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Machete Kisumontao is a 7-piece Puerto Rican music band from Pittsburgh that blends Puerto Rican rhythms and Afro-beat music through drums, horns and electric guitars. They have performed around the city for the past nine years, energizing crowds in the Latin American Caribbean Festival; at benefits for schools in Bangladesh and Ghana; and at Go Tell It On the Mountain---a benefit for Climate Ground Zero. Machete’s unique sound has awed parents and children at the Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival, and other family friendly events around the city. They have performed at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh Opera House, Kelley Strayhorn Theater, Pittsburgh Winery, Sewickley Center for the Arts, Mr. Smalls Theater, Shadow Lounge, The Rex Theater, Club Café, Smiling Moose and other clubs around the city. They are a versatile group who can adapt to any venue, either stripping down their big band sound to focus on African roots style songs or bringing in the horns on salsa and dance-style songs.
The band formed in order to perform at the Latin American Cultural Union as part of their 20th anniversary celebrations in 2006. Geña (Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, vocalist, percussion) asked friends and music colleagues Vijay Bakrania (guitar, percussion), Dino Lopreiato (congas, percussion) and Ketan Bakrania (bass, percussion) from Pittsburgh's very own experimental progressive band, Chaibaba to collaborate on a musical experiment. All four musicians had been at different times performers of the African Drumming Ensemble from the University of Pittsburgh. They loved the product of their experiment, and so did the audience. It didn’t take long before they were asked to perform again, this time in an anti-war and immigration reform benefit event where they infused the crowd with a tidal wave of world unity and love.
In May 2007, they were joined by trombone & trumpet players Greg Sinn and Lars Cleath. Although the musical instruments played are not traditional, the search for the true rustic sound of Afro-Caribbean rhythms is found through experimentation, capturing the feelings of bomba, plena, criollo, nova-trova, and salsa--- music mostly rooted in African beats and Caribbean grooves. In late 2011 Lars Cleath decided to step down to focus on his family. The latest addition to Machete Kisumontao is Kristin Yahner on trumpet and Gloria Rodríguez Ransom on vocals and dance. Ocassionaly they bring special guests to the stage such as: Preach Freedom, Jay Ashby, José Alberto Morán, Miguel "Cha" Sagué, Hill Jordan, Joel Polacci and more…
Machete Kisumontao continues to perform and collaborate in schools and community events throughout the city of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.
Pete Matthews, writer of the New York City music blog, Feast of Music (www.feastofmusic.com), captured the essence of Machete’s sound and audience appeal:
“Guaracha got everyone up and dancing with a set that ranged from to salsa to Cuban son. They were followed by the astounding Machete: a seven-piece ensemble that blends Puerto Rican music with Afrobeat via horns, African drums and guitar. Tying it all together was the earth-mother like Geña: a sheer life force who sang and danced like a gypsy, occasionally conducting the scoreless ensemble. It was hypnotic, psychedelic - and impossible not to groove to. Clearly, this Geña was tapping into something well beyond our immediate understanding, which she attempts to describe on the band's website:
‘Machete is the sound of your soul, the root of your heart beat, the respect for our Great Foremother, the laugh of a child, the silent tear of a mother, the love of gods, the strength of un CICLÓN, the peace of the dead and alive like the ocean.’
Took the words right out of my mouth.”