Giovanni Hidalgo
* November 22, 1963
Puerto Rico, United States
An artist whose electrifying performances have moved fellow musicians, critics and audiences to such effusive accolades as "touched by the hand of God," and "The Michael Jordan of Percussion," Giovanni "Mañenguito" Hidalgo is an unrivaled performer whose unique talent, skill and technique is admired by percussionists and jazz musicians throughout the world. He is bringing new respect to Latin rhythms as well as to the rhythms of his birthplace, Puerto Rico.

Combining the flavors of Latin music and jazz with his own style, Giovanni Hidalgo is playing a major role in shaping the way the world thinks of hand drumming. While best known for his conga drumming, he plays all percussion instruments and whichever instrument he plays becomes uniquely Giovanni's. He has redefined the standards in all percussion, with an original, creative style that has inspired drummers at all levels.

The sounds other drummers normally create with sticks, Giovanni Hidalgo creates with his hands - with lightning-fast precision. He is particularly admired for his perfection of double and triple stroke rolls, effortlessly implementing drum-set stick rudiments with his hands.

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Giovanni Hidalgo grew up immersed in the rhythms of Afro-Caribbean percussion. Encouraged by his grandfather "Nando" and his father, José "Mañengue" Hidalgo, both well-known congueros in Puerto Rico, Giovanni developed a burning ambition to become a great musician. He was already performing in public at the age of 9!

Giovanni Hidalgo began playing "congas" on a little wooden barrel his father gave him. "Knowing how to get a sound out of wood helped me develop my stroke and made my transition to the conga head easy," he recalls. "The skin surface of the conga has a much more comfortable feel than the solid surface of wood, so I didn't have to work as hard to get the sound I wanted." He first learned to play conga by taking the technique of drumming with sticks and applying it to his hands. Living in a home filled with bongos, congas and timbales, Giovanni learned to play all the instruments at the same time, rather than in progression.

Giovanni's love for his "timbas" - as he calls them - and his passionate dedication, turned his childhood into a never ending drum session; at home he practiced day and night, day after day.

People called him "Mañenguito" and many times, as a child, they would see him walking or travelling by bus to gigs with his congas strapped to his back. It was not long before the Island was abuzz about the extraordinary gifted young conguero. By the time he was a teenager, Giovanni was gigging regularly with bands around Puerto Rico, building a reputation with his amazing display of technical virtuosity, innovation and versatility.

He first became popular outside his native Puerto Rico in the early '80's, when he worked with the famed group Batacumbele. Playing with this revolutionary group, which Giovanni claims "will always be in my heart," helped launch him into the limelight. In 1981, he went with Batacumbele to Cuba. Little did he know that this was to be a turning point in his career, for it was there that he met the famed Changuito, considered the father of modern Afro-Cuban percussion. His time in Cuba also had a lasting impression on Cuban musicians, many of whom began trying to incorporate Giovanni's original style into their own music.

Giovanni Hidalgo began to travel the world as a teen-ager, first with Charlie Palmieri, and later with his brother Eddie. He was just 22 when Airto Moreira and Paquito D'Rivera recommended him to the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, who invited him to join his all-star United Nation Orchestra in 1988. The UNO toured extensively in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and South America, and won a Grammy Award in 1992. Audiences around the world began to witness the virtuosity and rhythmic genius of Giovanni Hidalgo .

Gillespie quickly embraced the young master, and took him on his historic month-long tour in Africa (1989), for his gala performance at the State Independence Banquet of Namibia and on a whirlwind good-will tour to Berlin, Moscow and Prague (1990). To Giovanni, Dizzy was a "second father," friend, teacher and mentor. In 1991, he toured with the Gillespie-Miriam Makeba project, "Live the Future," and continued to play regularly with him until 1992. He was also featured at the gala 75th birthday tributes to the GrandMaster at the Hollywood Bowl, the Ravinia Festival and the Stanford Jazz Workshop.

Since then, Giovanni Hidalgo has performed and recorded with the likes of Tito Puente, Art Blakey, Michel Camilo, Ruben Blades, Peter Gabriel, Carlos Santana, Mickey Hart, Elvin Jones, Bruce Hornsby, Sammy Hagar, Joan Osborne, Paul Simon, Cameo, D'Angela, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim. He continues to tour extensively with Mickey Hart's Planet Drum project.

Giovanni Hidalgo has recorded three albums as a bandleader: Villa Hidalgo, Worldwide, Time Shifter, and, the 1997 Grammy-Award nominated Hands of Rhythm, a duo project with pianist Michel Camilo.

Recording The Conga Kings, an historic collaboration with two of his heroes and teachers - Living Legends and Master Congueros Carlos "Patato" Valdes and Cándido Camero, was a "dream come true" for Giovanni.

In 1992, Giovanni Hidalgo began a four-year teaching assignment as an adjunct professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. "I was teaching and learning at the same time," he says. "I put together all types of rhythms - Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, reggae, African and jazz."

His extraordinary techniques are demonstrated on the instructional videos: One on One; In the Tradition; Conga Virtuoso; Conga Masters I and II , with Changuito, one of the innovators of the modern Cuban songo; and Steve Gadd & Giovanni Hidalgo, a Modern Drummer Magazine Festival video.

Giovanni Hidalgo's peerless speed, grace and control, demonstrated at clinics sponsored by Latin Percussion and at concerts around the world, continue to dazzle audiences because of. As LP founder and chairman Martin Cohen puts it, "Giovanni represents the talent of a new generation. He's arguably one of the most talented and respected drummers of our time, and rarely is there a musician who reaches his heights."

Giovanni Hidalgo is a spiritual force in a human figure with an unlimited capacity to love and this love he lives through his drums. He is a visionary who has absorbed great influences from all around the world. His talent, perseverance and devotion to his art have driven percussion to a "next level" and his diffusion is his way to love his fellowmen.

(source: www.duendebooking.com)
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