The passion and energy embedded in AYo’s lyrical content and performance presence commands attention and has captivated the eyes and ears of both the hip-hop and spoken-word poetry communities. He recently opened for Talib Kweli at the J.Dilla tribute held at Webster Hall. He has served on a panel with the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Byron Hurt, interviewed Russell Simmons for MTV and went on a successful European tour last year. AYo also recently graced the legendary Apollo theater stage, has performed/headlined at foremost world venues such as: BAM, Webster Hall, SOBS, The Shrine, Hamburg Molotow and numerous University campuses (Stanford, University of Michigan, NYU and more). His latest international performance at the WIGFEST Music Festival in the UK was very well received.

Jeff Rife

JeSánte is living her dreams. The young New Yorker has dedicated her life to singing and continues to wow audiences all over the world.

JeSánte’s mother (also a singer) realized her daughter’s gift at an early age and had her take vocal training before she could ride a bike. Though she stopped her vocal studies during high school, she restarted them during college and knew she had the spark.

JeSánte recently released her debut album titled Jessi Colasante, a collection of songs that highlight her incredible vocal range and musical diversity. She and her band run the gamut from Latin beats to funky soul to slow jazz to Afro-Cuban downtempo to everything in between.

Though the songs vary in style, they are similar in theme. “My lyrics mirror my life,” she explains. “I want people to know that there are many struggles when moving toward your dream, it is not easy, but the fight is worth it when you get there!”

Currently, she regularly tours and performs with a 10-piece ensemble featuring some of New York’s finest musicians. “They all are seasoned musicians,” she says, “having played with such artist as Fat Boy Slim, Gloria Estefan, Roy Ayers and Brand New Heavies, just to name a few.” They perform regularly in New York, Las Vegas and Ibiza and South America. She also frequently collaborates with various DJ’s from New York and Europe.

Lo Primo

Toro Cruz grew up in the Dominican Republic, from humble beginnings: a mother and father who are fighters, a long line of musical family members. Cruz is the son of a preacher, who sang in a gospel doo-wop band, and who used to deliver bibles around the country to sustain his family. Even though he was from time to time absent, one of the prized possessions his father would leave behind while on his trips was a crappy 2-track tape machine. That’s when Toro started experimenting with recording, which, at the age of nine, brought on a series of whoopings from his mother. Cruz’s mother also sang, but was ill for much of his youth. Cruz found comfort arranging cans, filling them up with sand to create different pitches, and playing them with guava sticks he whittled. Always infatuated with American music, Cruz’ first recording was a remix of Thriller with the tin cans and himself singing. (What we would give to get our hands on that tape )

He finally acquired his first drum set as a teenager. It was a hand-me-down, borrowed from a kid from church who wasn’t using it and apparently never needed it back. Cruz played drums in the house, which tormented his parents. But until that point, it was the only thing he’d been truly good at and interested in. Call it a calling.

By the time Cruz was 19, he’d moved 14+ times. The family was always looking for cheap apartments, trying to survive in an unstable economy. It was a nomadic existence that allowed him to come in contact with many different sub-cultures in the Dominican Republic in the 80’s and 90’s. From hanging out with white, high society Dominicans to being in love with a Haitian girl in a batey, to break-dancing and graffiti tagging with the Dominican-Yorks, who brought the latest trends from NYC, Cruz was there. From these disparate experiences, he began to chase the idea that these varied types of music and subcultures could exist (be expressed) at one time, in one place.

After graduating, but failing in high school, his father pulled some strings and Cruz was accepted to a good University in Santiago, under the condition that he would become a great student. With no foundation or basic skills, he began to study advanced computer programming, which was widely viewed as “the future.” Very quickly, he figured out he could make sounds with the keys of the old Atari computers, This got him kicked out of the school…

Cruz did not tell his father, and instead, used the tuition money to study at Chavon Artes, a serious art school with a very underdeveloped, but exciting drum music program. It consisted of a mix of modern and folkloric drum classes, where Cruz learned anything from the most advanced Pambiche rhythm, to the history of the Dominican drum. This was intricate, wild stuff, even by Dominican standards. The Chavon experience was formative for Toro, which can be seen in the Alcahuete (high-pitched drum) y Roncador (low-tone drum) that became an integral part of his kick and snare combo to this day.

Hanging around Chavon Toro met his mentor, acclaimed Dominican drummer Arnaldo Acosta, who was also from Santiago. Arnaldo was the drummer for Luis Diaz, Silvio Rodriguez, Sonia Silvestre, and Xiomara Fortuna among others. Cruz followed Acosta religiously, learning everything he could, drinking a lot of rum, and surviving on very little. If he got lucky, at one of the concerts, Acosta would throw him a pair of sticks, which would allow him to play drums for another few months without having to buy sticks. Naively, he did not know how big these acts were—how there was always a line of people waiting to get back stage each night, where he was hanging with these heavyweights.

Cruz was an unabashedly opinionated teenager, which the greats used to find amusing. “One night backstage with Luiz Diaz and Silvio,” Cruz recalls, “I told them all with complete confidence that Silvio should use a guitar like the one from Eddie Van Halen, because it would sound better.” Silvio responded, “Who’s Van Halen?” after which Cruz was convinced that Silvio Rodriguez didn’t know his music!” (lol, shaking our heads…)

Chasing Sound

Cruz came here to the United States when the Dominican economy reached an all time low, and the family literally found themselves scraping for food. His mother needed medical attention, which was becoming impossible to get on the island. Cruz father decided to take a job in the U.S. as a pastor. Cruz moved to the states, with visions that there would be $20 bills lying in the streets. Very quickly, though, he found himself in another ghetto. The only difference was that now, instead of the cans and sticks, and hand-me-down crappy drums…this time around he worked in a factory really hard (adjusting to the ‘American work ethic’ and long hours) and bought an okay, real drum-set. With this, he began to chase the idea of uniting the sounds he’d heard growing up.

Toro started experimenting with all the bands he could find, often finding the same common denominator in each. He would play in a rock band, and that would be great. He would play in a Bachata band in church, and that would be really smooth and great. But fusing the styles together that he gathered throughout his upbringing proved complicated. Most of the bands that could mix styles effectively were already on the road, achieving major success. But most musicians had a tendency to over-play when fusing the musical forms instead of carefully selecting certain elements from each one to create a balanced sound. According to Cruz, careful alchemy of diverse musical elements was “nothing new, but more like an art form lost after the 70’s.” Groups from the early 60’s to late 70’s from Led Zeppelin to Los Angeles Negros did indeed experiment with balancing various sounds from around the world.

Hip hop was inevitable for Cruz. Hip-hop was one of the few American styles that fused everything from Polka to Classical to Motown. He found refuge in Hip-hop for a while, making easy connections between Hip hop, Bachata and other styles. While chasing sound, Toro played drums with creative acts such as Tigerface, Faith, Pacha Massive, Muthawit Orchestra, Guateke Roots Ensemble, and the More Fire Crew.

The sounds that influenced Cruz to create Lo Primo were RZA, the drumming of Queslove and James Gadson, Dominican 60’s and 70’s classic combos, such as Los Hijos del Rey, as well as early Puerto Rican combos’ from El Barrio like the Lateens and Joey Batan.

He started experimenting with the same formulas that RZA used to create hip hop on the MPC: raw sounds, but instead of sampling vinyl, he sampled from his own instruments, collaborating at time with his brother Vertygo, guitarist, Ben Tyree and violinist, Ariel Esther. During that time, Cruz recorded Lo Primo’s first three tunes with Dominican-American vocalist, Aquiles.

Finding great and versatile players who can groove with simplicity was no easy task, and assembling the combo that could produce this sound live proved daunting. It took approximately two years to bring the right players together to create Lo Primo’s live sound.

Tessa Makes Love

Avant-garde artist, Tessa Lena—aka the creative force behind Tessa Makes Love— is a multi-faceted visionary who tests the boundaries of the human condition through her music and character. Tessa offers a world of art, thought, music and sexuality that will challenge your perspective and viewpoint. Like Morpheus offering Neo the choice between the red and blue pill in The Matrix, you’re going to have to make a decision when listening to the front-woman’s music: convention or liberation? However, if you’re willing to go down the rabbit hole with Tessa, you’re not going to be sorry.

Born and raised in Moscow, the traditionally trained classical pianist’s story reads like a twisted soap opera of self-discovery and narrowly escaped disasters. After being kidnapped by sex-traffickers in China, Tessa made a clean getaway and began a fresh start in the US by starting a band dubbed Schizowave in Chicago, working with Ian McDonald of King Crimson and Foreigner and drummer Alan Lake, who has played and recorded with Madonna, Brian Ferry, Julian Lennon, Ministry, Brian Wilson and Sam Moore from Sam And Dave.

Accused of espionage in Chicago during the Bush administration, Tessa spent a month behind bars in Wisconsin, and fought the charges with eventual success. Following her stint in jail and a series of raucous relationships, Tessa moved to New York in 2008 and met an operatic teacher with whom she trained over the course of 3 years. Experiencing little progress over the first 2 ½ years, she became frustrated until achieving a breakthrough that continues to produce increasing vocal advancements.

In 2012 the Femme Fatale started a new band, Tessa Makes Love, along with David Cornejo and regular collaborations by Ian McDonald. On Stage, Tessa performs in flamboyant outfits and wigs along with her unrestrained presence.



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