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Cuba's King of Congas Tata Guines dies at 77

Tata Guines, a Cuban percussionist who shared the stage with Josephine Baker and Frank Sinatra, has died at age 77.

Tata Guines, a Cuban percussionist who shared the stage with Josephine Baker and Frank Sinatra, has died at age 77.

Known as the "King of the Congas," he introduced the driving Afro-Cuban beat to the U.S. jazz scene of the 1950s.

Cuban state media reported that Guines, whose real name was Federico Aristides Soto, died Monday of a kidney infection.

He was born in a poor black neighbourhood in the town of Guines, east of Havana, and played congas as a boy.

In Cuba, he performed with the top names in Cuban music, such as Arsenio Rodriguez, Chano Pozo, Bebo Valdes and Israel "Cachao" Lopez.

Guines played five of the tall narrow drums, originally from the Congo.

He moved to New York in 1951 and played with Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson and Miles Davis at Birdland.

However, he returned to Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro came to power, saying he didn't like the racial segregation he experienced in the U.S.

"Fame did not extend beyond the stage. Once you left the stage, it was like the signs said: 'Whites only,'" he said.

In Cuba, he continued as a drumming legend, known for his innovation on the congas.

He was "rediscovered" in the 1990s through the Buena Vista Social Club recordings.

He went on to collaborate with many international stars, including Canada's Jane Bunnett, pianist Bebo Valdes and Spanish Flamenco singer Diego El Cigala.