Berto Ramon
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Berto Ramon

Band Hip Hop Latin


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"Berto Ramon gives hip-hop a Latin beat"

January 5, 2007

With nine members, a lineup that features classically trained musicians, percussionists rooted in samba rhythms and grooves soaked in Latin jazz, Berto Ramon is the vibrant antithesis of a brooding MC stalking an empty stage.

"It's like taking a corner in Humboldt Park along Division and putting a soundtrack to it," offers Boogaloo (Esteban Shedd), one of the band's two MCs. "Our influences are classic salsa and classic Latin jazz, big-time. It's people like Tito Puente, Willie Colon, Ruben Blades and different samba artists like Gilbert Gil. It's very rhythm-centered, which hip-hop is, too. And we're hip-hop, too, because we come from the city, we come from Chicago."
The band includes MC Just J (Justin Jones), conga player Lolo (Loren LaLuz), Lolo's brother Johnny Bravo (Johnny Laluz) on bongos, guitarist Mo (Moises Pacheco), bass player Opio (David Opio), drummer and DJ Moral 1 (Aaron Lopez), keyboardist Oca (Wilfredo Ocasio) and violinist Chino (Samuel Lee). Until recently, they were a 10-piece outfit, but former drummer Jesse Santoyo left the band to focus on his other group, the Saturn Project.

Berto Ramon's members first met as students at Moody Bible Institute. But they didn't get together until after finishing school.
"I was making beats, but I love live music so I didn't want to continue with just the beats," says Boogaloo. "So knowing all of my boys were musicians, we just started linking together."

When the band started playing, the musicians immediately started to draw on their remarkable cultural diversity, as members' family heritages represent Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, Trinidad and Korea.

"It's a blending of all of our roots. The hip-hop we get from America, the big-city feel, but then also we blend in the congas and the bongos and timbales and the samba sounds to reflect our roots in the Caribbean and South America."

But the music of Berto Ramon is not just classic salsa with two MCs dropped on the top. It's heavier, as all of the drums are enhanced with the classic hip-hop sound of a Roland TR-808, Boogaloo explains.

"We might have your pop's music -- congas, bongos, timbales heavy -- but when we go into the studio, we lace it with the 808 pops you hear in music today, so that people can bump it in their rides or bump it on the corner or bump it in the crib."

Drawing on the traditions of Latin music, the band also feels a social and political responsibility, which begins with the lyrics of the MCs.

"There is a lot of garbage out there giving a false portrayal of the neighborhoods. They are promoting negativity," Boogaloo says. "We feel a responsibility to be a voice of the people with no voice, whether that's the shorty caught up in gang violence or a single mother, we are a voice for the people who are struggling, trying to make it, and we want to that communicate to the masses so that the people get the right portrayal of what is going on in Chicago."

Much of this, he adds, comes from the band's experiences.

"A lot of us were saved from different things, we were saved from gang violence, we've seen people killed and locked up, people in our families have been addicted to drugs or to the street life," Boogaloo says. "But we've also seen the hope and all of us are professed believers in Christ, though we don't beat people over the head with that. We just tell our story."

The band currently is unsigned but will record a CD this spring to shop around to labels. In the meantime, Berto Ramon has been playing shows around the country and spreading the group's unique sound.

"We've gained acceptance from older cats and young kids, so we have a following that crosses generations," Boogaloo says. "It's working in Chicago. But how will it play out across the nation? We'll have to see."

- Chicago Sun-Times

"7 hours at the Metro"

The Date: July 8, 2006
The Place: The Metro
The Occasion: The 2006 Emergenza Chicago National Final
The Result: 16 bands put on a mind-blowing, balls to the wall musical event to be remembered for ages.

Almost any band who has put together a tune and played it for anybody in the city of Chicago has dreamed of playing a show at the legendary Metro. On Saturday July 8th 2006 this dream swiftly became a reality of epic proportions for 16 bands in the windy city. Who knew at eleven oclock in the morning, during the first sound checks, that in hours the Metro would be packed wall to wall almost to the ceiling for seven hours straight? WellI did and Ill tell you why.

Never would you find a group of musicians more excited to have stepped on a particular stage in the world as we had at the Metro from the moment the club opened its doors. This excitement undoubtedly moved through the masses like a bad STD and created a buzz like no other in the city of Chicago. This buzz didnt only bring out over 2000 people and create one of the most successful shows in Emergenzas 15 year history. This buzz didnt just put Chicago at the top of the charts for Emergenza for the 2006 season. This buzz did so much more and I daresay inspired the greatest performances to date of every band that stepped out on the stage that night.

It was only fitting that the youngest band in the fest kick off the final in the first 18 and over show of the 2006 season for Chicago. Enter, The Ninjaviduals! I had to put an exclamation point because these boys brought out their serious A-game on Saturday night. From the arcade synth lines to the solid drumming of their 14 year old drummer these youngins proved once and for all that they have got what it takes to play with the big boys. The second band on Saturday night happened to be the band Saturday Morning. I always admire the acoustic bands that play right before a metal band. Thats always a tough task when faced with a discriminating crowd. Saturday Morning did just that and owned it in front of an already packed house. The crowds were already growing in size so we turned the volume up a couple thousand decibels. Just in time for one of this years urban metal bands Madrhymes. Im pretty sure they were singing happy rhymes when they left the stage covered in sweat and glory. Their aggressive instrumentation and vocals had the crowd amped for the fourth band of the night, Ferdinand Fox. Watching Ferdinand Fox play is like watching some tripped out cartoon rock band. At the Metro they were super tight, super animated and super energized. Their lead singer Van even did a back flip off the drum riser. All of this convinced the other bands to vote Ferdinand Fox in first place for the band award, an award chosen by the bands for the bands. Besides winning a copy of the Indie Bible and The Musicians Atlas, Ferdinand Fox earned the respect and admiration of the other bands competing in the final. The fifth band of the evening was the Milwaukee regional final winners Sunshine Harrison. These guys handled their business last week in Milwaukee and continued to show the crowd this week their interesting brand of new school rock n roll. From the Rave in Milwaukee to the Metro in Chicago in just one week aint bad. When the drummer kicked off the set by playing the mandolin and their lead singer emerged with his bass, it was obvious that we had an eclectic bunch of bands representing the Midwest in this final. Interesting drum grooves helped Sunshine Harrison stand out as an excellent original rock band.

The Crawpuppies started off the middle section of the evening with their acoustic flavored pop rock. Big things have been happening for these guys all season and the crowds have continued to grow for them. I heard this time they had five buses full of fans from Indiana come to support them at the MetroThe band played their tightest set to date and their lead guitar player Mike played with enough taste and style to take home the best guitar award and a 350 watt guitar head and 4X12 cabinet from Crate. After that, Ephnix took the stage. One word that could describe their set would be intensity. Whether or not it was their energy from the gate or their lead singers constant crazy gaze, I couldnt tell you. One thing is for sure thoughEphnix was pumped full of adrenaline and fury for their entire set. Only at Emergenza can you go from pop rock to hard rock to country infused rock all in one hour. Thats exactly what happened at the Metro Saturday, when Tiffany Hull and her band came to the stage. Tiffany was playing with a slightly revised lineup who, frankly, I would consider her A-team. Musically, her rhythm section was just on it Saturday night, especially her drummer. But he had some tough competition in that category especially with Curtis, the drummer for Mosaic, on his heels. Curtis won a Mapex drum kit for being voted the best drummer by our judges. His unique style combined with hard hitting bass lines, creepy guitar riffs, and meandering vocals help Mosaic mold a brand of experimental progressive rock that is all their own.

Next up to the stage was the largest band of the year, Berto Ramon. An inspiring performance had the whole crowd in a frenzy while Berto Ramon was on the stage. Even the judges couldnt help but move to the scorching latin grooves and impeccable articulation from their two MCs. One of the MCs Esteben was on fire and took home the best vocalist award, a wireless Sennheiser microphone. They ended up taking the lead in front of Ferdinand Fox in the running for the international final in Germany. Another band seriously vying for that number one slot was Irreality. In addition to winning the Cleveland and Detroit finals, Irreality had already won many accolades across the Emergenza regional final circuit including best drummer, singer, and bass player. In the Chicago national final they ended up taking third place and winning second best guitar and bass player. After Irreality was Nuetral State; a band who throughout the season has brought out some of the craziest, loudest and most attractive fans. I often wonder if they chant Nuetral State in their sleep or at the drive thru. At any rate, the boys delivered for their crowd once again in addition to the other 1000 people packed in front of the stage at the Metro. By this point in the show you could virtually feel the moisture of a sweaty rowdy crowd from the stage and there was still four bands left to play.

First was Loaded a band with songs so intoxicating they leave you feeling like the band name. Their vibe Saturday came off as effortless and cool on stage. The four guys in Loaded created this cloud of music in the Metro with their lead singer Georges vocals easily floating on top the whole time. The Saturn Project was next and their front man Jesse was in rare form. Not only did he come in at second place in the drummer category for Berto Ramon but also as second place for best vocalist as well. You could tell the boys in TSP have been waiting a long time to play the Metro. Every song they played sounded better than any other round this season. They killed from Jesses intensified vocals in Time to their drummer Alexs strobe light drum finale. The intensity of the show didnt come down for the last two bands either. Master of None was certainly the master of something at the Metro. Perhaps it was the way they owned the crowd during their performance or how they seamlessly ripped through their 20 minutes like it was nothing. Either way, these three guys sounded huge on Saturday nights and the crowd was going completely insane when they were done. Finally we came to the last band of the night and I only have one thing to sayLes Claypool move over! Laz constantly reminds everyone about the funky side of heavy music. Sam on the bass just annihilated everyone who was close to the best bass player award. Not only does he get bragging rights but also an amplifier and cabinet from Ampeg as well. If you can listen to this band and not move around uncontrollably something is wrong.

Saturday was certainly a proper finale to a long season here in Chicago. Youd be hard pressed to find a night at any club, including the Metro, that was as energized and crazy as the Emergenza National Final on Saturday. Every band brought their best game to the table and packed the hell out of one of the most intimidating venues in the country. In the end nobody was able tocatch up with Berto Ramon. Now its off to the International Final in Rothenburg Germany for these guys. Could the ten piece hip-hop band go to Germany and take home the International Championship to ChicagoWhen I say yes you say yall! Yes yall! Yes yall!

Yours in Rock.

Jimmy Dearborn - 16 Jul 2006

- Emergenza Magazine

"These musical streets: Berto Ramon"

By Bethel Swift

Chicago Editor

Chicago—When Berto Ramon rocked the Metro and won the Emergenza USA final in Chicago on July 8, they showed that they aren't just one of the biggest hip-hop bands in Chicago, but potentially, one of the best.

To fans of the ten-piece band, the win is proof of what they already know: Berto Ramon is bringing a fresh sound to the music industry – and music lovers are responding to it. Earlier this year, Berto Ramon was one of five finalists in the V-cast “Calling All Bands” competition, where they stood out from over 4,000 other entries. They’ve played the likes of the Puerto Rican Festival and the club Double Door and they’ve traveled North America.

In the almost three years the band has been together, they’ve changed a keyboard player, lost a singer and picked up a second MC (Jus J). They get their name from Berto (aka Esteban Shedd), lead MC and originator of the group. Shedd says he came up with the name after using it for a character in one of his poems. Moises Pacheco (guitar) says the band toyed with the name Berto Ramon and the Broke Poets, but decided that it sounded “too long and too cheesy.”

Pacheco and Shedd acknowledge that the band’s music has matured since those early days. “Our sound is definitely more organized,” says Pacheco. “When we first started out, we didn’t practice much and when we played together, it was just noise. We started practicing and got to know each others sound.”

The first 12 songs that they took on the road were electric beats, which they would adapt for live performance. Shedd describes their new sound as “eclectic hip-hop”, and says it combines a lot of different elements, including rock, Latin influences and jazz. “Now our music just comes from being together,” says Shedd. Each musician writes his own music for each song. Their lyrics flow easily from Spanish to English and their melodies push the limits of classical and modern instruments. All of this works together to create a sound that is best described as “a Chicago street corner put to music.”

Surprisingly, most of the band members initially came together for a one-time gig. Shedd, who was actively involved in the music industry at the time, knew of a good opportunity for a band to perform. He and Loren Laluz (percussion) rounded up enough friends to form a seven or

eight-piece band. As more opportunities came up, it became clear that the band members were reaching a much larger and more diverse audience together, than they could separately.

“We feel blessed,” says LaLuz. “We know it is just the Lord and he takes where he wants us to go."

Winning the Midwestern USA finals, meant Berto Ramon was going to Germany, to compete against 20 bands from around the world. This time the stakes were even higher, and it seemed that the cards were all stacked against them. Emergenza was offering an all expense paid album, tour and promotion to the band that could win the hearts of the judges in Rothenberg. Once in London, however, the band ran into more than their share of unexpected complications: The government had just announced the thwarting of a terrorist plan to blow-up planes headed to the United States from London, and Heathrow Airport cancelled all flights for that Friday. As they were loading the bands equipment into their ‘plan B’ method of transportation, a truck ran into their bus, delaying the band another three hours and forcing them to give up their slot.

Their hour to shine came at 1 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, with no sound check, no keyboards (blown out by previous performers) and very little sleep. Still, the band made the best of the opportunity and turned in a performance that excited both the judges and the other performers.

When the international results were announced, Berto Ramon was in fourth place. The position enabled them to perform in front of more than 20,000 people at the final concert in Germany and will allow them to a place in the Best of Emergenza Tour, when it comes to the Midwest.

Shedd says he knows that the stage is different when they perform, because they are offering a positive message with their music. “The way the spirit and mood of the place changed was amazing,” says Shedd. “A lot of people came up to us afterward and said when we played, it was like a dark place turned light.”

On September 30, Berto Ramon will play at the Congress Theater along with distinct gospel voice, Martha Munizzi.

- Boheme Verite


Berto Ramon EP (2007)
Concrete Perspective (2005)



Berto Ramon:

It is a rare occasion when nine people can enter a room and create the synergy and level of excitement that Berto Ramon has been able to do from their very first meeting years ago in a college rehearsal space. As the band played their eclectic group of instruments together it became immediately obvious that there was something extremely unique and distinctive about this group.

Berto Ramon was conceived in the diverse surroundings of Chicago's North and West Side, from Humboldt Park to Uptown. Nine heads came together with the same vision to make an impact on their city through the music that was in each individual’s hearts and minds. The result has been a creative blend founded on Hip-Hop with influences ranging from Latin jazz, rock, and reggae. Driven by a strong faith and belief, BR refuses be confined to the typical. Consequently, the group speaks to the issue of the day and is constantly confronting the fight against such realities as class and racial inequality, violence on the streets, and the need to find a positive path through all of the hardship and pain that envelopes so many people in their community.

The end result is a super high-energy live show driven by the lyrics of MCs Just J and Boogalu and backed up by violins, Latin percussion, guitars, bass, drums, a DJ, and keyboards. Whether you are hitting your local music venues or catching the next major touring artist coming through town, it is unlikely that you will find a more engaging or higher energy show than this one.

In the band’s short time together they have already accumulated a number of accolades including winning first place in Midwest region of the Emergenza Festival and then flying to Germany to place fourth in the world wide competition. The band has been busy playing all across the Midwest and has already traveled to Germany and Canada and has played a number of shows in Florida.

-Winners of the Independent Music World Series Austin, TX (2007) -Winners of the Midwest Emergenza Battle of the Bands Competition (2006) -4th Place in the International Emergenza Competiton out of 12,000 bands (2006) -Awarded Best Performance (Emergenza) 2006 -Top 10 in the Verizon Wireless/Myspace Calling All Bands Competion out of 3,000 bands (2005)


-Taubertal Festival in Rothenburg Germany -Puerto Rican Bandera Bandera Festival in Humboldt Park -Puerto Rican Parade Festival

Opened for:

-Ying Yang Twins -Pitbull -Zion and Lennox -Dr. Ocatagon

Travel Locations:

-Germany -London -Canada -Florida -Iowa -Indiana