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Cuban Conga Legend Cándido Camero Dead at 99


Cándido Camero, the legendary Cuban conguero who pioneered the three-conga style and helped usher in a generation of Latin jazz, died peacefully at home in New York Saturday morning (November 7), NPR reports. He was 99. 

Born Cándido de Guerra Camero in Havana, Cuba, in 1921, he played bass and tres guitar as a teen before focusing on percussion. He was one of the first Cuban percussionists to perform in New York with orchestras and jazz musicians in the late ’40s and collaborated with an illustrious list of artists over his nearly 80-year career—not only Latin bandleaders Tito Puente and Machito, but also bebop heroes such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He experienced perhaps his biggest pop moment in the ’70s, with the disco hits “Thousand Finger Man” and “Dancin’ and Prancin’.”

Camero also pioneered a multiple conga drumming technique, tuning each of three drums to specific notes in order to play melodies. After emigrating to New York in the early ’50s, Camero helped establish the nascent genre of Latin jazz, melding Yoruba, Portuguese, and Spanish folk influences with the American jazz drumming styles of Max Roach and Kenny Clarke. He would spend the rest of his career fusing Cuban percussion with music of various genres, weaving Afro-Latino rhythms into the fabric of American music. He received the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award in 2008 and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2009, and kept performing well into his 90s. 



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