Santamaría, Mongo [Ramón]
- Lise Waxer
(b Havana, April 7, 1927; d Miami, Feb 1, 2003). Cuban percussionist, bandleader, composer and arranger. He first began to learn the violin, but switched to percussion as a child. He left Cuba in 1948, moving to Mexico with his cousin, the bongo player Armando Peraza. They played in Pérez Prado’s mambo band, then moved to New York City in 1950, where they were known as the Black Cuban Diamonds. Santamaría soon found work with Tito Puente, working in the band for seven years alongside percussionist Willie Bobo. During this time he recorded various albums of authentic Cuban religious and secular drumming, both with Puente and under his own name. With Bobo he left to join Cal Tjader’s Latin jazz group in 1958. In 1961 Santamaría put together a charanga ensemble, and recorded with the Cuban vocalist La Lupe in 1963, helping to launch her US career. By the mid-1960s he turned to the Latin crossover vein, with widely popular hits such as ...