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Artist biography Roberto Santamaria
Where Roberto Santamaria grew up, music permeates the air with passion and promise. Here on the small side street of "Anton Recio" within Jesús Maria, a district of Old Havana only a few blocks from the harbor and sea, the afrocuban Rumba is at home. The inventor of the Cha-Cha, violinist Enrique Jorrin, and the legendary singer Celia Cruz danced and performed here, often in the house of his family. This is also the soulful soil giving birth to his famous uncle Mongo Santamaria, who later emigrated to the USA, where he introduced Cubano percussion to the world of North American jazz and became known as "the Conga King". For Roberto, Tio Mongo is a lifelong role model and legacy.
After school, Roberto carried his drum on his back and mixed among the best Conga players in Havana. For a few pesos, they introduce him to the secrets of Afro-Cuban rhythms. Particularly influential were Changuito and Oscar Valdes, drummers in the legendary Grammy Award winning Afro-Cuban rock band Irakere - founded by Chucho Valdes. But his favorite teacher will always be "Tio Mongo", who immortalized himself with "Afro Blue" as the father of Latin jazz.
In a country where every third person is a musician, you really have to be able to do more. Roberto drums, sings, and is a great entertainer. His talent for improvisation at the congas as well as his singing and storytelling fills the audience with his passionate enthusiasm.
Roberto performed in numerous Arab countries for three years. This was followed by radio and television appearances back home in Cuba. And he has become the main address for percussion students from all over the world. His courses are a fine mix of fun and rigor - his storytelling of the history and varieties of Afro-Cuban rhythms are enjoyably instructional and he knows no mercy when it comes to the rhythmic patterns of the Clave.
With his own band he opened the Havana Festival of Cuban Folk Music in 2010. Roberto was a regular at the upscale Jazz Cafe on the famous seaside Havana esplanade Malecon performing a tribute program "A La Mongo". Since 2012, Roberto Santamaria has been living in Germany. With the best Latin jazzmen of the scene, including Hector Martignon and Joe Gallardo who had hired on as young talents in Mongo's band, plus the trumpeter Michael Mossman, Roberto recorded the CD "Fiesta al Jazz" of his band "The Latin Jazz Stars". This live recording captured the thrill experienced by those in the German jazz clubs and festivals where Roberto and his bandmates perform.
In the project "The Rhythm Synidcate" with Dizzy Krisch on the vibraphone, a star of the German Jazz scene, he brings Latin Jazz Hits by Cal Tjader and Mario Bauza to new life. In the "Stuttgart Saloniker" orchesta he brings the Sabor Cubano to a nostalgic concert. His "La Noche de Cuba" and Latin Pop concerts are "must" visits for the Latin dancers.
His workshop program "Conga Cool" imparts the full range of basic latin and afrocuban rhythms - as Tumbao, Palo Monte, Abakkua, Songo, Cha Cha - and his technic of the "flying beats" producing the loudest drumbeat you've heard.