The name Buyepongo means “to cause a ruckus” –which certainly describes the scene on the dance floors of Los Angeles whenever the band launches into its dizzyingly energetic, instantly infectious rhythms. But it also describes Buyepongo’s riotous mash-up of influences, which absorbs hip-hop, punk, funk, and jazz sounds into a delirious tropical blend of styles from across the Latin American diaspora. Like its name, the band is part hybrid, part invention, something untranslatable that nevertheless perfectly captures its uniquely vibrant spirit.On their debut album, Todo Mundo, due out January 29.
Buyepongo takes their Pan-Latin sound worldwide with a vivid collection of original music that is as hard to pin down as it is to resist.“Our music is going to get you moving and thinking,” says singer and percussionist Edgar “Meshlee” Modesto. “It’ll break you out of your comfort zone and connect you with other folks and cultures. If you come to dance and have a good time you’re going to get that, but if you come to hear great music with a lot of heart and technique, you’re going to get that too. It’s a very unique style.”
The members of Buyepongo started playing together as friends in high school, at the time reflecting their early punk rock and hip-hop influences. But after the band’s original incarnation split apart in 2010, Modesto and a few friends embarked on a life-altering backpacking trip through Belize and Guatemala which exposed them to the Afro-Caribbean sounds of the region’s Garifuna culture. “That trip to Central America was really an eye-opener,” Modesto recalls. “I realized that we could do a lot just by changing rhythms and adding our funk and flavor from growing up in L.A. Since then our mission has been to keep improving our sound and creating a new style of music.”The core members of Buyepongo came together shortly after Modesto’s return: multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jorge “Yuka” Vallejo, bassist Randy Modesto(Edgar’s younger brother), and saxophonist Angel Hernandez. The membership of the band, which Vallejo says might be more accurately called a “tribe,” is fluid; on Todo Mundo, the line-up is completed by keyboardist Kris Castro and percussionist Larry Harvey.
Since then, Buyepongo has shared the stage with acts such as Quantic, Ondatropica, Ozomatli, Booker T, Celso Piña, Os Mutantes, Sister Nancy, Dead Prez, Cut Chemist, Beatnuts, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Antibalas,and Punta Cartel to name a few. They’ve performed on countless stages, including Grand Park, Levitt Pavillion’s Summer Music Series, Hollywood Forever's Dia De Los Muertos, The Los Angeles Music Center's Los Angeles County Holiday Concert, the Skirball Cultural Center's Family Amphitheater Performances, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Edgar "Meshlee" Modesto - Vocals and Guacharaca
- Edgar Modesto is a founding member of Buyepongo. He is the lead vocalist and plays Conga and Guacharaca (wah-cha-ra-ca). He is a drummer/percussionist by heart and an Emcee by soul. Edgar has been a musician since the age of 10. He started playing violin for Sutter Elementary string ensemble. He also showed interest in theater arts starring in many school plays. He was raised in Long Beach, CA for the first part of his life. There he got exposed to the G Funk era explosion stemming out of Long Beach. He fell in love with Hip Hop. He started recording beats, sounds with his talk boy. Along side his younger brothers Randy (Buyepongo Bassist) and Javier, they would freestyle and make mix tapes. “Hip Hop has always been my foundation,” says Edgar. “Dre, Snoop, Warren G and Biggie! That’s all I would bump”
His love for Hip Hop and music continued to grow, and so did his interest in theater. In High School, He starred in plays such as Rumors, by Neil Simon and was part of a traveling improve team that would tour local High Schools and performed an Improv show to students. He formed his first band in 1999 along side Roberto Navarro, fusing Hip Hop, Jazz, Funk and Pre-Colombian music. Rebellious Roots was the beginning of his passion for writing music. Taking into the likings of artist such as Gil Scott Heron and the Midnight Band and James Brown he started to dig deeper and search the roots of the music he loved.
Modesto has traveled thru out the U.S with many bands and collectives as an emcee and poet. He was part of Fortified Tribes, a native indigenous hip-hop collective that would promote hip-hop in Native American Reservations. He is current member of Merkado Negro art Collective that promotes art, music and independent business. Creating “pop-up” art shows in communities that is lacking in art and music resources. Merkado Negro Collective is the creator of “Caminarte” in the East Los Angeles area of Boyle Heights. Working with the local Farmers Market, local musicians and artist vendors to create a space where the community can Meet, Dance, eat, shop and support local economy. Edgar Modesto is the host of Merkado Negro Radio on www.radiosombra.org. An Internet radio collective that promotes community, art, music and politics.
In 2010 Edgar, Backpacked thru out South Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Seeking to discover and understand traditional indigenous/African music. He experienced the Garifuna culture, which is a mix of African, Caribe and Arawak people. Falling in love with its rhythmic and pulsating drums and its melodic vocals. Edgar returned to the U.S to the mission re-invent Buyepongo. Not only to play Cumbia but a wide variety of Afro-Caribbean folk music. He continues to incorporate his roots in Hip-hop, Funk and Jazz, and merge them with Afro-Caribbean music. He continues to be one of L.A’s most charismatic and vocal percussionists. He has been guest percussionist for many groups and artist. His latest adventure was with Quantic of the UK. Coming together for one of the best shows of 2012. He is currently recording with Buyepongo to release their first full-length album.
Randy Modesto - Bass
Randy Galvan Modesto, born May 15th 1985 in Long beach, California to Mexico natives Lorenzo and Lorena Modesto. He is the Bass player for Los Angeles polyrhythmic band Buyepongo. His love for music started after seeing the motion picture La Bamba the at the age of 5.. As child along side his brothers Edgar Modesto (lead singer of Buyepongo) and Javier Modesto, They would prentend of being in a band, and rocking out in front of people was a game that was often played. A memory that takes him back to when it all started.
Growing up money was tight and so owing an instrument was not an option, so at the age of 16 Randy saved his lunch money and bought a beat up guitar from his cousin and named her “La Vieja” (the old one). For the next few years Modesto would explore music, desiring to learn all types of music and styles. From Punk to Rock, Funk to Reggae, hip hop to R&B. In high school he started his first band with his Brother Edgar and Jorge Vallejo (lead singers of Buyepongo) called Propaganda. Punk was a big influence for Randy during high school, Minor Threat, Rage against the machine, pennywise, the offspring and dead Kennedy’s where some Modesto influences. At the age of 19 he joined his second band Strike Back where he picked up The Bass or what he believes “the bass choose me” and since then has never put it down. His musical career kicked off when he joined Buyepongo in 2007. At the time Modesto was band less and was eager to play with any band. Bardo Martinez invited Modesto to join the band due to a lack of a bass player, with very little influence of traditional cumbia music Modesto was taken in by the powerful rhythms of the drum and bass. Therefore a Music diet had to be undertaken, for the next few years cumbia, charanga and vallenato music was all that was heard by Modesto ears. Listening and dissecting every note that the bass was playing. Modesto depended on the music to teach himself.
Buyepongo grew local fame they where honored to share the stage with Alika an Argentinean dancehall and hip hop artist, Bajofondo a Neo-Tango band form Argentina and Brazils psychedelic legends Os Mutantes. In 2010 Buyepongo went through a major change when lead singer Bardo Martinez left the band to focus on other projects. Modesto questioned him self about continuing with Buyepongo. Along with Edgar Modesto and Roberto Navarro, Randy reconstructed Buyepongo making it what it is today. Emphasizing not just in Cumbia, but a diverse diaspora of tropical rhythms like Punta, Merenge, Salsa and polyrhythmic music. His ability to learn fast and his aggressiveness has made him a key element to Buyepongo’s recipe. His distinctive playing has made him a gem in this genre. He believes learning the origins and keeping its tradition of any music is paying respect to its roots. Implementing it to his style will create and push forward this style for the next generations to come.
Jorge "Yuka" Valleo - Vocals, Accordion, Clarinet and Guitar
Jorge "Yuka" Vallejo is the guitar, accordion and clarinet player for the Los Angeles based band Buyepongo. Jorge was integrated to the band in early 2010. Starting out playing only clarinet, the group required Jorge to pick up the right instruments to compliment the ever evolving and ground breaking sounds of Buyepongo, being so he put an accordion on his chest and plugged in his rhythmic guitar.
Apart from playing multiple instruments Jorge also writes and sings his original compositions in the group such as "Por tu Amor", "Pegao" and "Ay que Ritmo" all of which are played on heavy "Tumbao" rhythms. With influences from Africa, Mexico, Central and South America sounds Jorge continues to create world music with an urban flavor and variety you could only find in LA.
Jorge was born in Puerto Vallarta MX but resides in the city of Norwalk CA where he has been living for 25 years. He has worked with the youth in his community recording demos for local neighborhood bands, organizing small music festivals at local parks and volunteered teaching music to students that lack the means to pay for lessons. In the summer Jorge organizes potlucks and dance socials in his neighborhood to encourage the people to know their neighbors and build a united community.
Through out his musical career Jorge has played at various art, cultural, political and fund raising events such as Relief for Haiti, Caminarte Boyle Heights, LA Art Walk and Earth Day LA. Jorge has also played in some of LA's top music venues such as The Roxy, Levitt Pavilion (Macarthur Park) Nokia club and Grand Park in downtown. Jorge "Yuka" Vallejo is currently working on improving and sharpening his skills by working with different musicians, genres, sounds and ideas that will continue to raise the bar for LA's live music scene and the world stage.
Angel Hernandez - Saxophone, Clarinet and Flute
ANGEL HERNANDEZ was born on December 9 1982 in Whittier, California, grew up in El Monte as a first generation kid with parents from mexico . Started off in the early 90’s by going to punk rock gigs, skate boarding and break dancing in the S.G.V . The guitar and bass where his first instruments. Inspired by experimental psychedelic rock and jazz music he started jamming out in the 8th grade forming a band called Cerebral Visionaries with friends, Kris Castro and Chad Morgan, performing in the late 90s at the Whiskey A Go Go. By 1998 Angel joined a crust/grind core/black and death metal band called Necropolis. Playing guitar all over L.As back yard scene and in the S.G.V Necropolis was a very popular band known for their musical skills. Due to jazz and funk influences at the time, Angel left the band to get back into playing soulful and experimental music. Inspired by his indigenous roots and love for different cultures, he put the guitar down and picked up bamboo and clay flutes, saxophone, bass clarinet, and clarinet. He then again started a band with Kris Castro, called Soul Conference. In 2004 he met Josh Navarro at a Zapatista March in Lincoln Heights, they had the same musical ideas, indigenous sounds and instruments with jazz , Soul Conference became a band with different musical guest. They both later created a side project with no name of Mesoamerican music performing for cultural events and schools. Later meeting guitar player Bardo Martinez, they started a band called Yeloltl Sound System playing spanish reggae and cumbia, singing about indigenous roots. Yeloltl Sound System ended and became Buyepongo. Buyepongo began playing afro beat and cumbia at college parties and cultural events. Later joining Kill Sonic, a marching band from East Los Angeles, Kill Sonic has great accomplishments from touring in New York to selling out theater performances such as Toung Bloody Tounges a play written by Joseph Tepperman. Angel Hernandez has now focused his musical journey into creating a variety of musical styles and using a variety of different instruments with Buyepongo. He feels this band holds great potential, given that it is a band that went from playing in backyards to touring in cities from Northern California down to Baja. His goals are to inspire people culturally, artistically and musically all over the world bringing fun and joy through the positive, danceable rhythm and sound of Buyepongo.