Luis Ezequiel Torres
2008 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Luis Ezequiel Torres makes and plays batá drums, whose voices speak with the Afro-Cuban deities, or orishas. He also creates beautifully beaded shekerés, or gourd instruments, as well as bantés, beaded covers for batá drums. Torres was born in Havana in 1955 to a family talented in the arts. At 16, he apprenticed himself to some of the city’s master batá drum makers and players. He soon developed the skills necessary to perform at ceremonies and experimented with making his own drums. In 1980, Torres came to Miami, where he established himself as a highly respected batá drummer and craftsman. In addition to playing regularly in Miami, he performs in Houston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Torres works in his home workshop to create batá drums and shekerés of the highest quality available. Today, his batá drums and shekerés are in demand by collectors, museums, and musicians. Torres has been a master artist several times in the Florida Folklife Apprenticeship Program. His work was featured in the touring exhibition Florida Folklife: Traditional Arts in Contemporary Communities, the book Just Above the Water: Florida Folk Art, and is in the permanent collection of HistoryMiami. In 2010, Torres won the National Heritage Fellowship Award.