Ekobios: A Salsa Orchestra in Gainesville

This 11-piece salsa band was composed mostly by students from diverse backgrounds who came together in the unique environment that is Gainesville, Fla.

Conga player Johnny Frías was born in the U.S., but his parents are from Cuba. He was an ethnomusicology graduate student at the University of Florida, where he led an Afro-Cuban ensemble, Fundamento RumberoFundamento played several times at the University Auditorium, at the Bo Diddley plaza, and for other events.

The ensemble played rumba, a type of music with influences from African music and drumming. Frías sings and plays the congas, the bongos, and basically any type of percussion instrument.

Here is one of the Ekobios’s performances at The Atlantic. This particular song, Cuánto Daría, is a mix of salsa and Middle Eastern melodies, composed by Sebastián López.

One of the singers, Ana Haydée Linares, and two of the percussionists, Ernesto Alonso and Roberto Glaser, also come from Cuba.

Linares graduated in May with a visual art studies major and art history minor. At 21, she speaks English, Spanish, some Italian and Portuguese. She was born and raised in Miami, and later on she studied in Florence, Italy, and worked in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Her family’s history involves a “strong and brave ancestor … who smuggled weapons underneath her hoopskirt during the struggle for Cuban independence from Spain,” the story of Rita Vargas, her great-great grandmother who was an indigenous Cuban indian from the Siboney tribe, and the story of her grandfather, “who was arrested on the day [her] mother was born. She spent the first three years of her life not knowing who her father was because he was incarcerated for taking part in anti-communist riots in Cuba.”

Here is a link to her collages, which feature very interesting work exploring her family’s past and her own heritage. A series of these collages was published in The Anole, UF‘s only multilingual magazine, which I co-edited.

Ernesto Alonso is pursuing an architecture masters at UF. He moved to the U.S. from Cuba when he was 13 years old, and he still has strong memories of having to sing by heart Communist hymns at school praising the Revolution.

The bass player, Sebastián de la Calle, comes from Argentina, and the lead singer, Sebastián López, comes from Colombia. This video explains more about his Colombian background and his experience with music, singing and playing in another very successful Gainesville band, Umoja Orchestra.

The other members, Evan Hagerty in the piano, Ekendra Das in the drums, David Goffredo in the saxophone, Zach Tetrault in the trumpet and Micah Shalom in the trumpet and trombone, are American.

Sadly, this very talented group disbanded after many graduated and left Gainesville. While their new CD comes out, you can still catch some of their videos on YouTube. I will be uploading some new ones soon as well.