Gregorio Uribe Big Band and his Cumbia Universal

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Cumbia Universal! Gregorio Uribe Big Band Boston CD release celebration that will make everyone dance at the rhythm of cumbia, jazz and funk music.

Colombian Big Band leader, Gregorio Uribe, is one of the most promising artists in New York City’s Latin music scene, and was named one of the “100 Most Successful Colombians Abroad” by the government of Colombia in 2012. He’s not the only man behind Big Band, though, of course, which one can glean from its name: Big Band is a 16-piece orchestra that blends Cumbia (and other Colombian rhythms) with big band arrangement.

Gregorio UribeAfter more than four years of holding a monthly residency at Zinc Bar in Greenwich Village and having performed The Kennedy Center, Iridium Jazz Club, and many other locations, the band’s debut album, “Cumbia Universal,” was released on October 2nd, which was coupled with a CD-release performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center on October 14th.

Though we can continue to rattle off more of Uribe’s (admittedly impressive) achievements and successes, we’d rather focus the attention to more personal matters: his roots, his influences, his identity.

In honor of his upcoming performance at IBA’s Villa Victoria Center for the Arts on October 24th, we had the pleasure of interviewing him on such matters—and we want to share some of his most insightful answers to the questions we had prepared.

IBA – Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción: What does being “latino” mean to you? How does this affect or influence your music?

Gregorio Uribe: Someone asked me a similar question not too long ago. It’s a really good one. My own somewhat cryptic way of responding to it, I suppose, is that a party isn’t complete without there being a couple’s dance.

IBA: How has your identity as a Latino changed once coming to the United States?

Uribe: It’s been accentuated. It’s become one of the first things with which I identify. Since this is a country in which so many cultures are intertwined, one of the first things we tend to notice and observe in other people are where they’re from. Especially within a city like New York, where you meet someone and you’re immediately trying to guess that from their accent, or the way they look. The most beautiful thing about the United States is how we see Latin Americans from every Hispanic country converge.

IBA: How did you come to decide on studying and moving to the United States? Why Berklee?

Uribe: Ever since I first started making music, Berklee has always been recognized for that area of study. And since I was a kid I knew Juan Luis Guerra—who I consider to be one of the biggest influences in my music—had studied there. I just knew that if I had the opportunity to go there, I would. Especially with the very open and accepting approach Berklee takes with the students’ own needs and desires for experimentation, which is an aspect I found myself very drawn to.

Gregorio Uribe

Gregorio Uribe Big Band & Que Bajo @ Bric House – Brooklyn, NY. Photo Credit: Caitlin McCann

IBA: Where does the name “Cumbia Universal” come from? Could you have called it “Colombia Universal?” Is the album more than just cumbia?

Uribe: Yes, the album’s more than just cumbia. My inspiration for that name comes from the origins and trajectory of cumbia, itself; a traditional Colombian rhythm that then makes its way and spreads through the rest of Latin America, which the countries adapt in different ways. It wasn’t until I came to New York, however, that I came to truly realize and appreciate the beauty and the benefits of the converging of cultures—the way different cultures can adapt elements of another’s and, in that sense, turn it into something universal, which was an idea I thought was quite profound and, in many ways, beautiful.


Gregorio Uribe Big Band’s performance in IBA’s Villa Victoria Center for the Arts is on October 24th, at 7:30PM. It is sure to be a unique experience full of cultural convergence, great music, and lively dancing you will not want to miss!

For tickets, visit

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