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By Michael Knoll, South Florida Folklife Center, HistoryMiami

Earlier this year, HistoryMiami’s South Florida Folklife Center launched its Heritage Spotlight series, an artist-in-residence program featuring Miami-area tradition bearers. Our very first resident artist is Cuban drummer and drum-maker Ezequiel Torres who has been featured in two recent programs, which have proven to be a successful beginning to our series.

In January, Ezequiel performed alongside several other talented artists at Discover Orisha Arts, an educational presentation highlighting various art forms related to the Afro-Cuban Orisha religion. Audience members learned about several orishas (deities) and experienced the music and dance associated with each. The crowd was so delighted that Ezequiel and the other artists felt compelled to perform an encore!

Ezequiel Torres (center) leads a batá ensemble as part of HistoryMiami’s Discover Orisha Arts program.

A couple of weeks later, Ezequiel participated in a Family Fun Day that showcased Afro-Cuban culture. This event offered participating families the chance to explore orisha dancing and percussion. They learned the basic steps of a few orisha dances and later tried their hand at playing batá drums and shekerés. At this latter presentation, Ezequiel also discussed how he crafts his drums by hand.

On March 25th, Ezequiel will offer his final HistoryMiami public program, a master class on Afro-Cuban batá drumming. This class is a rare chance to learn from a recognized master batá artist. Anybody who is interested in drumming is encouraged to participate. Space is limited, and advance reservations and payment are required.

More information about Ezequiel, his residency, and the master class can be found at http://www.historymiami.org/visit/south-florida-folklife-center/heritage-spotlight/ezequiel-torres/.

The series is funded in part by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the State of Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Florida Humanities Council. 

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