It’s silly really not to acknowledge that some of the finest young artists of this generation – no matter where they come from – live right here in Canada. Ruben Beny Esguerra is certainly one of them. The Colombian-born “writer of rhymes” (as the lyricists of this generation like to be known), is an educator, musician, player of the “kuisi”, the Colombian edition of the Spanish “gaita” and – to my mind, most importantly – an activist who lives and works in the environs of the Jane and Finch area of Greater Toronto, a region inhabited by people as resilient as he is. This recording A New Tradition Vol. 2 – Return of the Kuisi featuring the second part of something he started in 2012 with his now-familiar “kuisi” consolidates his position as an activist/musician with an intelligent, informed but deep love for music and humanity. This love can be felt throughout this performance too; in the sometimes sumptuous but textured, almost orchestral sound (beautifully recorded), in attentive phrasing and in the power of the climaxes to the music that adorns this album.
Individual moments are superb and memorable. The ominous reading of the headlines in “Post-Apocalyptic New Flash”, the passionate pilgrimage on “Community Work” and the magnificently coherent, nobly expressive and beautifully-toned, an above all refreshingly expressive performance as Beny Esguerra points in the direction of his idols, in “Condor and Eagle” all serve to give notice that this is an artist of immense talent and a human being of deep conviction. Return of the Kuisi may be a short work, a little over half an hour in length. It is, however, an intense experience in which its pressure-cooker environment blasts open every once and a while not simply to let off steam but to also draw the listener in to its more tender side, as in “Mama”, for instance, as well as in “La Vida” and “Esguerra”.
But what is special is the care that Beny Esguerra and the brilliant and ubiquitous Luis Orbegoso (who produces and plays) bring to their roles as performers and keeps of the keys to this complex and enigmatic music. Each of them adds something of the rhythmic muscle and drive, respectively, to the music. Their crisp, sharply focused, viscerally exciting performances are at all times breathtakingly thrilling in a refreshingly un-egoistic kind of way. Together with the other performers – especially the large group of vocalists who support Beny Esguerra throughout, these musicians help sustain the energetic rhythm and momentum of this (also) highly-entertaining, highly recommendable collection of music.
Track List: 1: Post-Apocalyptic News Flash; Record Begins; 3: Stories Will Be Told; 4: Return of the Kuisi; 5: Bounce Right Back; 6: Mama; 7: Community Work; 8: La Vida; 9: Esguerra; 10: Let The Games Begin; 11: Condor And Eagle; 12: Vamos; 13: Record Ends.
Personnel: Ruben ‘Beny’ Esguerra: writer, lead vocals, percussion, violin, sequence, kuisi bunsi and kuisi sigui; Luis Orbegoso: producer, arranger, backing vocals, percussion, trombones, sequence; Juan ‘Siez Swift’ Esguerra: turntables; Jorge Cantor: percussion; Adam Solomon: electric guitar; Josh Cohen: electric bass; Ernesto Espinosa: violins; Special Guests: Rosary Spence: vocals; Leang Manjarres Wong: kuisi bunsi; Mikeila Esguerra-Carranza, Alexa Esguerra-Carranza, Aaliyah Esguerra-Carranza, Steven Rafael Gomez Salguero, Martin Orlando, Nathan Baya, Natalie Scantlebury, The Real Sun, Luz Sandoval, Millie Carranza, Cecily Jacko, Ivy Cuervo, Wandiay Amaru (vocals in Kichwa), Lena Recollect (vocals in Anishinaabemowin) and Fabian Esguerra: background vocals.