If you ask any Colombian, living outside the U.S., if they love Vallenato, most chances are that they would proudly say "Yes!"
But if you ask their American-born counterparts the same question, the answer may vary...
Esencia Vallenata was born here in Queens, New York as a response to this same question of whether vallenato is important in our lives,
and even broader, what exactly does it mean to be Colombian in the United States. For some of us, the essence of being Colombian could
be found in the seeing the artwork of Francisco Botero, reading the literature of Gabrial Garcia Marquez, or just eating an "arepa con chocolate!"
But for many, we found our sabor Colombiano dancing to our multicultural music: cumbia, vallenato, mapalé, currulao, and even salsa. And so began Esencia Vallenata with the sole purpose of bringing our Colombian flavor to our friends and neighbors both Latin and non-Latin, so that instead of thinking of shotguns, cartels, and bombs, the world would instead visualize an accordion, guacharaca, and caja when someone yells
"QUE VIVA COLOMBIA!!".
Esencia Vallenata began in late 1996 with
Sadys Rodrigo Espitia (accordion,guacharaca, vocals),
Paul Vladimir Franco (accordion, guacharaca, guache, vocals),
Abel J. Guerrero (caja) and
John Carlos Osorio (caja).
In 1997, Anthony Feria (tambora, guache) and Vlademir Vallejo (caja) joined.
In 1999, Vicente Noriega joined as percussionist (caja, tambora, guache).
Since then the group has changed, and now Esencia is proud to have as its members:
Sadys Rodrigo Espitia, Director (accordion, vocals, guacharaca)
Robert M. Quintero (composer,lead vocals, guitar)
Cristian Tello (guacharaca)
Giovanni Perez (bass guitar)
Vladimir Vallejo (caja, timbales)
Fernando Martinez (vocals, percussion)
Juan Alfredo Maya (lead percussion)
And true to the essence of Colombian culture, Esencia's members are from all over Colombia. From Cartagena to Cali, Palmira to Bogota, and of course Barranquilla, all of us are proud to represent our distinctive cities, but also weary of our common heritage.
Esencia has performed for various non-profit organizations and groups including:
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary R.C. Church Concert (1998)
Immaculate Conception R.C. Church 100th Anniversary (1998)
Queens Council of the Arts Percussion Festival (1999)
Since January 2001, Esencia began its association with the renowed dance group, El Ballet Folklorico Colombiano de Nueva York 'Estampas Negras', directed by Enrique Alvarado. As the official musical ensemble of this prestigious cultural institution Esencia has performed along with Estampas :
St. Joan of Arc R. C. Church (March 2001)
Queens Theater in the Park Colombian Event (June 2001)
Hispanic Parade Committee Event (June 2001)
Corazon A Corazon Fundraising Event (June 2001)
Colombian Independence Day Festival @ Englewood, New Jersey (July 2001)
Telemundo 47/ Centro Civico Colombiano Community Forum (July 2001)
1st Annual Colombian Parade (July 2001)
Hong Kong Dragon Boat Races @Flushing Meadow Park (August 2001)
Aside from these community events, Esencia also organizes its own events at various clubs and establishments in Queens, including:
La Tienda de Mario Tierra