Cultural Percussionist

Tatá Güines Day

Tata Güines (June 30, 1930 – February 4, 2008), born Federico Arístides Soto Alejo, was a Cuban percussionist on the tumbadora, or conga drum, as well as a composer. He was important in the first generation of Afro-Cuban jazz.

Güines was born in Güines, a poor town east of La Habana in the province of Havana in Cuba. He made his first drums out of milk cartons and sausages. By the 1950s he was working with such top Cuban musicians as Arsenio Rodríguez, Luciano “Chano” Pozo, Bebo Valdés and Israel “Cachao” López. In the late 1950s he formed a band with the pianist Frank Emilio Flynn, forming a new band, Quinteto Instrumental de Música Moderna, later known as Los Amigos.

Güines moved to New York City in 1957, playing there with great jazz players such as Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, and Miles Davis at Birdland. As a percussionist, he performed with Josephine Baker and Frank Sinatra. He returned to Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro came to power in the Cuban Revolution which he helped fund by contributions from his earnings as a musician.

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