Artist picture of Mongo Santamaria

Mongo Santamaria

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Watermelon Man Mongo Santamaría 03:18
Sofrito Mongo Santamaría 06:06
Sheila Mongo Santamaría 03:58
Jahbero Fats Navarro 03:01
Mama Papa Tu Mongo Santamaria 03:37
Mi Reina Guajira Mongo Santamaría 04:26
Sweet Stuff Horace Silver Quintet 05:20
Mamboscope Machito 02:25
Olé Ola Mongo Santamaría 03:45
Watermelon Man Mongo Santamaría 02:29

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A great Afro-Cuban jazz percussionist who made his name in the 1960s and '70s, Mongo Santamaria was a master conga player whose mesmerising, intoxicating rhythms became influential in bringing together traditional Latin sounds with black American music. Brought up on Cuba's rumba beats, he learned to play in the streets of Havana in the 1920s, where African drummers, bongo and conga players and all sorts of percussionists would fill the air with different rhythms and styles. He was mentored by Clemente 'Chico' Piquero who played with bandleader Beny Moré, and got his start playing at the famous Tropicana nightclub, before moving to New York in 1950 to become Tito Puente's conga player.

He also played with vibraphonist Cal Tjader and released solo records 'Afro-Cuban Drums' and 'Drums and Chants', but it was his landmark track 'Afro Blue' that became the first jazz standard built around African cross-rhythms and was later recorded by John Coltrane. Combining his joyous Cuban swagger with funky, R&B melodies, he scored his biggest hit with Herbie Hancock's composition 'Watermelon Man' in 1962 and made ten albums for Columbia Records, including the spirited, jumping party record 'La Bamba' in 1965, a collection of Motown covers on 'Soul Bag' in 1968 and the Latin funk freak out 'Working On a Groovy Thing' in 1969. He played on Lalo Shifrin's soundtrack to the biopic 'Che' and released the popular late-career records 'Mongo Returns' and 'Brazilian Sunset' in the '90s, but died in 2003 aged 85 after suffering a stroke.