Cuban Percussionist Francisco Aguabella Dies at 84

Francisco Aguabella, the Cuban-born percussionist whose Latin rhythms backed up Peggy Lee, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, and others, has died of cancer at the age of 84. Famous for his mastery of the conga drums, Aguabella left Cuba in the 1950s and got his break performing with legendary dancer Katherine Dunham and actress Silvana Mangano in the Italian-American film Mambo (1954).

He was best-known for his work with jazz artists like Gillespie but often jumped genres into rock, playing on records by the Doors and Carlos Santana. Other artists with whom he performed include Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, Eddie Palmieri, Israel “Cachao” López, Lalo Schifrin, Cal Tjader, Nancy Wilson, Poncho Sánchez, Paul Simon, Bebo Valdés, and many more.

Chano Pozo is widely acknowledged as the first Cuban drummer to make a mark in the American music scene. Directly following him were Patato Valdez, Cándido, Mongo Santamaría, and Francisco Aguabella. As a master of the batá (talking drum) Aguabella immediately impressed many and since the 50s enjoyed an extensive music performing and recording career, delighting many audiences with his masterful and powerful rhythms. He is a recipient of awards such as the National Heritage Fellowship of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and a Durfee Foundation Fellowship. He is featured in the documentary, Sworn to the Drum by Les Blank, and is currently featured in a new documentary, Aguabella, which is currently in production.

Aguabella is widely recognized as a master conguero, a caring and knowledgeable instructor, and one of the most inspiring artists of all time. He continued performing into his 80s, and had a gig scheduled for Saturday night at a Fullerton cafe (in California). His manager, Orna Rachovitsky, says that the show has now been changed to become a tribute for Aguabella.

For full article (in English), see

For article (in Spanish, see

For full biography, see

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