For the Afro-Cuban music enthusiast, this album is a rare find. Authentic African rhythms accompanied by African chanting created in the island of Cuba by authentic Afro-Cuban master percussionists. Credit for the concept and production of this project goes to one man: Ramón ”Mongo“ Santamaría Rodríguez (April 7, 1917 – February 1, 2003)
Mongo was a Cuban percussionist and bandleader. He learned to play the congas as an amateur rumba musician in the streets of Havana. In the 1940’s he performed with various Cuban combos such as the Lecuona Cuban Boys and Sonora Matancera. In 1950, he moved to New York City, where he joined the Tito Puente orchestra as conguero. In 1957, he joined Cal Tjader’s band where he became a household name and later formed his own group and recorded some of the very first rumba and Santería music albums. By the end of the decade, he had his first hit, “Para ti“. He then became a pioneer of Latin Jazz with his rendition of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man”, which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. Mongo signed several record deals including Columbia, Atlantic, Fania and Concord. As a member of the Fania All-Stars, he was often showcased performing exciting conga solos against Ray Barreto and other Afro-Cuban luminaries.