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Mongo Santamaria

A Mongo Santamaria concert is a mesmerizing spectacle for both eyes and ears, and even in his seventies, this seemingly ageless Cuban percussionist/bandleader could energize packed behemoth arenas such as the Hollywood Bowl. A master conguero, Santamaria at his best creates an incantatory spell rooted in Cuban religious rituals, quietly seating himself before his congas and soloing with total command over the rhythmic spaces between the beats while his band pumps out an endless vamp (a potent example on records is the hypnotic "Mazacote" available on Afro-Roots [Prestige]). He has been hugely influential as a leader, running durable bands that combine the traditional charanga with jazz-oriented brass, wind, and piano solos, featuring such future notables as Chick Corea and Hubert Laws. He also reached out into R&B, rock, and electric jazz at times in his long career. No Cuban percussionist, with the possible exception of Santana's Armando Peraza (and let's not count Desi Arnaz!), has reached more listeners than Mongo.

Ramon "Mongo" Santamaria originally took up the violin but then switched to drums before dropping out of school to become a professional musician. A performer at the Tropicana Club in Havana, Mongo traveled to Mexico City with a dance team in 1948 and then moved to New York City in 1950, where he made his American debut with Pérez Prado and spent six years trading percussive barrages with Tito Puente and performing and recording with Cal Tjader (1957-1960). Mongo's first significant recordings in America were made in 1958 for Fantasy; his second Fantasy album, Mongo (1959), contained a composition called "Afro-Blue," which quickly became a Latin jazz standard, taken up by John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.

Santamaria's breakthrough into the mass market may have come as a result of a bad night at a Cuban nightclub in the Bronx in 1962. As the story goes, only three people showed up in the audience, so the musicians held a bull session in which the substitute pianist for the gig, Herbie Hancock, demonstrated his new blues tune, "Watermelon Man." Everyone gradually joined in, the number became a part of Mongo's repertoire, and when producer Orrin Keepnews heard it, he rushed the band into a studio and recorded a single that leaped to the number ten slot on the pop charts in 1963.

The success of Santamaria's cross-pollination of jazz, R&B, and Latin music on "Watermelon Man" and a string of Battle and Riverside albums led to a high-profile contract with Columbia that resulted in a wave of hot, danceable albums between 1965 and 1970. With a brighter, brassy sound propelled by trumpeter Marty Sheller's driving charts, often covering hits of the day, the Santamaria band perfectly reflected the mood of the go-go '60s, and Mongo continued to mix genres into the '70s. Santamaria then returned to his Afro-Cuban base, recording for Vaya in the early '70s, teaming with Gillespie and Toots Thielemans for a live gig at Montreux for Pablo in 1980, recording several albums for Concord Picante (1987-1990), a sole effort for Chesky in 1993 and a return to the Fantasy fold via its Milestone subsidiary in 1995. He died on February 1, 2003, at Baptist Hospital in Miami, following a stroke. ~ Richard S. Ginell
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: And His Afro-Cuban Drum Beaters

1. Druma Kuyi

2. Consejo Al Vive Bien

3. Moforiborere

4. Oromiso

5. Congo Mania

6. Margarito

7. Caumbia

8. Columbia

9. Abacua

10. Yroco

11. Ochun

12. Bembe Kinigua

13. Chango

15. Meta

16. Guaguanco

17. Fiesta Abacua

x

Track List: Skin On Skin: The Mongo Santamaria Anthology 1958-1995

Disc 1

1. Afro Blue

2. Chano Pozo

3. Yambu

5. Barandanga

6. Guaguanco Mania

7. Para Ti

8. Las Guajiras

9. Tenderly

10. Bacoso

11. Introduction By Symphony Sid

13. Canta Bajo

14. Watermelon Man

15. Sweet Tater Pie

16. Dirty Willie

17. Happy Now

18. Cuidado

Disc 2

1. Cinderella

2. Black Stockings

3. Summertime

4. Cold Sweat

5. Fever

7. Hippo Walk

8. Saoco

9. Sofrito

14. Manteca

x

Track List: Mongo's Greatest Hits

1. Afro Blue

2. Mi Novia

3. Linda Guajira

4. Pito Pito

5. Mazacote

6. Para Ti

7. Watermelon Man

8. Manteca

9. Sabroso

10. Conga Pa Gozar

11. Federico

12. Mi Guaguanco

13. Para Ti (Alternate Take)

14. Las Guajiras

x

Track List: Sofrito

1. Iberia

2. Cruzan

3. Spring Song

4. Sofrito

5. O Mi Shango

6. Five On The Color Side

7. Secret Admirer

8. Olive Eyes

9. Princess

x

Track List: Afro Indio

1. Creepin'

2. Funk Up

3. Mambomongo

4. Funk Down

5. Los Indios

6. Lady Marmalade

7. The Promised Land

8. What You Don't Know

9. Song For You

10. Midnight And You

x

Track List: Fuego

1. Crazy Lady

2. Don't Step On My Tears

3. Chambique

4. Temihna Pra Bebe

5. Last Tango In Paris

6. Bésame

7. Springtime

8. Malcolm X

9. Fingers

x

Track List: Greatest Hits

1. Watermelon Man

2. Cloud Nine

3. Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay

4. We Got Latin Soul

5. Fatback

6. Twenty-Five Miles

7. Cold Sweat

8. Green Onions

9. The Now Generation

10. La Bamba

11. El P**sy Cat

12. Mongo's Boogaloo

13. Chili Beans

14. Ah Ha

15. I Wanna Know

16. Afro Blue (Live)

x

Track List: Afro-American Latin

1. Obatala

2. Mi Reina Guajira

3. Mambo Leah

4. Sheila

5. Boogaloo Wow

6. Me And You Baby (Picao Y Tostao)

7. Naked If You Want To

8. Mama Papa Tu

9. Afro American

10. Naked If You Want To (Live)

11. Afro American (Live)

12. Mi Reina Guajira (Live)

13. Philadelphia (Live)

14. Obatala (Live)

x

Track List: El P**sy Cat

1. El P**sy Cat

2. Afro Lypso

3. Ah Ha

4. Together

5. Ritmo Negro

6. La Gitana

7. Cuidado

x

Track List: Our Man In Havana

1. Jamaicuba

2. Manila

3. He Guapacha

4. Cha Cha Rock

5. Vengan Pollos

6. Barandanga

7. Linda Guajira

8. Vamos A Gozar

9. Miss Patti Cha Cha

10. Viva La Felicidad

11. Tele Mina For Chango

12. Olla De For Olla

13. Yemaya Olodo For Olla

14. Yeye-O For Ochun

15. Wolenche For Chango

16. Aqua Limpia

17. Ochun Mene

18. Mexico

19. Manana Son Manana

20. Complicaciones

x

Track List: Amanecer

1. Happy As A Fat Rat In A Cheese Factory

2. Gabrielle

3. Jelly Belly

4. That's Good

5. New One

6. Amanecer

7. The Good Doctor

8. Little T

9. Manteca

x

Track List: Drums And Chants

1. Margarito

2. Caumbia

3. Columbia (Rumba Columbia)

4. Abacua Ecu Sagare

5. Yroco

6. Ochun

7. Bembe Kinigua

8. Druma Kuyi

9. Consejo Al Vivi Bien

10. Moforiborere

11. Oromiso

12. Congo Mania

x

Track List: Live At Yankee Stadium

1. Dr. Gasca

2. Cousin Jody

3. Coyulde

4. Black Dice

5. Naked

6. Leah

x

Track List: Mambo Mongo

1. Mambo Mongo

3. Happy As A Fat Rat In A Cheese Factory

4. Gabrielle

5. Jelly Belly

6. That's Good

7. New One

8. Amanecer

9. The Good Doctor

10. Little T

11. Manteca

x

Track List: Mongo - Best Of Vaya Recordings 1973-1980

1. Fingers

2. Crazy Lady

3. Malcolm X

4. Teminha Pra Bebe

6. Cousin Jody

7. Coyulde

8. Black Dice

9. Happy As A Fat Rat In A Cheese Factory

10. Funk Up

11. Mambo Mongo

12. Funk Down

15. Secret Admirer

18. Tv

19. Manteca

x

Track List: Sambrosa

1. Que Maravilloso

2. En La Felicidad

3. Pachanga Pa Ti

4. Tulibamba

5. Mambo De Cuco

6. El Bote

7. Pito Pito

8. Guaguanco Mania

9. Ja, Ja-Ja

10. Tula Hula

11. Dimelo

12. A La Luna Me Voy

13. Para Ti (Alternate)

Comments

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Thank u for the cuban bruja!
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COOL FRENCHY

SHEEEIIT psychedelic OUTTASITTE. LOVE the ALL POWERFUL AFRICAN CONNECTION
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FRENCHY
.
WOWWW, BADASS on its own merits. Im loving the realization of an Afro -Cuban brother reuniting sonically, culturally with the African American Genre, of Blues and jazz. Child of th Motherland
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I could not make it through a day of my insanity-pro n e LIFE w/o Sr. Mongo`s brilliant music!!!!!
Muchas gracias, hermano, te adoro para siempre.
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Beautiful
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dantepadilla 3 0 0 0
Bésame mamá como tu sabes mucho
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gebo@aol.com . I love Congo mongo when played conga against ray beretto n I'm becase I'm pro playing Congos it's to bad he died he inspired me and why a play my 4 Congos today
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'DREAM OF A LAND.... MY SOUL IS FROM'.....AF R O BLUE
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toledoj07
What happened to the others not mentioned
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El Maestro conguero!!!
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I wish I could play like that act like a Christian Cougars rain baby
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PR♡for LIFE
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que locura de buena esta cancion !!!! muchos recuerdos en el Goze Pagano y Quiebracanto !!!
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Que Shevere!!!
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Sofrito...lo v e this song by Mongo!
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Where are the drums and chants LPS recorded on Fantasy? They are some of Mongo's purest work.
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Old School, the best!!
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Salsa is my life
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Mongo Santamaria introduced me to Latin music in 1964-------- - - I am indebted 2 him 4ever!!! And THEN SOME!!!!!!!! RIP, Hermano.
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El esta tocando en nuestros corazones junto con toda la antolojia de nuestra musica cubanas, lo bueno es para sempre y los que le gusten su musica saben que hablo la verdad
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Hail Mongo!!!
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Mongo Santamaria.. . . . a m a z i n g congero!!!
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I saw Mongo Santamaria in California many years ago in a small nightclub in Hollywood. Wonderful!
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Good song. Today is my birthday. Turn.(56) el timbalero de bklyn. 8*23*57.HAPP Y BIRTHDAY. CHAPO. THANK YOU.:-)
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Timeless :-)
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rfuertes15
tremendisimo tema
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increible
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Tremenda melodia caballero
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papalou30
mongo 's sound on the conga's were fantastist. his smacks on the congas were so loud. he could probabley smack your face off. love you mongo. papalou conguero. fromerly from brooklyn now living in orlando,fla
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papalou30
this is louie again. i was trumpet player but after lessenting to mongo i have begun a conga player. that's how much mongo i love mongo. see you in heaven mongo.
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papalou30
louis carriion 'louie' when i first heard mongo in a record store on fulton st bklyn i freak out. he has been my mentor ever since
. that was in 1965
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cef1953
Love Mongo!!!
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He was ones the best. Ibaye. Entonu.
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mongo is the bad a** of the congas
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Mongo is the inspiration to large quote of percusionist true generation
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im groovin 2 jellybelly
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The drum in this picture was stolen many years ago in San Francisco. I got it later on from a conga player and then returned it to Mongo when I played with him on a few gigs in the bay area.. He was so happy to get it back.
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funk up
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listening to dr. casca n it really takes off. this music lives n breathes grooves it gushes n pushes forward
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Ageless but still fresh!!!
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mongos tune TOGETHER is worth a listen. so cool
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never met him.. love his style. and talent.. soy salsera de la mata...
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loved the information. w o u l d like to hear caljeter'
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mborington
Music that penetrates deep inside the soul, proud to b from the Island of the Caribiean...
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The best of the best!
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frankholzman
ritmo del fundo, muito bem!
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Smooth
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One if not thee Best to beat the Skins.
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One of my favorite congueros in the world. Seeing him in person was as mesmerizing as his sound on his albums. His solos were fantastic and his fills artistic. We'll miss him and that energetic smile he revealed when he expressed the love his music displayed.
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A simple and humble man, Mongo was a true giant in his field. He established licks on his congas that have been emulated for the past fifty years by most legitimate conguero's throughout the world. I had the distinct pleasure of having received some instruction from him, personally, at some of the summer clinics that were held in "El Barrio" back in the mid-sixties. He was the "real deal", folks.
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