One participant was Grupo Rebolú, an Afro-Colombian musical ensemble based in Queens.
The group formed roughly 15 years ago with founders Ronald Polo and Moris Canate, who were friends since they were young. According to Johanna Castaneda, the group’s vocalist who joined later on, they wanted to form a band to represent their roots.
“Our main goal was always to educate and show people that this music exists,” she said. “People know Colombia, but sometimes they don’t know the good things about Colombia. Music is such a good way to show what we have.”
Castaneda has been managing the band, promoting shows and putting together materials. They’ve traveled all around the world, booking gigs and performing at folk festivals.
Grupo Rebolú maintains Colombian rhythms using traditional instruments, like hand drums, gaita and tambora, but is also influenced by jazz, pop and funk, Castaneda said. She described their music as happy and positive.
“Our culture and our roots are something we’ll never forget,” she said.
Polo and Castaneda, who are married and have two children, along with a son from Polo’s previous marriage, have been making music at home during the pandemic. They started doing live shows, which she said turned out “amazing.”
They’re also working on a new album that will be out next year. Castaneda said the recordings include their talented children too.
“Stay tuned for this great music we’re working on,” she said.
Their family has lived in Queens for the last 10 years. She said the borough means a lot to her and many Latin Americans.
“You find our small communities in Queens,” she added. ”It makes us feel like we’re back home.”