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Beny Esguerra

Short Bio

Born in Colombia - Ruben 'Beny' Esguerra is a multi-instrumentalist, lyricist and arts educator who has composed original scores for the CBC, City Life Film, Amnesty International and the National Film Board of Canada; presented his pieces in festivals held in Canada, US, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and is currently the Program Coordinator and instructor for the the Rhyme N Reason Music and Media Arts program based in Jane and Finch Toronto. Ruben is a PhD (ABD) candidate in Musicology/Ethnomusicology specializing in traditional and urban music.

Longer Bio

Born in Colombia - Ruben 'Beny' Esguerra is a multi-instrumentalist, lyricist and arts educator.

As a musician Ruben leads the New Tradition big band originally created to accompany international artists with some of the most sought after musicians in Toronto, Canada. As a composer he has written original scores for the CBC, City Life Film, Amnesty International and the National Film Board of Canada.

As a lyricist and spoken word artist he has presented his pieces in festivals held in Canada; US; Cuba; Venezuela; Colombia and Chile. Highlights include being commissioned by the Remix Project and the Department of Canadian Heritage to create and perform a spoken word piece welcoming Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean to deliver the opening speech introducing the 'Ignite the Americas' conference.

As an arts educator Ruben has worked at York University and Ryerson University teaching, lecturing and designing curricula since the age of 22.  Ruben currently facilitates workshops through the Ontario Arts Council's Artist in Education Program bringing drumming and storytelling as a healthy form of self expression to inner city schools as well as schools in rural areas across Ontario. He is currently the Program Coordinator and instructor for the the Rhyme N Reason Music and Media Arts program based in Jane and Finch Toronto. Ruben is a PhD (ABD) candidate in Musicology/Ethnomusicology specializing in traditional and urban music.

Rhyme N Reason Music and Media Arts

In-depth Bio

Mixing a new tradition

For musician, poet, educator and activist Ruben ‘Beny’ Esguerra, the arts are a vehicle of transformation. “The difference in the world begins with yourself,” Esguerra says. “If you can find your purpose through art, if you can empower yourself, you will soon empower others as well.”

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Esguerra is very familiar with the liberating power of art. He and his younger brother came to Canada as political refugees with their parents, who were teaching artists and had begun receiving threats for their human rights activism. “It was totally life-changing,” Esguerra says. “Since we had to go in secret, my brother and I weren’t told why we were leaving, or that we weren’t coming back. That was one of the hardest things–we didn’t get to say goodbye to our friends.”

Upon arrival in Canada, Esguerra found himself faced with a whole new set of challenges” learning English, fitting-in at school, watching his parents struggle on welfare and working temporary jobs, and facing many forms of discrimination on a daily basis. “It made me grow up fast. I had a lot to take-in at the age of nine. But all of this led me to become politicized at a young age. I tried to turn a negative reality into a positive one.”

Influenced by his artist parents, Esguerra began playing violin and percussion at a young age, going on to attend an arts high school and study music at York University. At the age of 17, he began playing professionally with various bands in the Toronto Latin music scene, and after working as a percussionist with several well-known poets, he started creating his own spoken word pieces. This led him to participate in a CBC poetry festival and performing an original piece for the Governor General Michaëlle Jean at the 2008 Ignite the Americas conference. In addition to making music, Esguerra has worked as an educator while pursuing graduate studies in ethnomusicology at York University. Having taught workshops at York and in Toronto public schools for about 10 years, Esguerra now devotes a substantial amount of his time to working with immigrant youth in Toronto’s Jane/Finch community where he directs the Rhyme N Reason music and media arts program at P.E.A.C.H, a program that provides community youth with musical training; it culminates in the creation and dissemination of their own musical products and projects. “Unfortunately, many of the youth find the educational system hard to relate to, and street life is an all-too-easy alternative. Through music and poetry we get them to express their ideas and learn from other writers whom they can relate to.”

In 2012, Esguerra’s many years of hard work culminated in his first album, A New Tradition, which combines spoken word and hip hop with Latin rhythms and melodies. Supported by funding from the Ontario Arts Council, Esguerra made the album independently with help from colleagues and friends, and he did all of his own marketing. “I wanted to experiment and create something for which there was no market–something original that reflected who I am and my many influences. The tracks are percussion-based with trombones as a staple; I wanted to include the kuisi a.k.a gaita (a 2,000-year-old South American instrument) along with more contemporary instruments like the turntables. I chose the styles to create something new, but still rooted in tradition, something original that builds bridges across different styles and different instruments.”

The concept of a new tradition is also reflected in the content of Esguerra’s spoken word pieces, each one focusing on a different social injustice and calling upon his listeners to raise their voices and address it. Themes include global and economic inequality, the violence exerted by some multinational corporations, police brutality and unity within cultural diversity. Currently, between running the Rhyme N Reason program, visiting a variety of classrooms across Ontario facilitating workshops, and raising a young family, Beny has also composed and recorded his latest opus: A New Tradition VOL. 2 – Return of the KUISi which was just released in Sept 2016. “The idea of creating a ‘new tradition’ is my basic life philosophy,” Esguerra says. “It’s important to know your self, your history and ancestral past… but it’s also important to recreate and reinvent yourself with regard to identity. It is impossible to know everything about our past, as much as we’d like to. The beautiful thing about not knowing is that it offers us the opportunity to create something new”.

Beny Esguerra and New Tradition

Is an interactive performance project that explores the concepts of tradition and modernity through the production of a multidisciplinary performance featuring spoken word, music, songs, dance and design. While creating bridges across musical genres, the original compositions incorporate ancient instruments such as the 2000 plus year old indigenous kuisi bunsi flute (a.k.a. Colombian gaita) with more recent instruments such as the turntables. With the use of a human beatboxer and a DJ as essential elements of the bands sonic identity the ensemble can maintain its original sound while performing with as many as thirteen musicians all the way down to three, making the show adaptable to various performance contexts.

Ancestral musical styles + urban cultural expressions = New Tradition

Selected Performances:

2017        Ashville, Pisgah and Black Mountain, North Carolina; Invited to perform and conduct workshops at the Lake Eden Arts Festival, partner schools and community centres. October.

2017        Montreal, Quebec; Commissioned by the United Food and Commercial Workers to create a 20 minute piece to open at the UFCWs National Convention and before inviting surprise keynote speaker Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau onto the stage at the Sheraton Centre. August.

2017        Moncton, New Brunswick; Invited to perform and conduct workshops at the Mosaiq Multicultural festival. July.

2017        Harrison Hot Springs and Vancouver, BC; Invited to perform and conduct workshops with New Tradition at the Harrison Festival of the Arts and Carnaval de Sol festival. July.

2017        Toronto, Ontario; Invited to perform with a cast of 20 performers to open the Our Home on Native Land festival at the Harbourfront Centre, Main Stage. June.

2017        Brooklyn, New York; invited to open for Hip Hop cultures premiere photographer Ernie Paniccioli at his 70th birthday celebration sharing the stage with Melle Mel, EPMD, Soul Rebels, Bri Briskool, Jay Robi and others at the Littlefield stage. March.

2016        Montreal, Quebec; invited to showcase at the Mundial Montreal 2016 conference designed to showcase international World Music artists at the Divan Orange. November.

2016        New York, New York; invited to headline the Eagle/Condor/Swap/Program at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Centre of New York, CUNY as an artist and scholar. October.

2016        Ottawa, Ontario; Commissioned by the One Young World conference to create a piece for the event’s closing ceremonies sharing the stage with Emmanuel Jal. October.

2016       Toronto, Ontario; Rock Against the TPP tour sharing the stage with international acts such as: Rebel Diaz, Taina Asili, Anti Flag and others at the Operah House. September.

2016       Toronto, Ontario; Sophomore Album Release of 'A New Tradition VOL. 2 – Return of the KUISi' along with over 16 local and international artists at Lula Lounge. September.

2016       Ottawa, Ontario; House of Paint Festival 2016; Mainstage at Brewer Park. Ruben 'Beny' esguerra and New Tradition. August.

2016       Toronto, Ontario; Afro Fest 2016; Mainstage at Woodbine Park. Ruben 'Beny' esguerra and New Tradition. July

Scholarships, Grants, Awards:

2007-Present       Ontario Arts Council: Artists in Education Grant

2014       Canadian Association of Labour Media: Cliff Scotton Prize for Best piece reflecting the history, traditions and, culture of the labour movement for ‘100 years of Solidarity CD’ UFCW compilation.

2014       International Labor Communications Association: ‘Best Long Audio Program’ for the ‘100 Years of Solidarity CD’ UFCW compilation.

2013-2014       Ontario Arts Council: Popular Music Creation Grant

2013       Outstanding Latin Americans Award: Dos mundos Arts and Media.

2009-2010       Cupe 3903 Major Teaching Development Grant (MTDG) to create and design a new and innovative performance oriented music course on Colombian music at York University.

2010       Ontario Arts Council: Word of Mouth Grant

2010       Ontario Arts Council: Popular Music Grant



A New Tradition VOL 2. - Beny Esguerra
Return of The KUISi


A New Tradition - Beny Esguerra
Spoken Word with Latin Music Reinvented


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Beny Esguerra and New Tradition

Genre: spoken word with latin music

Secondary Genre: world-hip hop

Toronto, Canada

Beny Esguerra and New Tradition incorporate a seamless array of elements: bilingual socially-conscious spoken word, beat-boxing, Afro-Cuban and Colombian secular and religious drumming, Indigenous flutes, West African balafon, funk, zouk, merengue and flourishes of 70’s Nuyorican salsa!







Set List

Basic Req