THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Tata Guines; percussionist called 'King of the Congas'

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Anthony Boadle
Reuters / February 12, 2008

HAVANA - Tata Guines, Cuba's "King of the Congas," who shared the stage with Josephine Baker and Frank Sinatra half a century ago, died Feb. 4 in Havana. He was 77.

Cuban state media reported that Mr. Guines, whose real name was Federico Aristides Soto, died of a kidney infection.

He was born in a poor black neighborhood in the town of Guines, just east of Havana, and made his first bongo drums from sausage and condensed milk cans.

Mr. Guines became a legend playing the conga, a tall and narrow drum of Congolese origin brought to Cuba by African slaves. He performed with the top names in Cuban music, including Arsenio Rodriguez, Chano Pozo, Bebo Valdes, and Israel "Cachao" Lopez.

In 1957, Mr. Guines moved to New York, where he jammed with jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, and Miles Davis at Birdland.

Mr. Guines stunned audiences with his driving Afro-Cuban beat by playing five congas and singing at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in a solo performance that put percussion at center stage.

He enjoyed celebrity and owned his own car, but never got used to life in the United States because of racial segregation, he said in an interview published last year. "Fame did not extend beyond the stage. Once you left the stage, it was like the signs said, 'Whites only,' " he said.

Mr. Guines returned to Cuba in 1959 soon after Fidel Castro came to power in a leftist revolution that he helped fund with contributions from his earnings as a musician.

Like other Cuban musicians who returned to fame late in life through the Buena Vista Social Club recording, Mr. Guines enjoyed renewed success in 2004 playing congas on the Latin Grammy-winning "Lagrimas Negras" (Black Tears) by pianist Bebo Valdes and Spanish Flamenco singer Diego El Cigala.

more stories like this

  • Email
  • Email
  • Print
  • Print
  • Single page
  • Single page
  • Reprints
  • Reprints
  • Share
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Comment
 
  • Share on DiggShare on Digg
  • Tag with Del.icio.us Save this article
  • powered by Del.icio.us
Your Name Your e-mail address (for return address purposes) E-mail address of recipients (separate multiple addresses with commas) Name and both e-mail fields are required.
Message (optional)
Disclaimer: Boston.com does not share this information or keep it permanently, as it is for the sole purpose of sending this one time e-mail.