New York City, NY | Established. Jan 01, 2008

New York City, NY
Established on Jan, 2008
Band World Latin





CD Artist Selection for October 2011
Grupo Rebolú

Grupo Rebolú’s CD, Abriendo Caminos (or Opening Roads), offers the listener ten high energy tracks featuring the sounds of Colombia’s northern Caribbean coast. Nine of these tracks were written by the group’s director Ronald Polo with arrangements by co-director Morris Cañate. Friends since childhood, Ronald and Morris grew up together in Barranquilla, Colombia and first met as youngsters enrolled in the Escuela de Música de Barranquilla, Carlos Franco. Morris comes from a family of traditional musicians and dancers, and it was his aunt, an instructor at the school, who encouraged him to enroll. Ronald’s brother pushed him to join, and Ronald quickly made up his mind that music was going to be his life. They began as dancers in the school, and having won their category at Barranquilla’s annual carnival, the youngsters continued to develop as artists. By the time they were 17, they had recorded a CD and the school encouraged their group to travel internationally. Thirty members of the school performed in France, China, Japan, Spain and Portugal playing Colombia’s traditional music and some of Ronald’s original compositions. This experience profoundly shaped the lives of Ronald and Morris, and when they came to the U.S. years later, they immediately began planning a new group. Gabrielle Hamilton recently sat down with Ronald and Morris and Johanna Castañeda, a vocalist in the group and Ronald’s wife. They talked about Rebolú’s CD and what traditional music means to the group so far from their homeland. Here are some excerpts from that discussion:

Abriendo Caminos

Gabrielle: When did Rebolú officially form in NY?
Morris: The name actually came along in 2004 or 2005 with the thought of putting together a band, but we didn’t actually get together until 2008. And it started with my student in Chicago offering me a gig, and we put together a band for the show and Rebolú grew out of that.
Ronald: The first person to come to the United States was me and I asked Morris if he wanted to come and three years later he came with Fabian Diaz. The idea was to start a group because we all played together in the school and Fabian was one of the best musicians we had in Barranquilla. He played everything—gaitas (native flute), percussion, and trumpet. He decided that he wanted to move to Boston and then died suddenly of appendicitis. But it was really the three of us when we started here. We started a group similar to Rebolú. From there, Pablo Mayor invited me to sing with Folklore Urbano.

Gabrielle: Tell me about your writing process. Do you hear the music first? Do you sit down with Morris?
Ronald: The composing comes naturally. If I come up with an idea at any moment of the day, I’ll record the song on my cell phone with whatever melody I have. Then when I get home I write out the songs. And then I meet with Morris and show him my ideas and ask him what he thinks. Most of the time, he’ll tell me: “I like this song; we can arrange it like this” and we figure out the percussion.
Johanna: He has tons of voice recordings in his cell phone, because he comes up with stuff in the middle of the day at work.

Gabrielle: It seems to me that there are three different themes on your CD: songs about love and relationships, songs celebrating the traditional rhythms, and songs about immigration experiences, such as the last song: Manana me voy de aqui (I leave here tomorrow).
Johanna: It’s all life experiences!
Ronald: Yes, I write about things that happened to me or Morris or Johanna. La Manga is about my hometown. It’s named La Manga because it looks like a sleeve with one street running down from the mountains into the town. It’s not a town of rich people but they’re happy and I always think of my hometown. El Viejo José is about my dad, so I call him “Old Joe” and Morris’ dad too, who is also José. And Morris’ middle name is José too.

Gabrielle: And La Sorpresa? It seems to be about all the singer’s bad relationships.
Morris [laughing]: That’s not me!
Ronald [laughing]: It’s not only me! What I do when I write a song is try to find the humorous part and the true part too. So it’s not only my story but the story of a lot of my friends and a lot of different cases. If you hear the first verse it is about a man meeting a woman close to the river, but after he gets to know her he finds out that she married, and the next woman he meets is pregnant and the next is drunk. And so the chorus sings “don’t bother me!” Now, the second CD of Rebolú is coming out with more surprises! And I think I’ve grown up now, so the lyrics are nicer and explore issues like death. In one song, death visits the singer, they argue and the singer pleads with him to give him a little more time to write music.

Gabrielle: What does Grupo Rebolú mean to you?
Morris: Rebolú balances my life in the city. New York is not an easy city; you have to be strong and work hard and Rebolú is my escape.
Ronald: Rebolú is my other son; it’s my future; it’s the hope that things are going to be better. It’s cool music.

Gabrielle: What do you want your listeners to hear when they listen to your CD? Is there anything you want to tell listeners who perhaps do not understand Spanish?
Morris: I want people to feel the positive energy of the group.
Ronald: People should know they are listening to traditional Colombian Caribbean rhythms: gaitas, tambora, puyas, chande, bullerengue, cumbias, fused with a New York style. That’s my starting point. We are traditional musicians, so what I do is take traditional rhythms from the north coast of Colombia and add other sounds of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Peru. Everything you hear, you can get something from; and that’s what I do, picking up the vibe from Latinos based in New York City. We’ve created new sounds and a new group and I think it is a great band to hear and to see.

To contact Grupo Rebolú go to:

Read the Artist Bio for Grupo Rebolú in this section. - Gabrielle Hamilton

"Bangor Daily News"

Grupo Rebolú, of New York City, is an Afro-Colombian musical ensemble comprised of some of the finest Colombian musicians in the United States. The group was created from the desire of Ronald Polo (vocalist/composer/gaitero) and Morris Canate (master folkloric percussionist) to promote the rich musical traditions of their ancestors, the Afro descendants of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It is their belief that these folkloric traditions should continually evolve over time and with the ideas of new generations of folklorists. This belief is reflected in their music, which features Afro-Colombian rhythms such as Gaita, Tambora, Chalupa, and Bullerengue.

Polo and Cañate grew up together in Barranquilla, Colombia. These childhood friends enrolled together in the Escuela de Música de Barranquilla, Carlos Franco. Cañate, who comes from a family of traditional musicians and dancers, enrolled thanks to the encouragement of his aunt, who was an instructor there. Polo’s brother encouraged him to join, and he soon decided that music would be his life.

The friends began as dancers at the school. After winning their category at Barranquilla’s annual carnival, they continued broadening their artistic skills. By age 17, they had recorded their first CD, and the school recommended their group to travel internationally. A group of 30 performed Colombia’s traditional music — and some of Polo’s original music — in France, Spain, Portugal, China, and Japan. This helped shape the young men’s lives, and when they arrived in the U.S. years later, they planned and launched their new group, Grupo Rebolú, which included vocalist Johanna Castañeda.

With their belief of folklore always evolving, Polo’s compositions have remained tied to their music’s Colombian roots while introducing new perspectives on it. Grupo Rebolú is said to be North America’s most original and danceable Colombian music experience. Their original compositions and arrangements of classic Afro-Colombian music create a modern cultural event rooted in the Carnaval de Barranquilla — soulful yet joyous dance music guaranteed to keep you moving.

From traditional songs to original compositions, Grupo Rebolú’s repertoire is loaded with energy, history and danceability. Their unique reinterpretations of traditional Afro-Colombian rhythms such as Gaita, Tambora, Chalupa and Bullerengue, among others, make it extremely well suited not only for festivals and cultural events but also for nightclubs.

Grupo Rebolú’s members include: Ronald Polo (lead vocals, arranger, gaita), Morris Cañate (percussionist [tambor alegre]), Juan Pablo Calvo (drums), Luis Guzman (bass), Juan Pablo Uribe (saxophone), and Johanna Castaneda (minor percussion/vocals), Albert J. Leusink (trumpet), Alejandro Florez (guitar and tiple [Colombian guitar]), and Farid L. Suarez (maraca and llamador drum). - By Contributed Article, Special to the BDN

"Festival de Música Sudamericana de NYC regresa renovado "El Diario""

Nueva York — Los desafortunados que no alcanzaron a llegar temprano a la primera edición del NYC South American Music Festival que se celebró a principios del año pasado, seguramente tuvieron problemas a la hora de encontrar un asiento o inclusive entrar al evento, ya que el sitio se encontraba abarrotado de gente.

El éxito de la iniciativa en su primera edición fue tan grande que sus organizadores, entre los cuales se incluyen músicos locales, se han dado a la tarea de realizar una nueva entrega, en esta ocasión, se incluyen nuevas bandas como lo es la agrupación de música folklórica colombiana Rebolú.

"Es la primera vez que lo hacemos y me parece un evento espectacular. Nosotros hemos venido desde Barranquilla haciendo música colombiana y aunque la música sudamericana está cogiendo mucha fuerza, aun se necesita el apoyo de todos los medios", señala el gaitero Ronald Polo, quien junto al percusionista Morris Canate fundó la banda.

La agrupación que fusiona música de la costa norte colombiana con jazz y otros ritmos populares como la salsa y el merengue, no es desconocida dentro del ámbito artístico local. De hecho, ambos músicos se presentan regularmente en varios sitios de moda de la ciudad como Terraza Café en Queens.

A pesar de su relativo éxito, Polo insiste en que son muchas las cosas que se pueden hacer a nivel de inculcar esta clase de géneros, especialmente porque inclusive entre los nativos de su país existe gran desconocimiento.

"A veces el mismo colombiano no sabe que la gaita, el instrumento que nosotros tocamos, es nativo de Colombia. Se puede decir que ahora en nuestro país esa situación ha mejorado, porque se escucha más la música tradicional. Estamos en una transición ahora, hay muchos grupos en Nueva York que están tratando de promocionar la música de mi país y de otros países para que la gente empiece a valorar", manifiesta el gaitero.

Otras de las figuras que los acompañarán en el escenario incluyen a la banda argentina Pedro Giraudo Expansions Big Band, el venezolano Juancho Herrera, el grupo de Boston con origen ecuatoriano Ñawi y Alejo García, uno de los cantantes de la agrupación Barrio Colombia.

"Vamos a ir con mucha energía y alegría…esperamos que la gente vaya. Esto no se hace todo el tiempo y está creado por músicos, lo que significa que hay más trabajo porque no somos gente que tenemos dinero para hacer un festival el día de mañana, es un esfuerzo que estamos haciendo para que la gente aproveche, escuche y entienda la música de nuestros países", concluye Polo. - Carolina Pinto

"Live Jazz: Three August Standouts, From Gilad Hekselman to Rebolú"

The life of Rebolú — an ebullient band that makes Colombian cumbia music — is tied up with the story of Terraza 7. The group has played once a month at this enchanting club in Jackson Heights, Queens, for about 10 years.

Located in one of the United States’ most diverse neighborhoods, Terraza is a little room that presents mostly Latin American music to audiences of varied ethnicities and generations. It’s been around since 2002, and has so far hung on even as its landlord tries to raze the building. Performances at Terraza take place on a balcony stage that hangs above the bar; paying listeners can sit on risers up there. On the ground level, the center of the room doubles as a dance floor.

On this late August night, Rebolú had come to the middle of its second set before the dancing began in earnest. But the energy had hardly been slack before then: The bandleader Ronald Polo sang clearly and forcefully, playing hand percussion and egging on his nine bandmates as they clopped through his original compositions and arrangements of traditional songs. At various points he shouldered up to the mic with the gaita, a Colombian wood flute.

On “La Escuelita” Mr. Polo played in sturdy, vertical patterns, outlining the song’s alternating chords while a handful of percussionists played behind him. It was a reminder that virtually every country in the African diaspora has some kind of flute-and-drum tradition, and that this music is usually raw and exhilarating. - New York Times

"Afro-Colombian Sensation Grupo Rebolú Releases Single And Video For TIEMPOS BUENOS"

Afro-Colombian Grupo Rebolú, currently considered North America's most innovative and danceable Colombian band, is thrilled to announce the release of the first single and video from its latest album Tiempos Buenos (Better Times)on December 8. The band will be performing live at S.O.Bs, the world music venue and restaurant in the Hudson Square and SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, with 2 sets at 8:00pm and 10:00pm. The music video releases the same day and will be available on digital platforms.

Better Times (Tiempos Buenos) is the story of three individuals who one day decide to immigrate in search of a new life, leaving behind their home, roots, culture and family. Regarding the band's inspiration for the song, Ronald Polo says: "This is a Cumbia, one of the most popular and rich musical rhythms that Colombia has offered to the world. It was recorded with traditional instruments like Tambor Alegre (the happy drum), the Tambora (the bass drum), the Llamador ('the caller', a small drum that sets the tempo), and the Maracas."

The New York-based Afro-Colombian musical ensemble was founded in 2004 by Ronald Polo (composer, Gaita) and Morris Canate(percussion), friends from Barranquilla who trained together Since the age of five, the pair has toured internationally with some of Colombia's best-known folkloric groups. VocalistJohanna Castanedajoined the band in 2009. Grupo Rebolúpromotes the rich musical traditions of their ancestors, the Afro descendants of Colombia's Caribbean coast. It is their belief that these folkloric traditions should continually evolve over time alongside the ideas of new generations of folklorists. This belief is reflected in their music, which features Afro-Colombian rhythms such as Gaita, Tambora, Chalupa, and Bullerengue.

The album Tiempos Buenos will be released mid-January: "The eleven songs of our new album represent a variety of Afro-Colombian rhythms like Porro, Cumbia, Puya, Bullerengue. The lyrics bring up the different scenarios and sometimes memories that we live day to day and is an homage and a humble approach to the lives of our people in Latin America," adds percussionist and Grupo Rebolú's co-founder, Morris Canete.

Morris Canate
A talented drummer coming from a modest family with a linage legendary Afro-traditional musicians and dancer, Canate is nephew of the late Paulino Salgado (Batata III), the single most accomplished Afro-Colombian folkloric percussionist of all time. Canate is considered by many to be among the top five Tambor Alegreplayers in the world. He has performed around the globe proudly representing his Afro-descendent roots and Colombia's Caribbean coast.

Ronald Polo
A composer, Gaitero and musician from the heart, Polo has been composing since the early age of seven and currently has more than eighty songs inspired by family, love, life experiences, tradition, culture, and of course music itself. Polo has also collaborated on many different projects with other well-know composers and musicians throughout New York City. His interest is to take both his culture and musical notes to every corner of the world.

Johanna Castaneda
Castaneda hails from the capital city of Bogota, and also comes from a modest home full of artistic traditions. She developed her interest in dancing at an early age, and with the support of her family she started her career. Shortly after her family migrated to the US looking for better times. It was in a foreign land where Castaneda found herself more drawn into her Colombian traditional roots, in terms of both culture and music. In 2009, Castaneda becomes a key member of Grupo Rebolu by sharing not only her voice, but also her musical knowledge. - Broadway World

"Grupo Rebolu In madison Wisconsin"

The New York City-based band Grupo Rebolu draws on the melodic and rhythmic traditions of Afro-Colombian music—a mix as complex as the migrations, ethnicities, and geographies that shaped it. The core trio of Ronald Polo, Johanna Castañeda, and Morris Canate grew up in different corners of Colombia ( Castañeda in the inland capital of Bogotá, Polo and Canate in Barranquilla, up on the country's Atlantic coast), and in a concert last year at the Kennedy Center the lineup also included six other excellent musicians on brass, percussion, bass, vocals, and guitar. Polo's compositions and his performances on both vocals and a flute called the gaita are a highlight, while Castañeda anchors the group's vocals. Canate leads a fantastically versatile percussion section, steering the band through both insistent, high-tempo dance numbers and equally accomplished slow-burners. . Grupo Rebolu's new album, Tiempos Buenos, is due out later this year. The title translates literally to "good times" or "better times"; the title track and its accompanying video apply that concept to the immigrant experience and the yearning for peace, with a balance of groove and hopeful solemnity. I'm not entirely clear on whether this show at Robinia will feature a big nine-piece lineup, but either way it's worth taking the opportunity to see the band in a relatively small venue. And outdoors, if the weather cooperates. - Scott gordon

"Grupo Rebolú’s Afro-Colombian Music"

Grupo Rebolú is an Afro-Colombian musical ensemble that includes some of the finest Colombian musicians in the United States. The group was created by Ronald Polo (a vocalist, composer, and player of the native Colombian flute known as a gaita), Morris Cañate (a master traditional drummer), and Johanna Castañeda (a vocalist and percussionist) to promote the rich musical traditions of their heritage: the African descendants of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. They believe these folkloric traditions should continually evolve over time and incorporate the musical ideas and creativity of new generations of musicians. The original compositions of Ronald Polo for Grupo Rebolú forge new paths for Colombian music, while respectfully remaining faithful to traditional Afro-Colombian rhythms such as gaita, tambora, chalupa, and bullerengue.

While the group has worked with musicians from various musical traditions, the lead members of the group share common ties to the Caribbean region of Colombia. Roland Polo and Morris Cañate were both born in Barranquilla, a town famous for its carnival that provided them with opportunities for a rich education in the music and dance traditions of the region, as they explain in the oral history. Johanna Castañeda was born in Bogotá, and began her musical career as a singer of Colombian and Venezuelan songs. She sang in many different bands, learning different genres, before coming to Grupo Rebolú. Roland and Johanna are husband and wife.

The other members of the band are Erica “Kika” Parra (Tambora), Rudyck Vidal Espinoza (Bass), Alejandro Florez (Guitar/Tiple), Eric Kurimski (Guitar), Juan Pablo Calvo (Drums), Juan Pablo Uribe (Sax), Josh Deutsh (Trumpet), and Jackie Coleman (Trumpet).

As you listen to the music you will recognize the rhythms as common to many types of music of the Caribbean islands and coasts. But there are also instruments and musical styles unique to Colombia represented here. Now enjoy the concert!

In the oral history interview, Daniel Sheehy, consultant emeritus with Smithsonian Folkways, talked with the lead members of Grupo Rebolú, Johanna Castañeda, Roland Polo, and Morris Cañate about their path to music, their vision for the group, and their hopes for the future. This interview is in English and Spanish. You will hear the speakers switch back and forth between languages frequently. This provides us with an especially rich interview because it allowed the speakers to use the language they were most comfortable with to talk about such things as Colombian traditions and musical genres as well as their experiences growing up in the Caribbean coastal region. An English transcript of the video is available below with time codes to help you to find you place in the interview. The American Folklife center is grateful for the help of Catalina Gomez of the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, who did the translation of the Spanish portions of this oral history for us. - June 25, 2019 by Stephanie Hall

"Grupo Rebolu with New Single: Qué Pasó?"

Afro-Colombian band Grupo Rebolu; currently considered North America’s most innovative and danceable Colombian band, is thrilled to announce the release of a new single and video Que paso? (What Happened?) on March 11, 2020 from soon-to-be released album Tiempos Buenos (Better Times). Grupo Rebolu’s upcoming live performances are March 28, 2020 at Wildbirds in Brooklyn, and on April 9 2020 at Ginnys Super Club in Harlem.

The song Que paso? (What Happened?) is a day-to-day situation that any relationship experiences in the beginning stages, where the boyfriend arrives late to his first date leaving the girlfriend wondering what “what happened?” According to singer/songwriter Ronald Polo: “This song is inspired by a rhythm called Champeta, which was recently exposed by Shakira at the Super Bowl. Champeta is an Afro-descendent sound in Colombia that has being around for many decades.

is a Champeta inspired song, that characterizes these talented artists.

This unique New York City based musical ensemble has been creating more noise and attention with their interpretations of Afro-Colombian Music which has been strongly influenced by new world sounds such as funk, jazz, hip pop, and afro beat. Grupo Rebolú promotes the rich musical traditions of their ancestors, the Afro descendants of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. With strong mesmerizing beats of urban modern Caribbean sounds, this music goes into your system like a dose of pure contagious energy!

“The eleven songs on Tiempos Buenos represent a variety of Afro-Colombian rhythms like Porro, Cumbia, Puya, Bullerengue, and Champeta. The lyrics bring up the different scenarios and

sometimes memories that we lived day-to-day and is an homage and a humble approach to the lives of our people in Latin America,” says percussionist and Grupo Rebolú’s co-founder, Morris Canate. - Queens Latino

"World Music Central Review"

Colombian roots band Rebolú was formed by Ronald Polo and Morris Cañate, two Colombian musicians living in New York City. The two artists initially met as childhood friends in Barranquilla.

The lineup in 2022 included vocalists and multi-instrumentalists (and husband and wife) Ronald Polo and Johanna Castañeda, together with percussionists Morris Cañate (percussionist, tambor) and Erica “Kika” Parra (percussionist, drummer).

As Rebolú evolved, Castañeda and Parra were brought on to expand the band’s musical complexity. The group incorporates a wide spectrum of musical influences, including cumbia, rumba, funk, jazz, and other genres. Song topics range from the Colombian diaspora to family and parenting.

The songs are reflections on family, the passing down of traditions, and the idea of home – stories told through shared immigrant experiences expressed as songs of joy, sadness, love, desire, and celebration.

The band describes its sound: “Rebolú is a party! A wild, but not chaotic, party. A confluence of sound and energy reflecting the intensity of our urban life and the need to create music for the world based on our folklore and heritage.”

In 2022, Rebolú announced the release of an album titled Mi Herencia (My Heritage), on May 13, 2022, on Smithsonian Folkways - Angel Romero

"How REBOLU’s Afro-Infused Rhythms Bridge New York City and the Colombian Coast"

Say rebolú out loud, and you’ll find the word carries as much rhythm as its many meanings imply. Though it signifies a coming together, exact definitions range from “carnaval” to “chaos” depending on who, or where, you ask.

“Different countries use it in different ways,” explained vocalist Johanna Castañeda of the band REBOLU. “But in Colombia, it’s like a party. And that’s the way we’ve kept it.”

It’s a well-deserved title for the Latin-fusion group, whose latest album, Mi Herencia (My Heritage), was released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings earlier this year. The Queens-based band is a party as promised, one charged by the dynamic energy of their Afro-Colombian rhythms.

REBOLU (formerly Grupo Rebolú) formed in New York City, where Castañeda first crossed paths with the ensemble’s co-founders: composer (and now husband) Ronald Polo and percussionist Morris Cañate. Castañeda, who was raised in the Colombian capital of Bogotá, felt immediately drawn to their sound.

“I remember I was like, ‘Wow, I want to sing this type of music!’” she told me. “It wasn’t from my region, but I wanted to know more.” Castañeda’s own roots were in joropo, the traditional folk music of Colombia’s eastern plains that served as the soundtrack for her childhood. By the time she arrived in the United States in 1994, she was fluent in the fiery tempos of joropo dance and played the cuatro, a traditional small guitar native to eastern Colombia. Yet her introduction to Polo and Cañate became a window into a side of Colombia she had little exposure to.

“It’s funny—once you move away from your country is when you really want to learn more about it,” she confessed, laughing out loud. Polo and Cañate’s journey together began many years earlier. The two were childhood friends in their shared hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia, a vibrant seaport nestled into the country’s Caribbean coastline. Today known for its vibrant arts and music scenes, Barranquilla has served since colonial times as a meeting point for Colombia’s intermixing African, Spanish, and Indigenous heritages.

Both Polo and Cañate were aspiring musicians from a young age, well-versed in the traditional music of Colombia’s northern Caribbean coastal region. The two trained for years at Barranquilla’s Escuela de Música. They performed first for audiences at the city’s carnavaland later at an international level with La Corporación Cultural Barranquilla before moving to New York in the hopes of sharing their joint creative project with the world. The colorful influence of Barranquilla’s converging musical traditions—including cumbia, chandé, and bullerengue—continues to shine through their songs today.

“Barranquilla is home to the second largest carnaval in the world,” Castañeda said. “People who live there prepare for it the entire year. It’s an expression of the culture, the dances, the rhythms, and a time to connect with people. It’s a very interactive environment. In a way, we try to represent that in our shows.”

Like carnaval, REBOLU is inseparable from the atmosphere of live performance. Their celebratory rhythms are made to be embodied, connecting diverse audiences through their uninhibited joy and danceability. Since returning to live shows in 2021, REBOLU has been a sorely needed medicine for disoriented audiences only just emerging from the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their well-received performance at the 2022 Smithsonian Folklife Festival lit up crowds of concertgoers across the National Mall. Today, the group’s live shows are a stage for education and conversation as well as a persuasive invitation a la rumba—to the party.

“We want people who are watching and dancing with us to learn a little bit about the music,” Castañeda explained. “When we’re doing shows, we’ll mention things here and there—where the music comes from, where the instruments come from, what rhythms they’re dancing to. We want to encourage people to learn more about what Colombia has to offer.” The textures and timbres of REBOLU’s distinctive sound are achieved through a wide range of instruments. Electric basslines, saxophone riffs, and other recognizable modern sounds are interwoven with the woody accents of Colombian folk music. The song “Mi Mulata” foregrounds the resonating melodies of the gaita, a wind instrument first used among Indigenous Kogi and Ika people of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada. Known also by its pre-Columbian name, kuisi, the instrument is made from a hollowed cactus stem and comes in both “female” and “male” forms. The female (gaita hembra or kuisi bunsi) is used for melodies, and the male (gaita macho or kuisi sigi) holds longer notes. In “Mi Mulata,” these gaita arrangements are layered over the steady rhythms of a tambor alegre to evoke a genre known as chandé—a festive, folkloric style originating from the Caribbean coast.

Each band member brings their own traditions to the table. Cañate comes from a highly revered lineage of Afro-Colombian drummers originating from San Basilio de Palenque, the first community in the Americas to be founded by enslaved Africans. Among the most prominent tambor alegre players in the world, his style is deeply informed by his respect for ancestral knowledge and traditional communal practices from West and Central African sources. Other group members hail from Argentina, Mexico, and across the United States, each complementing and enriching the ensemble’s core sound with influences that range from classical Spanish guitar to jazz. The result is a layering of tradition which is impossible to replicate. But while REBOLU is forever growing, authenticity always remains at the center of their vision.

“Music has to evolve, but it’s important to maintain the message,” Castañeda pointed out, “Even when we’re playing electric guitar or bass, we’re using traditional rhythms. The traditional elements are there, but with a modern touch.”

When asked whether REBOLU belongs to any one culture, Castañeda considered the question with care. “At this point, we’re from everywhere,” she reflected. Her answer is as plain as it is precise. REBOLU is the Afro-infused rhythms of Colombia’s Caribbean coastline, the shared urban spaces of New York City, and the complex tapestries of immigrant experience. After all, their music asks, what does it mean to be from Colombia, a country often referred to as a several in one; or from New York City, where a dozen cultures might coexist within the walls of a single apartment? What does either sound like?

The group celebrates this diversity as an identity unto itself. Their Folkways album, Mi Herencia, is a direct expression of all they have carried with them from their Colombian origins, as well as everything picked up along the way. More than anything, it seems, their message is an invitation to keep dancing through it all. Today, REBOLU tours with an impressive eight-person lineup. More performers help to protect their distinctive sound, but size presents its own obstacles. Castañeda admitted the added stress of organizing travel and booking events with so many members, a responsibility she has assumed for the last fifteen years as band manager. A larger group means heavier expenses, which, when coupled with the pandemic’s broader impact on the livelihoods of artists and musicians everywhere, has made for a particularly challenging few years.

But for Castañeda and her bandmates, there has never been any question of sacrificing sound for convenience. “Live music needs live musicians,” Castañeda stressed. “We’re always trying to make that part of our message. You need the musicians there if you want that full sound and the energy that comes with it.”

Recorded in 2020, Mi Herencia is an inspired response to the hardships of the pandemic. It articulates faith in the power of tradition to sustain community in good times and bad, using song to express hopes for a brighter future. Castañeda recalled the initial anxieties of lockdown in New York City, where the pandemic’s blows were felt with a particular poignancy. Like so many others, she and her bandmates found themselves shut off from the physical world, inundated by news of ongoing social and political unrest.

When it came to writing the album, this pause in life brought Polo and Castañeda to embrace their home as a joint creative space. “Ronald writes the music, and one of the best parts of being at home was getting to share in that process of creation,” Castañeda said. “While I’m in the kitchen cooking, I’ll hear him hum a melody and start to build it up. It’s an amazing process to watch.”

The artists share their home with their two young daughters, who are often involved in the songwriting process. Remarkably, Mi Herencia’s second track, “Cumbia Sabrosa,” is composed and sung by seven-year-old Melody.

“That’s how we came up with Mi Herencia, or My Heritage,” Castañeda explained. “This is what I’m leaving to my kids. The album is dedicated to our heirs: our children, who will carry our culture’s music for generations to come.”

Absorbed in the soulful vocals of Melody Polo, one is left with the impression that the traditions are in safe hands. - Tia Merotto

Discography CD " Abriendo Caminos" (Opening Roads) Released in 2009 CD " Next Stop" (Proxima Parada) Released in 2015. Tiempos Buenos Album 2020 Mi Herencia/My heritage - Smithsonian Folkways Recording 2022



GRUPO REBOLU Is an Afro-Colombian musical ensemble comprised of some of the finest Colombian musicians in the united states. The group was created from the desire of Ronald Polo (vocalist/composer/gaitero) and Morris Canate (master folkloric percussionist) and Johanna Castaneda vocalist/musicIan to promote the rich musical traditions of their ancestors; the afro-descendents of Colombia's caribbean coast. It is their belief that these folkloric traditions should continually evolve over time and with the ideas of new generations of folklorists. This belief is surely reflected in their music. The original compositions of Ronald Polo forge new paths for Colombian music while respectfully remaining faithful to its ancestral roots. In the process, they create a truly unique musical and cultural experience.From traditional songs to original compositions, the entirely of Rebolu'repertoire is loaded with energy, history and danceability. Their unique reinterpretations of traditional Afro-Colombian rhythms such as Gaita, Tambora, Chalupa and Bullerengue, among others, make it extremely well suited not only for festivals and cultural events, but also for nightclubs. We hope you listen and enjoy...

GRUPO REBOLU Es un conjunto musical afro-colombiano representado por algunos de los mejores musicos colombianos en los Estados Unidos. El grupo fue creado por del deseo y amistad de Ronald Polo (vocalista/compositor/gaitero) y uno de los primeros integrantes de "Los Chamanes" junto con Morris Canate (percusionista folklorico)  y mas adelante Johanna Castaneda (vocalista/musico), para promover las ricas tradiciones musicales de sus ancestros; los Afro-decendientes de la costa caribe de Colombia. Es su ideal que estas tradiciones folkloricas deben continuar creciendo sobre el tiempo y con ideas de los nuevos folkloristas. Esta creencia e ideal y es muy bien reflejada en su musica. Las composiciones originales de Ronald Polo forjan nuevos caminos para la música colombiana respetuosamente permaneciendo fieles a sus raíces ancestrales. En el proceso, ellos crean una experiencia musical y cultural realmente única. De canciones tradicionales a composiciones originales, el repertorio de Grupo Rebolu esta cargado por energía, historia y baile. Sus reinterpretaciones únicas de ritmos afro colombianos tradicionales como Gaita,Tambora, Chalupa y Bullerengue, entre otros, hacen esto sumamente satisfactorio no sólo para festivales y acontecimientos culturales, sino también para clubes nocturnos y mas. Esperamos de su agrado que escuche y disfrute...


Lincoln Center Out of Doors Heritage Sunday NY-2011

* Lowell folk festival-Boston 2011 

* Chicago summer dance-Chicago 2011

* The American Folk Festival-Maine in 2012 

* Harlem Meer Performance Festival-NY 2012 

* NYC south american Festival-NY 2014 

* Latino Arts-Milwaukee-Chicago 2015

* Montana Folk Festival-Montana2015

* Richmond Folk Festival-Virginia 2015  

* National Folk Festival, North Carolina 2016

* Lincoln Center "La Casita" - NY 2016 

* Montreux Jazz Festival- Switzerland 2016 

* Fania Live-Vienna 2016 

* Colombia Vive- Switzerland 2016

*Lincoln Center NY 2017

*Grand Army Plaza 2017 NY

*APAP 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018

*SXSW Austin Texas 2018 

*pre-selected for WOMEX 2016, 2017

*The Adams Country Heritage Festival, PA 2018

*Kennedy Center, Washington 2018

*Millennium Stage, Washington  2018 

*Mundial Montreal - Canada 2019

*Seoul Music Week - Korea 2020

*Cameroon Performing Arts - 2021

*Getty Museum - Los Angeles 2023

*Hudson River Park - NY 2023

Band Members