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Federico Arístides Soto Alejo (June 30, 1930 – February 4, 2008), better known as Tata Güines, was a Cuban percussionist, bandleader and arranger. He was widely regarded as a master of the conga drum, and alongside Carlos "Patato" Valdés, influential in the development of contemporary Afro-Cuban music, including Afro-Cuban jazz.[1] He specialized in a form of improvisation known as descarga, a format in which he recorded numerous albums throughout the years with Cachao, Frank Emilio Flynn, Estrellas de Areito, Alfredo Rodríguez and Jane Bunnett, among others. In the 1990s he released two critically acclaimed albums as a leader: Pasaporte and Aniversario. His composition "Pa' gozar" has become a standard of the descarga genre.[2]

Tata Güines
Birth nameFederico Arístides Soto Alejo
Born(1930-06-30)June 30, 1930
Güines, Cuba
DiedFebruary 4, 2008(2008-02-04) (aged 77)
Havana, Cuba
GenresDescarga, son, rumba, jazz
Years active1950-2008
LabelsSeeco, Panart, EGREM
Associated actsCachao, Frank Emilio Flynn, Merceditas Valdés, Alfredo Rodríguez, Estrellas de Areito, Angá Díaz, Cubanismo


Life and careerEdit

Arístides Soto was born in Güines, a town east of Havana in the former province of Havana in Cuba, on June 30, 1930. He made his first drums out of milk cartons and sausages. He started working professionally in the 1950s as a percussionist in various popular Cuban ensembles, making his first recordings in 1951 as part of Estrellas Juveniles, a group founded by Arsenio Rodríguez. He later joined Fajardo y sus Estrellas, with whom he traveled to Venezuela in 1956.[3] The next year he took part in the recording of Cachao's Cuban Jam Sessions in Miniature; he even doubled on bass on one track with Cachao on piano. He then moved to New York City for two years, performing at the Waldorf Astoria and various nightclubs including Birdland, where he shared the stage with jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson and Miles Davis. He also played with Josephine Baker and Frank Sinatra.

Güines 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.[4] He then joined the Quinteto Instrumental de Música Moderna, a pioneering jazz combo founded by drummer Guillermo Barreto and pianist Frank Emilio Flynn.[3] He remained a member of Flynn's band for many years, under the name Los Amigos. In the 1960s, Güines recorded several sessions as a leader for EGREM under the monikers Tata Güines y sus Tatagüinitos,[5] and Tata Güines y sus Ases del Ritmo. He also backed Merceditas Valdés throughout the 1960s and later in the 1980s. In 1979, he took part in the Estrellas de Areito sessions and in the recording of Intercambio cultural by Típica 73. In 1981, he recorded an LP entitled Descarga featuring Bobby Carcassés, as well as Descarga en Kawama.

In the 1990s, he toured internationally and recorded with many artists including pianist Alfredo Rodríguez, Peruchín Jr., Orlando "Maraca" Valle, Jesús Alemañy's Cubanismo and Hilario Durán. He recorded with the young conguero Anga Díaz, considered one of his main disciples, on the 1994 record Pasaporte, which won the EGREM Album of the Year award. On 1994 he recorded Aniversario as a leader. He collaborated with Jane Bunnett on Chamalongo (1997) and Cuban Odyssey (2002). In 2003 he played on the Latin Grammy-winning Lágrimas negras with pianist Bebo Valdés and Spanish flamenco singer Diego El Cigala.[1]

In 2007, he recorded Piano y ritmo with Cuban Jazz Legends; the album was released posthumously in 2010. Tata Güines died in Havana on February 4, 2008.[1]


When asked about his teachers, Tata always responded that he "had no teachers, only the streets to learn, and the radio".[6][7] He claimed that his biggest influence was Chano Pozo.[7]


  • 1981: Descarga (Discos Fuentes)
  • 1994: Pasaporte (EGREM) — with Angá Díaz
  • 1995: Aniversario (EGREM)


  1. ^ a b c Ratliff, Ben (February 7, 2008). "Tata Güines, 77, Cuban Master of the Congas, Is Dead - New York Times". Retrieved 2008-02-24.
  2. ^ Acosta, Leonardo (2002). Descarga número dos: el jazz en Cuba, 1950-2002. Havana, Cuba: Ediciones Unión. p. 112.
  3. ^ a b Orovio, Helio (2004). Cuban Music from A to Z. Bath, UK: Tumi. pp. 205–206.
  4. ^ Boadle, Anthony (February 12, 2008). "Tata Güines; percussionist called 'King of the Congas' - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 2008-02-24.
  5. ^ "Tata Güines". Revolución y Cultura. Havana, Cuba: Consejo Nacional de Cultura: 9. 1989.
  6. ^ Luis Osvaldo Garcia & Bay Weyman (2000). Spirits of Havana
  7. ^ a b Cuban Jazz Legends (2010)

External linksEdit