About Ezequiel Torres
Ezequiel Torres was born in Havana, Cuba and arrived in Miami
in 1980 as part of the Mariel boatlift. He learned the complex
tradition of batá drumming and Orisha chanting from
the legendary Griots of these Afro-Cuban cultural traditions.
As an Oba Añá
/ Olubatá, Ezequiel
uses the batá
drums to call forth 22 Orishas (deities) through a series
of particular rhythms.
When his talent for drum-making was
discovered, he continued his apprenticeship with the master
drum-makers of Havana, who taught
him how to make every kind of
Afro-Cuban traditional percussion instrument including batás,
congas, shekeres, cajones drums as well as the beautiful beaded
tapestries that cover the batá.
He also learned the importance these creations carried within
the tradition and the respect and care with which they must
at his home in Miami, 2013
He is now recognized as one of the top
batá drummers, drum carvers and beaders in the United
States. Read about Ezequiel in the Miami New Times'
1997 article, "The
Beat Generator: Ezequiel Torres's Hand-Crafted Bata Drums
Reflect Both an Art and a Calling." His batá drums and checkeres have been on exhibit at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, and one of his bantes (the beaded tapestry that covers the drum) was on exhibit in the National Bead Museum in Washington, DC.
Torres with his NEA Heritage Fellowship Award in the Library of Congress, 2010.
In 2008, Ezequiel received the prestigious
Florida Folk Heritage Award from the Florida State Department. He has also been the recipient of Individual Artist
Fellowships, and regularly performs and demonstrates his drum-making
skills at festivals including the Smithsonian's Folklife
Festival, the largest cultural event in the U.S. capital.
In 2010 Ezequiel received the National Endowment of the Arts
Heritage Fellowship Award and performed at the award ceremony in
Ezequiel is sought as the
music leader and performer at traditional and religious celebrations
and events throughout the world, such as Spain, Mexico, NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles and Puerto Rico. He regularly plays in Miami, Fl, where he lives.
From 1995 to 2001, he was
the Music Director of IFE-ILE
Afro-Cuban Dance & Music, founded and directed
by his sister Neri Torres. He teaches and performs
at the annual IFE-ILE Afro-Cuban Dance Festival in Miami and
Colorado. In Cuba, Ezequiel worked for many years
as accompanying percussionist in Havana's Escuela Nacional
de Instructores de Arte.
Ezequiel was featured in the 1995 film
"The Perez Family," which starred Marisa Tomei,
Alfred Molia and Anjelica Huston and also featured the late
Celia Cruz. He has also been featured on a number of movie
soundtracks. Ezequiel was one of the outstanding Miami percussionists
featured in the album "Caribbean Percussion Traditions
in Miami," which was released in 1997 by the Historical
Museum of Southern Florida. Other recordings featuring Ezequiel
include the album "Mestizo" by guitarist/composer
Rene Toleda and released in 1993.
Ezequiel also shares his traditions as a
festival curator, mentor and teacher. In 2009, he was an consultant for the Historical Museum of Southern Florida's Black Crossroads: The African Diaspora in Miami exhibit. He was a curator, consultant
and exhibitor for the Historical Museum of Southern Florida's
the Crossroads, Afro-Cuban Orisha Arts (2001) and
Percussion Traditions in Miami (1998) (see the exhibit's
in the Miami New Times), where his drums and beadwork
were on display.
Like other Orisha percussionists,
Ezequiel occasionally plays in nightclub shows, museum programs
or similar settings. When he performs in secular contexts,
he hopes to give audiences a new perspective on a religion
that is often misunderstood.
in the U.S.
Orisha worship is the
traditional religion of the Yoruba people of West Africa.
Yorubas brought their religion to Cuba, and it has since spread
to Miami and other cities in the U.S.
Percussion is a crucial
component of the religion, in that it is the vehicle through
which devotees communicate with the Orishas (deities).
For the most important
religious ceremonies, an ensemble of three double-headed batá
drums is employed and frequently augmented by the cheré
(a small gourd rattle). Batá
that are ritually consecrated are particularly pleasing to
In ceremonies where
there is a less rigorous protocol, other instruments can be
used, such as shekerés (large gourd rattles that are
strung with beads or seeds), conga drums and a guataca (a
hoe blade or cowbell played with a striker).
generally accompanies singing in which deities are praised
and invited to descend upon their devotees.