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The Kennedy Center

Edwin Colón Zayas



Biography

Edwin Colón Zayas is known internationally as the master of the cuatro, the national instrument of Puerto Rico. The cuatro, shaped like a small guitar with five double-coursed strings, became the preferred instrument for performing música jíbara (music of the peasants), heard in the small central-island towns of Puerto Rico. 

Colón Zayas began playing cuatro at the age of five, learning from his father. He in turn tutored his brother and two sisters in several jíbaro instruments, and they often join him in his group Edwin Colón y su Taller Campesino. Today, Colón Zayas is recognized as an innovative improviser on the cuatro and, in addition to 17 solo albums, has performed on, arranged, or directed more than 250 recordings for Puerto Rican artists. His collaborations have incorporated classical music, South American and Latin popular music, and jazz. In 1991, he performed in the inaugural concert of the San Juan Pops Orchestra and participated in the International Guitar Festival held in San Juan. The year 2008 brought him a Grammy nomination for his album Reafirmación in the Mejor Producción Discográfica de Música Tradicional Tropical. Even though he has performed with Latin stars such as Marc Anthony and Carlos Vives, he remains committed to the cuatro makers and musicians of the Puerto Rican inland hills. Colón Zayas feels that the love of the music starts with the love of the cuatro, saying, "I have a sentimental bond with the instrument. Apart from my family, my parents, my wife, my daughters, that I love so much, my instrument has a special place in my life."
Edwin Colón Zayas