A world-music superstar comes to Tallahassee this week. Tom Flanigan reports he’ll give three performances in the Capital City….
If you’ve never heard of Ezequiel Torres, that’s probably because you’re not familiar with Afro-Cuban drumming. Blaine Wade with the Florida Department of State says that Torres became acquainted with that tradition early on in his Cuban homeland.
"He had a musical background. Music and art performance is part of his family heritage. He experienced his first Santeria or Orisha ceremony and was immediately drawn to the tradition. He began hanging around the masters in Havana and the way it was at that time was you had to prove your interest through your persistence."
Wade says Torres not only had the persistence; he also had the raw talent and fierce desire to succeed.
"Within five months I believe he had mastered the three drums that comprise the Bata tradition. He went on to make his own drums and just really had a natural aptitude and skill level for the tradition and passion for it."
Torres came to South Florida during the Mariel boatlift and soon became a Bata music legend. He won a Florida Folk Heritage Award four years ago and Wade says national honors were not long in coming.
"He was recognized with a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and that's the federal government's highest honor for folk and traditional artists, so he's really a living treasure in the state who learned at the feet of masters in Cuba and is now maintaining a tradition that's becoming part of Florida's traditional cultural heritage."
Now Torres is bringing his art to Tallahassee.
"On Thursday, September 6 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., it'll be in the Mission Room at Mission San Luis. It'll be a performance from Ezequiel as well as three other drummers, a dancer and a singer. In between each performance, each piece they play, there's going to be some discussion and question and answer facilitated by myself as director of the Folklife Program."
Wade says some very lucky young people will be in for a unique treat this coming Friday.
"There's a teacher over at Ruediger Elementary named Daniel Ring who for several years now has been using different cultural drumming traditions to teach math skills to his students. They've worked with steel drums, which come out of the Caribbean or they've worked with other West Africa traditions, such as Djembe."
Torres will play for that Rudiger class and conduct an Afro-Cuban workshop for the students. Later in the day, Wade says Torres will work with a somewhat older group.
"He's going to be giving a graduate student drumming workshop to the graduated student drumming ensemble over at (FSU's) Kursteiner Music Building from 2:30 to 4:30. Participation is just for the graduate students. This is part of their curriculum and one of their master classes, but people are welcome to come and observe and soak in what they can by just being there."
The quarters at the F-S-U music room may be a bit cramped. So the best place to catch Ezequiel Torres, his ensemble and his world class artistry is this Thursday evening starting at seven at Tallahassee’s Mission San Luis.