The Music of Umoja Orchestra

Current Members:

  • Sebastian Lopez (vocals/guitar)
  • Natalia Perez (vocals)
  • Michael Pedron (bass)
  • Zach Tetreault (trumpet)
  • Carlos Franco (trombone)
  • Micah Shalom (trumpet, trombone)
  • David Choo (saxophone)
  • Evan Hegarty (keyboard)
  • Michael Claytor (shekere, banjo)
  • Adam Finkelman (timbales)
  • Johnny Frias (congas)
  • Evan Garfield (drums)

Discography:

  • Dinner at the Republic
  • Abre La Puerta
  • Umoja Means Unity

Umoja Orchestra has created a unique sound that incorporates the talents and musical influences of all of its members. Carlos Franco, who plays trombone in the band, compares their songwriting process to nurturing a plant.

"One member plants the seed, and we all start nurturing it and it becomes a plant," he said. "We all add a little bit to every song."

The band has released three well-received albums that highlight its musical progression over the years. While the band began with a stronger focus on afrobeat music, its songs have become increasingly Latin-influenced as it has evolved, singer Natalia Perez said. Singer and guitarist Sebastian Lopez prefers to describe the band's sound simply.

"It's just dancing music," he said.

Umoja has been writing a lot of new material, but the members do not have plans to make a new record anytime soon. Several members are graduating while others have already moved on, so they are waiting to see how things turn out as they move along.

Local music columnist Lindsay Smith has interviewed Umoja Orchestra in the past and loves the band's work.

"In a nutshell, they are awesome," she said. "The Latin influence in their music is what gives them a unique edge. They combine all these influences, but they have that Latin influence that binds their songs together. What results is a band that shouldn't be able to make coherent music, but they make great albums."

While the band's recordings are good, the members shine the most when they are onstage. Their energy is infectious, and audience members often dance the night away right alongside the performers they are watching.

UF MEISA President Jennifer Arellano said Umoja is one of her favorite bands to watch in concert because of their fun live shows. From start to finish, an Umoja Orchestra show is guaranteed to get a listener's feet moving and hands waving.