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A Bit About Me

Ruben “Beny” Esguerra arrived as a child to Tkaronto from Bacatá (Bogotá, Colombia) as a political refugee with his parents, who were receiving threats for their human rights activism. Today, he is a JUNO nominated multi-instrumentalist/producer, spoken-word poet, arts educator and community worker. in 2021, he was chosen as the laureate of the 2020 Ontario Arts Foundation Arts Educator Award and was nominated and chosen as a finalist for the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Community Arts Award.

BIOS

SHORT BIO

Ruben “Beny” Esguerra arrived as a child to Tkaronto from Bacatá (Bogotá, Colombia) as a political refugee with his parents, who were receiving threats for their human rights activism. Today, he is a two-time JUNO nominated multi-instrumentalist/producer, spoken-word poet, arts educator and community worker. in 2021, he was chosen as the laureate of the 2020 Ontario Arts Foundation Arts Educator Award and was nominated and chosen as a finalist for the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Community Arts Award.

LONG BIO:

Ruben “Beny” Esguerra arrived as a child to Tkaronto from Bacatá (Bogotá, Colombia) as a political refugee with his parents, who were receiving threats for their human rights activism. Today, he is a two-time JUNO nominated multi-instrumentalist/producer, spoken-word poet, arts educator and community worker. in 2021, he was chosen as the laureate of the 2020 Ontario Arts Foundation Arts Educator Award and was nominated and chosen as a finalist for the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Community Arts Award.

 

As a musician/producer and spoken-word poet, he leads New Tradition Music, performing regularly in national and international festivals. As an arts educator, he has designed courses taught at Canadian Universities and currently facilitates interactive virtual and in-person drumming, storytelling and beat-making workshops in schools across Ontario. As a community worker, he is the music director/facilitator of several community arts programs within organizations such as: Vibe Arts, Right Path World Arts, Casa Maiz and Children’s Peace Theatre among others. In addition, he co-leads the NTM Wheel It Studios mobile project which provides access to equipment and mentorship to Jane Finch artists across different neighbourhoods. Ruben is a PhD (ABD) candidate in Musicology/Ethnomusicology specializing in Colombian traditional music and Hip Hop culture. His latest album –Northside KUISi (2021)–combines Hiphop with Latinx music styles released through Lulaworld Records.

IN DEPTH BIO

Mixing a new tradition

 

For musician/producer, poet, community worker, two-time JUNO Awards Nominee and award winning arts educator 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 programs that provide community youth with musical training; they culminate 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 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. 

Motivated by the success of his first album, the following production of A New Tradition VOL 2: Return of the KUISi led to 2018 Juno Award nomination for World Music Album of the Year.

 

Currently, between directing community music programs in Jane-Finch, visiting a variety of classrooms across Ontario facilitating workshops, and raising a young family, Beny received recognition from an Ontario Arts Council jury receiving the prestigious 2021 Ontario Arts Foundations Arts Educator Award given annually to an Ontario resident who exemplifies excellence in arts education and continues to maintain an active arts practice. In addition, he has also composed and recorded his latest opus: Northside KUISi (A New Tradition VOL 3) released on the Lulaworld Records Label in the fall of 2021. “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 Music

 

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

 

2021 Folk Alliance International spotlight showcase and unlocked showcase performer 

with New Tradition Music presented by Global Toronto, Lula Lounge, 

International Indigenous music Summit, Small World Music, Harbourfront Centre 

and Uma Nota Culture. February.

2020 Harrison, BC; Harrison Fest. For the Arts, Online Edition. August

2020 Toronto, ON; 1st online performer for Lulaworld Fest. July

2020 New Orleans, LA; Featured Showcase artist at the International 

Indigenous Music Summit and Folk Alliance International 

Conference sharing the stage with Sierra Noble, Snotty Nose Rez 

Kids and many others. Indigenous Voices Room. January.

2019 Calgary, Alberta; Invited to the UFCW’s United Latinos conference 

to perform and receive an award for outstanding community work 

with Latin American and Caribbean youth in Jane-Finch though New 

Tradition Music’s Mobile Recording project. August.

2019 Toronto, Ontario; Invited to perform with a cast of 15 with New 

Tradition to perform in the BRAVE festival at the 

Harbourfront Centre, Main Stage. July.

2018 Toronto, Ontario; Commissioned to perform for the public launch 

of Malden Weskijinu/Blood Soaked Soil with Siez Swift, Louis 

Esme, Jeremy Dutcher and others at the Gardener Museum. August

2017 Black Mountain, North Carolina; Invited to perform and conduct 

workshops with New Tradition at the Lake Eden Arts Festival 

festival. October.

2017 Montreal, Quebec; Commissioned by the United Fruit 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. Aug 31.

2017 Moncton, New Brunswick. Invited to perform and conduct workshops 

with New Tradition at the Mosaiq Multicultural festival. July.

2017 Harrison Hot Springs, BC; Invited to perform and conduct 

workshops with New Tradition at the Harrison Festival of the 

Arts. July.

2017 Toronto, ON; Invited to perform with a cast of 20 with New 

Tradition to open the Our Home on Native Land festival at the 

Harbourfront Centre, Main Stage. June.

Selected compositions, film scores, arrangements and recordings:

 

* - Producer credit

# - Composer credit

! - Arranger credit

% - Original Score

x - Executive Producer

 

* # See the Exit (2020), feat. KRS-ONE Hip Hop

* # ! Wheel it Studios Vol 2 (2020) world-urban

* # ! Wheel it Studios Vol 1 (2019) world-urban

* % Spirit Beings (2019), Storytellers and APTN Tv licensing

* % Desconocida Dance Score (2017) Modern Dance

* % Speakig Fruit Mobile Installation (2017) Experimental

# !   x Beny Esguerra "A New Tradition VOL. 2" (2016) afro-native

* # % Jingle for "News You Choose" Radio CHHA 1610AM (2015) world 

* # ! UFCW "100 Years of Solidarity" Vol 2.  (2015) hip hop

* # ! % Frozen Memories - A Start Toronto Project (2015) short film

  # ! x Palistylez Compilation Vol.2 (2013) urban

  # ! x Pablo "Epoch" (2013) spoken word

      x Typhris "Pro Hobby Music" (2013) hip hop

# !   x Beny Esguerra "A New Tradition " (2012) afro-nati

 

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OFFICIAL RELEASE

NORTHSIDE KUISi,
A NEW TRADITION
Vol 3.

OUT NOW!!!

 
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Press

Album Release Interview Go Live Radio

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TorontoHispano - Juno Awards 

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Music Works - Album Review

Five Questions With Beny Esguerra

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Toronto Hispano

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GoLive Interview 2021 (Spanish)

2021 Community Arts Award

2021 Community Arts Award

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CashBox Canada Magazine - Feature

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Canadian Magazine - Album Review

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UbuntuFMhiphop.com

Ontario Presents Spotlight 

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VibeArts Spotlight

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2020 Arts Educator of the year 

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Ontario Presents Spotlight

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Photos

 
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WHAT PEOPLE SAY

Ehren Cruz, Performing Arts Director | LEAF Festival

"Beny Esguerra & A New Tradition captures ancient wisdom through the powerful & accessible vehicle of urban music culture. At a time where so many lineages struggle to preserve the wisdom of their teachings, A New Tradition has found a way to fuse the virtues of elder Colombian lineage with fresh beats, intelligent lyrics, and a driving dance grooves. Perhaps most importantly, A New Tradition upholds a sense of class, professionalism, and charisma both on and off the stage... solidifying themselves as not only entertainers, but true educators of world music & culture.""

DJ DTS, Masterplan Show (CIUT 89.5fm)

"The tracks in Beny's latest album take conscious Toronto Hip Hop music into a new direction by combining elements of world music, live instruments, and Spanglish lyrics all with deep roots in the Jane-Finch community"

Alex Bordokas, Founder and Artistic Director of Uma Nota, Artistic Associate of Harboourfront Centre

"After seeing Beny and New Tradition at Mundial Montreal, I came to realize that his style sums up what world music is for me: wicked performance with influences from around the world and yet deeply rooted in tradition. A cutting edge style bringing out the consciousness of youth in a purely natural way that is infectious and feels close to home"

 

Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts, Royal Conservatory of Music/Koerner Hall

"Ruben “Beny” Esguerra is leading the wave of young Canadians developing brand new musical traditions, blending their cultural roots with their own unique presence. The result is a sound that is captivating, inclusive and vibrant."

David Dacks, Exclaim Magazine/Artistic Director, The Music Gallery

"New Tradition was responsible for the highest-energy showcase of Mundial Montreal. The band was furiously polyrhythmic and super tight. You’ve got to experience Beny’s gaita (flute) riding overtop of Planet Rock beats to believe it. This band won't fail to make you dance your ass off while immersing you in the richness of Afro-Colombian heritage"

Eli Levinson Marketing and Communications, Mundial Montreal

"Beny Esguerra brought the house down with a wild performance bringing together breakdancers, cumbia drums, and a strong message that resonates with youth. Amazing"

Basic Tech Requirements

Solo Performance - See image (Solo Performance Set-up)

 

3 piece - See image on the right (3 PIECE)

 

4 piece

 

1. Spoken Word/gaita/perc.- 1 vox mic, 3 perc. mic(monitor)

2. Human beatbox/ perc.- 1 vox, 3 perc. (monitor)

3. Deejay- Line-in(monitor) and Table

4. Back up vocals/perc. /dancer - 1 vox mic, 1 perc. Mic (monitor)

 

5 piece

 

1. Spoken Word/gaita/perc.- 1 vox mic, 3 perc. mic(monitor)

2. Guitar - Line-in, 1 vox(monitor)

3. Human beatbox/ perc.- 1 vox, 3 perc. (monitor)

4. Deejay- Line-in(monitor) and Table

5. Back up vocals/perc. /dancer - 1 vox mic, 1 perc. Mic (monitor)

 

6 piece See Image (6 Piece)

 

1. Spoken Word/gaita/perc.- 1 vox mic, 3 perc. mic(monitor)

2. Guitar - Line-in, 1 vox(monitor)

3. Human beatbox/ perc.- 1 vox, 3 perc. (monitor)

4. Deejay- Line-in(monitor) and Table

5. Congas/vocals/tbone- 2 perc. mic, 1 vox mic(monitor)

6. Back up vocals/perc. /dancer - 1 vox mic, 1 perc. Mic (monitor)

 

13 piece

 

1. Spoken Word/Gaita/perc.- 1 vox mic, 2 perc. mic (monitor)

2. Piano- Line-in

3. Bass- Line-in, 1 vox mic(monitor)

4. Human beatbox/perc.- 1 perc. mic, 1 vox mic

5. Deejay- Line-in(monitor) and Table

6. Drum Set- 1 mic for kick d, 5 perc. mics (monitor)

7. Bongos/vocals-  2 perc. mics, 1 vox mic

8. Violin/Vocals/perc.- 1 Line-in, 1 perc mic, 1 vox mic (monitor)

9. Synth/guitar- 2 Line-in, 1 vox mic

10. Trombone- 1 mic

11. Trombone- 1 mic (monitor)

12. Tombone- 1 mic

13. Congas/vocals- 2 perc. mics, 1 vox mic(monitor)

 

 

 

Instrumentation

Beny Esguerra and New Tradition (3 piece):

Ruben 'Beny' Esguerra - musical director/spoken word/percussion/ kuisi bunsi (gaita)

Dj Grouch - turntables

Jorge Cantor - human beatbox/vocals/perc./dancer

 

Beny Esguerra and New Tradition (5 piece):

Ruben 'Beny' Esguerra - spoken word/percussion/kuisi bunsi (gaita)

Dj Grouch - turntables

Jorge Cantor - human beatbox/perc./dancer

Adam Solomon - guitar; 

Melissa Noventa – Back up vocals/dancer

 

Beny Esguerra and New Tradition (6 piece):

Ruben 'Beny' Esguerra - spoken word/percussion/kuisi bunsi (gaita)

Siez Swift - turntables/perc./dancer

Jorge Cantor - human beatbox/perc./dancer

Adam Solomon - guitar; 

Melissa Noventa – Back up vocals/dancer

Luisito Orbegoso - Musical Director/perc./vocals/Trombone

 

Beny Esguerra and New Tradition (13 piece):

Ruben 'Beny' Esguerra - spoken word/perc./kuisi bunsi (gaita)

Luisito Orbegoso - Musical Director/perc./vocals

Jeremy Leadbetter - Piano

Josh Cohen - Bass

Jorge Cantor - human beatbox/perc./dancer

Siez Swift - turntables/dancer

Rich Da Silva - drum set

Yisel Sanchez - perc./vocals

Yosvani Castañeda - violin/vocals/perc.

Adam Solomon - guitar

Chris Butcher - Trombone

Patrick Blanchard - Trombone

Chis Overton - Trombone

Dancers: Alexa Esguerra, Marina Sandoval, Melissa Noventa, F.A.M. Breakin' Crew

Solo Performance Set-up

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3 Piece Set-up

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6 Piece Set-up

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