Founded in 2004 by a collective of the Los Angeles area’s prominent salsa musicians, Rumbankete has earned a reputation as one of the West Coast’s most exciting and progressive Salsa orchestras. Known as “La Máquina del Sabor” for its explosive rhythm section, powerful trombones and energetic vocal delivery, this truly international ensemble consisting of musicians hailing from Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and the United States and who have performed with the likes of Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Diego El Cigala, Cachao and Gustavo Dudamel among many others is a take no prisoners music machine able to get any audience moving!
Gonzalo “Chalo” Chomat
A native of Havana, Cuba, Chalo began his musical career at the early age of 14 as a member of the traditional music group, Septeto Tradicional Lyessa, where he eventually became the lead singer. Gonzalo later performed with and joined the groups Banda Meteodoro and Orquesta Jóvenes del Feeling before becoming the lead singer in Conexión Salsera, a nationally renowned group formed by ex-members of José María Vitier’s group. With Conexión Salsera, Chalo toured Mexico before emigrating to the United States. Since settling in Los Angeles, Gonzalo has sung with Charanga Cubana (with whom he received a Latin Grammy nomination for his work on the group’s “Sigue La Añoranza”) and La Palabra. In addition to performing as a back-up vocalist for the likes of Fer (of Maná fame), he also led Chalo Y Su Aché, one of the Los Angeles area’s most esteemed Salsa and Timba groups. Chalo joined Rumbankete in 2009 and has been instrumental in shaping the group’s current sound and repertoire, contributing the to bulk of the group’s original compositions and arrangements.
Hailing from Sacti Spiritus, Cuba, Iris began her musical studies at the age of 8, studying piano at the Ernesto Lecuona Conservatory in her native city. At 14, she was admitted to Cuba’s Escuela Nacional de Arte (National School of the Arts) where she majored in Choral Direction. After graduating with the equivalent of a master’s degree, she was accepted as Professor of Choral Direction at the Manuel Saumel Music Conservatory in Cienfuegos. In 1993, Iris joined the vocal quartet Cactus, leaving after a year to join the well-known group Arte Mixto, with whom she received many awards including the Beny Moré Music Award (one of Cuba’s highest recognitioins) and toured extensively in Europe and the United States. In 1998, Ms. Cepeda emigrated to the United States. Since settling in Los Angeles, Iris has worked as a faculty member teaching voice in CSULA’s Afro-Latin Music Department and as Choral Director for L.A. Beat, providing music instruction to elementary schools in the Los Angeles area. She has been involved in many notable studio recording projects and artists, including Cuba L.A., Israel “Cachao” López and Andy García’s Cineson All-Stars among many others. Iris has also sung in many film soundtracks, including “Original Sin”, “The Cigar’s Song”, “The Lost City”, the TV show “Cane” and most recently Eugenio Derbez and Salma Hayek’s feature “How to Be a Latin Lover”. Since joining Rumbankete in 2009, Iris has contributed several of her compositions and has been instrumental in the evolution of the group’s current sound and repertoire.
Influenced by her music loving family, Gabriela sang in school choirs throughout grade school in her native Los Angeles. At 13, her mother took her to Cuba to study song and dance with the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba, fostering her love for Cuban culture, music and dance. Gabriela has since sung with many Afro-Cuban folkloric music and dance groups in the Los Angeles area, including Los Angelitos, Conjunto Oyé and Orquesta La Fiebre prior to joining Rumbankete in 2009.
A native of Sylmar, California, Matt founded Rumbankete in 2004 after graduating from the prestigious California Institute of the arts, where he received a bachelor degree in Jazz Piano. He is an active member of the Los Angeles area’s Latin and Caribbean-influenced music scene and has performed with the likes of Gilberto Santa Rosa and Oscar Hernández.
Hailing from a musical family and a native of Whittier, California, Lorenzo began his professional career as a teenager. He has performed with the likes of Francisco Aguabella, Adonis Puente and Orquesta Guamá and has had the privilege of performing in Nigeria, Morocco, Colombia and Indonesia. In addition to providing the musical backbone for Rumbankete, he is an integral part of many of the Los Angeles area’s Cuban and Caribbean music groups.
A native of Santa Ana, California, Rubén is a much sough-after drummer and timbalero in the Los Angeles area’s Latin music scene. Affectively known as “Cujo” for his rabid and take no prisoners style of play, he has performed with the likes of Chino Espinoza, Latin Sol, La Santa Cecilia, Adonis Puentes and Rumbankete.
James “Jim” Miller
A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Juilliard School graduate, Jim has been Associate Principal Trombonist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 1999. He has also performed with the North Carolina Symphony and the New York Philharmonic and has had his compositions performed in New York’s Lincoln Center. Him is on the faculty of the California Institute of the Arts and UCLA and has released a solo album titled “From Coast to Coast” on All Barks Dog records.
Pablo Méndez, Jr.
Hailing from San Salvador, El Salvador, Pablo began his musical studies at the tender age of 5. He has played with most of the Los Angeles area’s Latin music ensembles, including Orquesta Charangoa, Charanga Cubana, Orquesta Guamá and Rumbankete. Pablo has also shared the stage with the likes of Chayanne, Los Tri-O, Chuchito Valdés and Alfredo De La Fé and is an active educator with the Los Angeles Philharmonic sponsored Harmony Project. Since 2015 Pablo has spearheaded Armonía Cuscatleca, a non-profit organization based in Los Angeles dedicated to providing musical education to underprivileged children in Los Angeles and El Salvador.
Alberto López received his first music lessons as a child in a neighborhood music school in Medellín, Colombia. Upon his family’s move to the United States, he furthered his studies in piano and percussion at the New England Conservatory in Boston, MA and The Juilliard School in New York City, respectively. Residing in Los Angeles since 1999, Mr. López has performed, recorded, composed and/or produced music with artists such as Quetzal, Mstislav Rostropovich, Rubén Blades, Celia Cruz, Lee Ritenour, Stanley Clarke, LCD Soundsystem, The Brand New Heavies, The Dalai Lama, Juanes and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, among others. In November 2004, Alberto founded Belú Music, a music production house and independent label, with the aim of developing and sharing the musical vision of artists around the world. Additionally, he is a co-founder and partner of Artivist Entertainment, an independent entertainment company founded in conjunction with Aloe Blacc, Maya Jupiter, Quetzal Flores and Veronica Gonzalez dedicated to representing artists whose art and music inspire positive social change.
Diego “El Negro” Alvarez
The son of famed Venezuelan singer Morella Muñoz, Diego’s life has been steeped in music since his first days in his native Caracas. After studying in the famed Movimiento de Orquestas Sinfónicas Juveniles de Venezuela and Talleres de Cultura Popular de la Fundación Bigott, Diego moved to Madrid, Spain, to study flamenco cajón and eventually performed and collaborated with all the major exponents of the genre, including Joaquín Cortés, Antonio and Manuel Canales, Paco de Lucía and Diego El Cigala among many others. He has also shared the stage with likes of Jerry Gonzalez, Alain Perez, Caramelo and the Caribbean Jazz Quartet to name a few. Diego has also received many awards, including several Latin Grammy nominations, for his work as producer with the likes of Guaco and La Vida Bohéme.