La Gran Banda

The music of La Gran Banda covers the wide range of the regional dance styles found in the towns of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, wrapping them all in the brass flair that characterizes the traditional papayera.

  • Colombian Papayera
  • Miami, FL

From the Brothers Burton

Taylor says: Interesting Honduran group from Miami. Traditional Honduran/Colombian music rendered electrically, and with no shortage of energy.

Scott says: The idea of this band is great, tackling all of the great rhythms of Colombia and beyond. Adding horns and singing make this a success recipe.

Professional Bio

The papayera band is a distinctive and much-loved feature of the towns of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, a region which includes bandleader Henry March’s native city of Barranquilla. There, big papayera bands of 20 or more musicians are a fixture in the celebratory life of each town. The papayera style combines the European municipal brass band tradition with the percussion instruments and African-influenced dance rhythms typical of the Colombian coastal region. The music of La Gran Banda covers the wide range of regional dance styles—including porro, cumbia, vallenato, fandango, and paseo—wrapping them all in the brass flair that characterizes the traditional papayera.

When Henry March emigrated from Colombia to Miami, Florida in 1986, he was already an accomplished professional musician, producer, and a composer of jazz as well as a variety of Afro-Caribbean dance music styles. He also had a deep and abiding interest in the folk music of the coastal region where he grew up, and a wide-ranging collection of traditional instruments from that area. March built on this knowledge of regional traditions to find a musical niche for himself in his new home of Miami; with well over 100,000 Colombians in Miami-Dade County, Miami provided a huge and enthusiastic audience for traditional Colombian music. Many vallenato bands already served the community, so March chose instead to offer Miami audiences the sound of the papayera bands of Barranquilla, a style instantly identifiable as Colombian, and yet unique among Miami ensembles. Thus, in 1992, he founded La Gran Banda: Orquesta y Papayera, a smaller papayera band suited to the venues of Miami. In addition to bandleader and saxophonist Henry A. March, this band assembles a roster of some of Miami’s great Colombian brass and percussion players. Together, as La Gran Banda, they bring the big brass sound of the papayera band from Colombia’s coast to the stages of the Richmond Folk Festival for the very first time.

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