The legendary Cuban percussionist Changuito (Jose Luis Quintana) was born in Casablanca, across the bay from Havana on 18th January 1948. He embarked upon his musical career in 1956 at the tender age of eight, becoming a professional musician with the 'Havana Jazz' band directed by Tomas Gonzalez. During this initiation Changuito played music with his father, who was also a musical maestro. He then begun playing with an unusual young band called 'la Pandilla de los Cabezas de Perros', and aged eleven he joined the band 'Cuba Mambo' under the direction of Rolando Garcia. This band was based in Guanabacoa, just outside Havana where Changuito now lives.


  1. Syncopation

By the age of twelve he was regularly appearing at the Morroco nightclub on Havana's Prado Boulevard in Old Havana whilst still continuing to play in various bands in Havana. Aged 13, Changuito volunteered for military service and played in army bands and joined 'Estrellas de Occidente' ­ a Jazz band - for the whole three years he was in the military. In 1964 he left the military and joined 'Los Harmonicos' under the direction of Phillipe Dulzaides. They achieved considerable fame in Cuba, appearing on TV many times. After this he joined the band 'Sonorama 6' for a year, which was based at the exclusive La Torre club in Habana's famous Focsa building. During 1968 he was working as a drummer with two bands: 'Souvinir' and 'La Orchestra de Musica Moderna' based in the province of Pinar del Rio. In 1970 he returned to Havana and joined 'Los Van Van'. Los Van Van soon became one of the most popular Cuban orchestras in the world, achieving international recognition and fame. With this band Changuito inaugurated the 'songo', where the original combination of percussion instruments (timbales, cowbells, woodblocks, electronic drums and cymbals) and the technical displacement of hands sealed a distinctive and highly original touch.

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read Changuito's interview given on his 60th birtday on the 18th of January 2008

Changuito made his first solo recording in 1992, which led to global recognition as a musician and teacher of percussion. He has taught many famous percussionists such as Giovanni Hidalgo and Karl Perazzo (Santana), and in 1996 won the Grammy Award for 'Ritmo y Candela'. This Cuban master conga and timbale player first appeared on Melt 2000 in 1994, contributing to Flora Purim's album, 'Speed of Light'.

The following year in November 1995, Robert Trunz embarked upon the second leg of the Meltdown recordings in South Africa inviting Changuito to join him. During these recordings Changuito fell in love with yet another vast array of African percussion instruments which transformed with his guidance into new sounds. A few months later he came to England to work with Amampondo and Airto Moreira at Brownhill Farm, and decided to record a solo album two days prior to his departure, leaving instructions for overdubs with friends such as Chucho Valdes. The album "Syncopation" was produced by Tony Thorpe and is an interpretation of what can happen when Havana, London and Jo'burg collaborate. Some of the original acoustic sessions are now featured in the compilation