Flushing Town Hall welcomes 2020 season with Afro-Colombian dance party and concert featuring Grupo Rebolu

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Photo courtesy of Flushing Town Hall

Flushing Town Hall is throwing an Afro-Colombian fiesta to welcome its new 2020 season, featuring the dynamic and very danceable music of Grupo Rebolu, live in concert on Saturday, Jan. 25. 

“Flushing Town Hall is known for our engaging, global arts programming. We bring the world’s music to our stage,” said Ellen Kodadek, Flushing Town Hall’s executive and artistic director. “With Grupo Rebolu’s performance, we are excited to begin our season with the melodies and rhythms of Colombia!”

From the Colombian folkloric songs that are passed generation to generation to their own, original compositions, Grupo Rebolu’s repertoire is rooted in the rich, musical traditions of their ancestors, the afro-descendants of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. They perform — and are influenced by — the sounds of gaita, tambura, chalupa and bullerengue and experiment with evolving these styles in their roles as modern-day folklorists.

The group was founded by two childhood friends, percussionist Morris Canate and vocalist, composer and gaitero Ronald Polo. Colombian music fans may know them from their prior work in ensembles like Folklore Urbano, Grupo Chonta, and cumbiamba eNeYe. They were later joined in Grupo Rebolu by singer and cuatro player Johanna Castaneda, who is married to Polo. Born, raised and musically trained in Colombia, all three musicians now reside in Queens. 

Polo began composing at the early age of 7 and has written more than 80 songs since then — inspired by family, love, life experiences, and the traditions of his culture. 

Canate is widely considered to be among the top five tambor alegre players in the world. He is also the nephew of the late Paulino Salgado (Batata III), the  most accomplished Afro-Colombian folkloric percussionist of all time. 

Castaneda began studying folkloric dance and the cuatro (a four-stringed guitar) as a young child, then entered a Colombian music conservatory where she trained on the harp, as a singer, and in music theory.

Their high-energy performances frequently feature additional singers and musicians who round out the ensemble, and Flushing Town Hall’s audience can look forward to a full band of seven on stage, to include guest artists Erica Parra (drums), Carlos Pino (bass), Seth Trachy (saxophone) and Dan Blakenship (trumpet). 

Their performance will also showcase the talents of dancers Lorena Ayub and Danny Ochoa.

Audience members can arrive early for an interactive dance workshop at 3 p.m. that will provide an introduction to the steps of cumbia, puya, mapale and bullerengue. For added fun, Flushing Town Hall will be giving away free, percussion instruments on a first-come, first-served basis.

The concert follows at 4 p.m. — with an open dance floor for all who feel inspired — and concludes with a post-show jam session, during which time audience members will be invited to play along with the band.

The local community is excited, too. Grupo Rebolu’s educational concert for school groups the prior day has already sold out.

The Jan. 25 concert is a great opportunity to catch the group while they are still in town. They depart this spring for a South Korean tour before heading to Canada this summer. They are currently recording for their next album, Tiempos Buenos, and are excited to release some early singles and videos off the album in the coming months.

 Tickets for the public performance can be purchased online at flushingtownhall.org or by calling 718-463-7700 ext. 222.

Flushing Town Hall is accessible by car, bus, train and foot — located a short distance from the 7 train — at 137-35 Northern Blvd., in Flushing. Access for wheelchair users and individuals with limited mobility is available. More information is available at flushingtownhall.org.

In 2020, Flushing Town Hall will continue to open its doors to teenagers for free. Under the “Teen Access Program,” all 13- to 19-year-old boys and girls (whether a member or not) will be welcomed to attend any performance for free. The program is designed to appeal to students and help foster a greater love in the arts and culture.