Fine Arts, Carolina
- Puertorican Concert Week, November 2010.
- Christmas Concert on December 2010, cuatro players composed of teachers and students.
- Recorded with the renowned singer Ratty Izquierdo and guitarist Ramon "Moncho" Rosario eight carols for broadcast-radio
stations WIPR during the holiday season of 2010.
- Member of the Youth Symphony Orchestra in concerts presented in February 2011.
Also has received awards in the following events:
- First Prize (Junior) National Competition of Troubadours and Cultural Festival in Guajataca during November 2009 at the
age of ten, performing the Dance "Flor de Oriente" by Maso Rivera and "Guaracha Pa' Billy" by Edwin Colón Zayas.
- Second Place (Novice) at the Morovis Cuatro Festival in July 2010, the interpretation of the Mazurca "Nelida" and
Dance "Flor de Oriente" by Maso Rivera.
In 2011 he released his first CD called "Something To Entertain," which contains seventeen subjects, two of his own, the
waltz "Amor de Aguila" and the mazurca "Algo Para Entretenerse."
Yezenia Cruz-Hernandez was born in 1973 in the town of Naranjito, Puerto Rico. From childhood, she exhibited great ability as
a singer. She has a versatile voice that can effortlessly blend folk music with mainstream pop sounds without losing the natural, authentic
essence that characterizes Puerto Rican folk singing. But her talent is not limited to folk music, and she easily crosses over to contemporary
genres, such as ballad, salsa, bolero, trio music, etc. Nevertheless, her primary commitment is to Puerto Rico's traditional music, and this
is how she defines herself: as a traditional folk singer.
Trajectory Yezenia's voice is her calling card everywhere she goes. Once you listen to her, you never forget. This has earned her the respect
of her colleagues, the troubadours, musicians, and performers of other genres that have accompanied her or shared the stage with her in a
variety of folk music presentations and shows of a more intimate, romantic nature.
Yezenia has performed in recitals and special presentations in Puerto Rico y abroad, garnering the affection and appreciation of the different
audiences. She was the only Puerto Rican folk singer to participate in 30 competitions between 1984 and 1989, winning first place in all of them.
At 17, Yezenia went to Chicago and New York to conduct music workshops in public schools in communities with a large Puerto Rican presence.
She has participated in innovative projects such as "Trompeta con Trovadores" and projects with the late Tony Croatto. She has made various
recordings and has given command performances for Puerto Rico governors. She has also sung in concerts presented by the Institute of Puerto
Rican Culture and the Musical Arts Corporation (with the PR Symphony Orchestra), and at the performing arts centers of San Juan, Caguas and
Guaynabo. She acted in the film Under Suspicion, starring Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane and Monica Bellucci, an American film
shot in Puerto Rico.
It can be confidently said that those who know Puerto Rican folk music will recognize the name Yezenia Cruz.
Edwin Colon Zayas
Edwin Colon Zayas is known internationally as the master of the cuatro, the national instrument of Puerto Rico.
The cuatro, shaped like a small guitar with five double-coursed strings, became the preferred instrument for performing musica jibara
(music of the peasants), heard in the small central-island towns of Puerto Rico.
Colon Zayas began playing cuatro at the age of five, learning from his father. He in turn tutored his brother and two sisters in several
jibaro instruments, and they often join him in his group Edwin Colon y su Taller Campesino.
Today, Colon Zayas is recognized as an innovative improviser on the cuatro and, in addition to 17 solo albums, has performed on, arranged,
or directed more than 250 recordings for Puerto Rican artists. His collaborations have incorporated classical music, South American and
Latin popular music, and jazz.
In 1991, he performed in the inaugural concert of the San Juan Pops Orchestra and participated in the International Guitar Festival held in
San Juan. The year 2008 brought him a Grammy nomination for his album Reafirmacion in the Mejor Produccion Discografica de Musica Tradicional
Tropical. Even though he has performed with Latin stars such as Marc Anthony and Carlos Vives, he remains committed to the cuatro makers and
musicians of the Puerto Rican inland hills.
Colon Zayas feels that the love of the music starts with the love of the cuatro, saying, "I have a sentimental bond with the instrument.
Apart from my family, my parents, my wife, my daughters, that I love so much, my instrument has a special place in my life."
Carlos Gabriel | Yezenia Cruz | Edwin Colon Zayas
2009 Festival del Cuatro Performers
(Segments copied directly from www.njfolklife.com)
Yomi Matos is both an excellent performer of jibaro music and builder of the cuatro. His work is admired by musicians and luthiers on the island as well as the mainland. National Heritage Award-winning luthier William Cumpiano has described Matos as “the master’s master.” Legendary Puerto Rican musician Yomo Toro explains that “Yomi” has built all his instruments, and they have traveled the world with him..
The Cuatro Project, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which has documented numerous builders in its multi-continent preservation efforts, honored Yomi in 1994 for his contributions to the conservation and advancement of Puerto Rican music and instrument making. Popular singer Paul Simon asked Yomi to build a guitar for him and to play accompaniment on the soundtrack for the Broadway show “The Capeman.” Matos has been included in many radio and television programs about Puerto Rican tradition, has appeared in public programs and performances, participated in school programs, had his instruments included in craft exhibitions, and has served as Master Artist for numerous apprentices through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program (NJSCA). .
Born in Camuy, Puerto Rico, Matos was surrounded by music and instrument makers from the beginning. His uncles and brothers made cuatros, but perhaps the man who had the greatest influence on him was master builder Roque Navarro. As a young boy, Yomi would quietly and unobtrusively watch outside Navarro’s shop. One day, he was invited inside, and from then on was welcome to visit and watch whenever he wished. By the age of twelve, Yomi had built his first guitar, and learned much from the effort: .
“I remember when I finished building the instrument, I needed to cut the fret slots. At that time we didn’t have the sophisticated tuners we have now, so the fret slots would be cut by ear. I would cut the lot, place the fret in, and then ask my brother Chago if the note was in tune. If it wasn’t, I filled the slot with toothpicks, sanded down and then cut a new slot according to whether it needed to be closer or further away from the nut. Once finished with the instrument, I had to fix so many slots with toothpicks that it looked like train tracks! It was very funny! I used to take that same guitar to play around the neighborhood and make a little bit of money, too !
He continued learning by trial and error, and built his first cuatro when he was twenty years old. Without exact measurements – because no builder had actually taken him in as an apprentice by that time – the instrument actually looked like a cello, albeit beautifully finished. It was large and a bit disproportionate. “My friend Yomo Toro came over to my house to look at it and he said ‘Yomi, this cuatro is ugly!’ We all laughed!” Matos was not discouraged, but continued perfecting his work until he was regularly building cuatros, requintos, classical guitars, and Puerto Rican tres for Toro, other musicians, himself, and eventually his son, Diomedes, Jr., known as “Pucho,” who is a known musician in his own right.
Patience became the hallmark of Matos’ approach:
“I feel that one of the most important skills when building the Puerto Rican cuatro or any instrument is patience. When you are patient you work at a more slower pace, unhurried, and obviously the instrument comes out very good. When I build an instrument, I am very patient, but I work expeditiously because I do want to find out how the instrument is going to sound.”
Accompanied with deeply felt sentiments:
“When I make a cuatro for someone I become very gratified when I see the facial expression of the person when they come to pick up the instrument. It is very joyful to me. I can’t even explain it. But I become very emotional when I play the music of Puerto Rico with my cuatros. I take it to heart. One of the most important things I find out with building instruments is that what used to be a rough and unattractive piece of wood, something beautiful like the cuatro, that makes your heart sing, comes out. I’ve come to understand that strumming the cuatro once has the power to attract and unite the people from Puerto Rico and even other cultures. The cuatro has at least three hundred years of history to the people of Puerto Rico, and like many other people have said before, the cuatro to me is like the flag.”
Matos’ incredible artistry, his devotion to his art, and his generosity in sharing his knowledge have made him well known and well loved in his Newark, NJ, community and among wider audiences, as well. Yomi now resides in Deltona, Fla where he spends his time with his family and building instruments for people from all over the world.
Yezenia Cruz-Hernández was born in 1973 in the town of Naranjito, Puerto Rico. From childhood, she exhibited
great ability as a singer. She has a versatile voice that can effortlessly blend folk music with mainstream pop sounds without
losing the natural, authentic essence that characterizes Puerto Rican folk singing. But her talent is not limited to folk music,
and she easily crosses over to contemporary genres, such as ballad, salsa, bolero, trio music, etc. Nevertheless, her primary
commitment is to Puerto Rico’s traditional music, and this is how she defines herself: as a traditional folk singer.
Trajectory Yezenia’s voice is her calling card everywhere she goes. Once you listen to her, you never forget. This has earned her
the respect of her colleagues, the troubadours, musicians, and performers of other genres that have accompanied her or shared the
stage with her in a variety of folk music presentations and shows of a more intimate, romantic nature.
Yezenia has performed in recitals and special presentations in Puerto Rico y abroad, garnering the affection and appreciation of
the different audiences. She was the only Puerto Rican folk singer to participate in 30 competitions between 1984 and 1989, winning
first place in all of them.
At 17, Yezenia went to Chicago and New York to conduct music workshops in public schools in communities with a large Puerto Rican
presence. She has participated in innovative projects such as “Trompeta con Trovadores” and projects with the late Tony Croatto.
She has made various recordings and has given command performances for Puerto Rico governors. She has also sung in concerts
presented by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and the Musical Arts Corporation (with the PR Symphony Orchestra), and at the
performing arts centers of San Juan, Caguas and Guaynabo. She acted in the film Under Suspicion, starring Gene Hackman, Morgan
Freeman, Thomas Jane and Monica Bellucci, an American film shot in Puerto Rico.
It can be confidently said that those who know Puerto Rican folk music will recognize the name Yezenia Cruz.
October 15, 1975: Alvin Medina was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He began playing the Puerto Rican cuatro at the age of 6. His father was the first person to educate him on the typical instrument of Puerto Rico. Since then, he began studying on his own with the help of recordings from cuatro players and listening to pointers from other musicians.
Besides the Puerto Rican cuatro, Alvin also plays the guitar, bass, tres, piano, bongos, guiro and other minor percussion instruments. He also writes his own music arrangements. He always played by ear until his early years at college where he began to study music theory. He has attained his Bachelors degree in Liberal Arts with a major in music.
He has played with various personalities and in various places throughout his musical career. Alvin has performed with cuatro players such as Yomo Toro, Edwin Colon Zayas, Prodigio Claudio, Cristian Nieves, Modesto Nieves, and Pedro Guzman, to name a few. He has also performed with such personalities such as Tito Nieves, El Canario, Larry Harlow, Paquito D` Rivera, Andy Gonzales, Frankie Negron, Marvin Santiago, Andy Montanez, Johnny Pacheco, Anthony Cruz, Raymond Torres, Manny Oquendo, Jose Nogueras, Antonio Caban (El Topo) and Johnny Albino as well as others. Alvin has been called upon to perform in various radio and television stations here in the US and in Puerto Rico. He had the great honor and privilege to perform in the prestigious Carnegie Hall in 1995 and with South Jersey's Philharmonic Orchestra in the city of Voorhees, NJ in 1998.
Yomi | Yezenia | Alvin
2008 Festival del Cuatro Performers
Emma Colón Zayas
Emma was born on September 6, 1969 in Orocovis ,Puerto Rico and is the daughter of Mr. Edwin Colon Peña and Ana Gloria Zayas Marrero. Emma has dedicated her life to our traditional mountain music of Puerto Rico (música típica). She learned to play the Cuatro at the age of six and, together with her brothers Edwin, Willis, Bill, and Hector, together forming the “Hermanos Colón Zayas” group.
She has made appearances in towns and theatres throughout Puerto Rico. Also, she has toured in different countries such as Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Spain, Japan, and the United States where she has visited cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, and Rochester and states such as Connecticut, Texas, California, and New Jersey.
Her passion for music has led her to perfect her technique as a Cuatro and Guiro (Scratch Gourd) performer earning her the first National Guiro Award (1982) and the National Cuatro Award of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (1986). Emma is the first woman and the only person to win both awards.
In 1980, she represented Puerto Rico at the International Guitar Festival held at the Luis A. Ferré Fine Arts Center. As part of the Colón Zayas Group, she received the “Medal of Culture” and the group was selected as the”Best Group in Traditional Mountain Music (Música Tipica).” In 1986, she was selected to give a musical greeting to the King and Queen of Spain during their visit to Puerto Rico.
In 1989, with the Grupo Jataca, she received the “Caracol del Caribe Prize” at the Festival of Caribbean Music in Cartagena, Colombia. In 1990 she participated in the Festival of the Book in Argentina along with the Grupo Cimarrón (Maroon Group). In 1991, she represented Puerto Rico as a member of the Grupo Taller Campesino at the Cervantino International Festival that was held in different cities in Mexico. She represented Puerto Rico in the Expo-92 gathering in Sevilla, Spain in celebration of “National Puerto Rico Day.” In the same year, she performed at the Festival of the Guitar, which was held in Martinique. Along with the Taller Campesino, in 1994 she toured the Japanese cities of Chiba, Tokio, and Nakuhari as part of the Smithsonian American Music Festival.
At the invitation of the Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, she was honored to play the Cuatro at their great concert named “A 30 Year Trajectory” that was held in 1998 at the Luis A. Ferré Fine Arts Center. In that same year she performed with great success as a soloist on the Puerto Rican Cuatro in the concert “It is My Time” with Mark Anthony at the Luis A. Ferré Fine Arts Center. She was also the featured guest artist “A Meeting for History” concert at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum together with the groups Moliendo Vidrio, Haciendo Punto en Otro Son, and Fiel a la Vega.
Emma has shared the stage with diverse groups that interpret traditional Puerto Rican music. These include: Conjunto Típico Hermanos Colón Zayas; Grup Jataca; Grup Cimarron; Andres Jimenez “El Jibaro;” Edwin Colón Zayas y Taller Campesino; Grupo Mapeye de Tony Rivera; Poldo Castro; Wilkins; Alex de Castro; Gilberto Santa Rosa; and the Gran Combo de Puerto Rico.
She has made 15 recordings with the group Taller Campesino and more than 30 other recordings with artists such as: Don L:uis Miranda “El Pico de Oro;” Andrés Jimenez; La Familia Sanabria; Luisito Morales Ramos; Tony Croato and Luis Daniel Colón, Odilio Gonzalez; Las Doncellas de Boriken; Francisco “Cholo” Rosario; Carmen Vázquez; Maso Rivera; and Poldo Castro.
She has accompanied great trova singers, such as Arturito Santiago, Isidro Fernández, Luis Miranda, José Miguel Villnueva, Wiso Santiago,Victor Rafael Hernandez, Mariano Cotto, Richie Abril, Ricardo Villanueva, Luis Morales Ramos, Flor Morales Ramos “Ramito,” Priscila Flores, Luz Elenia Tirado, Victoria Sanabria, Linny Jeanette Adorno, Matilde Narváez, and Nereida Maldonado among others.
Currently, Emma directs the group “Son del Pueblo” that is dedicated to foment and promote Puerto Rican music, to develop and to broaden it towards new horizons, and to take our national instrument, the Puerto Rican Cuatro, to all places where the group appears. Recently, she appeared as the featured artist at the Festival del Cuatro Puertorriqueño in Chicago. She gave workshops on the history and trajectory of Puerto Rico’s national instrument, the Cuatro, at elementary schools and high schools. Based on her presentations, she received an invitation to stay in Chicago for six months as the resident artist for the Puerto Rican Alliance for the Arts.
Emma released her first recording, “My Soul on the Keyboard,” as a soloist on the Puerto Rican Cuatro. It contains diverse autochthonous rhythms including some from Latin America as well. She is in the process of recoding her second instrumental musical production, which she hopes will internationalize and solidify her artistic career throughout the world. She is known as “The Diva of the Puerto Rican Cuatro” by the international media.
Nelián Edlín Colón Collazo
Nelián was born on the 28th of February of 1991 in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, second daughter of Nelly A. Collazo Rivera and Edwin Colon Zayas. At age one, she moved to Orocovis, “Center and Geographical Heart of Puerto Rico,” but also her parents’ hometown. When little, she showed an ability to learn quickly and at four years of age she began to sing in public. She began learning the Cuatro at age eleven due in part to the admiration she had for the group Rondalla Típica Orocoveña. Her aunt, Emma Colon Zayas, began giving her Cuatrio lessons, which she continued with Mr. Celestino Avilés, Director of the Rondalla Típica Orocoverña. At the same time, she became interested in a small instrument known as the típle that was owned by her father. (The típle is the historical musical precursor to the Cuatro).
At age six, she learned how to play the flute, distinguishing herself in school performances. At age twelve, she enrolled in the Alberto Melendez Torres school band where she played flute.
Along with the Rondalla Típica Orocoveña, she has performed in many towns in Puerto Rico and recorded “From My Beloved Puerto Rico.” Also, she has appeared in different venues along with her father: Teatro La Perla, Teatro Tapia, etc., and was a part of the Cuatro Festival in Chicago. She also appeared recently in “A Night of Women Cuatro Players,” an event sponsored by the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture at the Franciso Arrivi Theatre in Santurce, Puerto Rico.
Although she has been playing the tiple for only about two years, her dedication and quick learning have led to her becoming greatly adept at that instrument and to winning fifth place in the Tiple Youth Contest of the Fourth International Congress of the Tiple in February of 2006. Moreover, she performed at the Second California Cuatro Festival in San Gabriel and in San Francisco, where she played the Cuatro and Tiple along with her father to the great delight of the audience.
This year, along with other instrumentalists, she participated in a recording project “Friends of the Tiple, Vol. 2,” and in the third recording of the Rondalla Orocoveña. She is also recording a dvd with her father Edwin Colón Zayas
Maribel Delgado was born on the 21st of November of 1979 in Camuy, Puerto Rico. She became interested in music at the age of nine, inspired by her grand father Toño Ramos and her father Jose Delgado. At age eleven, she became a member of the Rondalla Municipal de Hatillo, Puerto Rico and remained a member for a period of seven years.
She has entered a won numerous competitions in the Cuatro winning first prize in at least seven of them. Among these are: Festival del Guineo, Lares, P.R.; Festival del Cuatro y Trovadores, Isabela, PR; Concurso Cuatro Adulto, Morovis, P.R; Concurso Cuatro Adulto, Toa Alta, P.R. She plays various musical instruments including the classical and popular guitar, bass, and piano.
In 1999, she traveled to Connecticut with the concert choir of the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico where she performed as an instrumental soloist. In 2002 and 2003, she performed on Cuatro and requinto at the Bellas Artes in Santurce, Puerto Rico at the invitation of the Ministry of Music of the Catholic Church at Carolina. She was member of Son de Plena, a group distinguished by having a woman playing Cuatro. She was also a member of the Tuna of the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico and traveled to Iquique, Chile with the university group as an instrumental soloist.
Maribel was the first Puerto Rican women to record a cd as a Cuatro instrumental soloist when she produced “El Cuatro en Manos de Una Mujer” (The Cuatro in the Hands of a Woman). She has appeared in numerous television and radio programs accompanied by her group “Flor Boriken.” In 2002, she participated at the Fifth Puerto Rican Cuatro Festival in Chicago that was dedicated to Puerto Rican women. She was also a soloist at the Jibaro Christmas Festival in Orlando, Florida. In September of 2003, she was recognized for her outstanding contribution to Puerto Rican music by the Puerto Rican Senate and was presented an award to that effect at the Free Music School of Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. She was invited to participate, along with other great Cuatro players, on a cd titled “The Taste of Cuatro at Christmas,” by the great Cuatro Player Claudio Prodigio. In 2004, The Festival of Culture was held in her name at Camuy Puerto Rico. She participated, at the invitation of the great Cuatro player Edwin Colón Zayas, in the Congress of the Puerto Rican Típle along with other great Puerto Rican Cuatro players. She was also a guest solo artist at the 50th anniversary of the Sonora Ponceña and a guest artist with the Mayaguez Symphony Orchestra. On May 28th of 2008, she made her debut performance with the Symphonic Orchestra of Puerto Rico, performing “Landscapes for Cuatro and Orchestra,” by Sonia Ivette Morales.
Maribel Delgado is a graduate of the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico with a concentration in musical education. In her spare time she teaches the Cuatro to youngsters and adults and she has an online instructional program for the Cuatro at www.puertoricanmusiconline.com, or to her website at www.maribeldelgado.com.
Maribel is an example of excellence and dedication to the Cuatro and an inspiration to all Puerto Ricans.
Emma | Nelian | Maribel
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