Cándido Camero

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Cándido Camero
Camero in 2008
Camero in 2008
Background information
Birth nameCándido Camero Guerra
Born(1921-04-22)22 April 1921
Havana, Cuba
Died7 November 2020(2020-11-07) (aged 99)
New York City, U.S.
  • Musician
  • bandleader

Cándido Camero Guerra (22 April 1921 – 7 November 2020), known simply as Cándido, was a Cuban conga and bongo player. He is considered a pioneer of Afro-Cuban jazz and an innovator in conga drumming.[1] He was responsible for the embracing of the tuneable conga drum, the first to play multiple congas developing the techniques that all players use today, as well as the combination of congas, bongos, and other instruments such as the foot-operated cowbell, an attached guiro, all played by just one person. Thus he is the creator of the multiple percussion set-up.[1]

After moving to New York in 1946, Camero played with Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Taylor and Stan Kenton, and from 1956 he recorded several albums as a leader.[2] His biggest success came in 1979 with his disco recordings for Salsoul. He continued to perform until the late 2010s, recording several albums for the audiophile label Chesky Records, including Inolvidable, with Graciela, which earned him a nomination at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards.

Early life and family[edit]

Cándido Camero Guerra was born in the barrio known as El Cerro, in Havana, to Caridad Guerra and Cándido Camero.[1][2][3] His interest in music began at the age of 4, when his maternal uncle Andrés, a professional bongosero for the Septeto Segundo Nacional, taught him to play bongos on condensed milk cans.[1][4] At a very young age, he moved with his family to Cerro, a neighborhood in Havana.[3] Camero's father taught him how to play the tres, a type of Cuban guitar.[3] While focusing on the tres, he also learned to play bass and percussion, mostly bongo and conga. In 1935, at the age of 14, Camero began to play tres professionally for various son ensembles such as Gloria Habanera, Sonora Piñón and Conjunto Segundo de Arsenio Rodríguez (Arsenio's backup band).[3] The increasing popularity of the conga drums—promoted primarily by Arsenio's conjunto—and the fact that Camero could not read sheet music, led him to switch to the conga, which became his primary instrument,[1][5] although he would also record with other percussion instruments, especially the bongó.

Early career[edit]

Early in his career, Camero played as conguero and bongosero for the Cuban radio stations Radio Progresso and Radio CMQ (for 6 years) and for the Tropicana Club (also for 6 years).[1][6] As a tresero, he was also a member of Chano Pozo's Conjunto Azul, where he met Mongo Santamaría, who then played bongos.[1] He moved to New York City in 1946, after first arriving in the city on a tour.[1][6][5] He first performed in New York in the musical revue Tidbits at the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway in 1946 backing up the Cuban dance team of Carmen and Rolando.[1]


At the Tidbits show, Camero pioneered the playing of two conga drums simultaneously. In a traditional context in the Cuban rumba and conga line carnaval processional music, multiple drummers play a single conga.[1] Camero would be the first to develop the technique to play various parts that originally individual single players would play in a group. He would recreate this by playing the various parts himself on multiple tuned drums. He also demonstrated to audiences for the first time the remarkable ability to play a steady rhythm with one hand while being able to improvise freely with the other. Thus he became the first to apply the technique of co-ordinated independence to the conga drums. He would later apply the technique to multiple percussion setups he would devise. For example expanding the number of congas to three or more combining them with other instruments such as the bongó.[1] and inventing a foot-operated cowbell and a mountable guiro.[1] These innovations and techniques were later adapted by other musicians leading to the manufacturer of various apparatuses to facilitate more expansive setups. His being the first to play multiple congas was quickly adapted by several of his fellow countryman like Carlos "Patato" Valdés and became the norm giving rise to the standard set of tuneable congas that are commonly used today. In 1957 he was also the first to champion the use of the fiberglass conga drum when he began playing publicly fiberglass drums made for him by New York City based Puerto Rican artisan and boat builder Frank Mesa. [7]

Later career[edit]

In 1948, he made his first U.S. recording with Machito and His Afro-Cubans on the tune "El Rey del Mambo", but he did not become a member of the band, since they already had Carlos Vidal Bolado on congas. When Chano Pozo was murdered in 1948 (he arrived in New York shortly after Cándido), Dizzy Gillespie contacted Camero and they began a fruitful collaboration that culminated in the 1954 recording of Afro.[1][8] Camero was also a member of the Billy Taylor Trio, with whom he recorded in 1953–54, and in 1954 he performed and recorded with Stan Kenton.[9][10] As one of the best known congueros in the U.S., Camero performed on variety shows such as The Jackie Gleason Show and The Ed Sullivan Show.[4]

Camero recorded several albums as a leader for ABC-Paramount in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the early 1970s, he recorded for the independent jazz label Blue Note Records, before joining the dance music record company Salsoul. With the latter, Camero recorded two albums which were relatively successful and remain in rotation by DJs in the U.S. In 1979, he released Jingo, a disco-oriented track written by Babatunde Olatunji and recorded on Salsoul Records; but released in the UK by EMI under the Salsoul Label as the B side to "Dancing and Prancing" as the A side. This track was also released as a 12" single in June, 1981 in the UK on the Excalibur Record label / PRT Precision Records and Tape, running for over 9 minutes, and reached #55 in the BBC Top 75 chart. "Jingo" was his most successful hit in the UK discos and clubs becoming a huge floor filler at that time and ever since as it has been covered by various artists since.[1][11] In the 2000s, Camero was a member of the Conga Kings alongside Patato and Giovanni Hidalgo. They recorded two albums for Chesky. He recorded another album for Chesky in 2004, Inolvidable, with Graciela, the long-time lead singer for Machito. This album earned a Grammy Award nomination.[12] In 2014, Camero recorded his last album, The Master, also for Chesky. He continued to perform in jazz clubs in New York until the late 2010s.[1]


Camero died on 7 November 2020, at his home in New York. He was 99.[13][6]


Camero's album Inolvidable was nominated for Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Album in 2004.[12] He received the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award in 2008.[14][15] He received a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award the following year.[16]

A documentary about Camero titled Candido: Hands of Fire was released in 2006.[4]


Source: AllMusic,[17] unless otherwise stated.

As leader: selected examples[edit]

  • Candido featuring Al Cohn (ABC-Paramount, 1956)
  • Calypso Dance Party (ABC-Paramount, 1957)
  • The Volcanic (ABC-Paramount, 1957)
  • In Indigo (ABC-Paramount, 1958)
  • Latin Fire (The Big Beat of Candido) (ABC-Paramount, 1959)
  • Conga Soul (Roulette, 1962)
  • Candido's Comparsa (ABC-Paramount, 1963)[18]
  • Brujerías de Candido / Candido's Latin McGuffa's Dust (Tico Records, 1966)
  • Thousand Finger Man (Solid State, 1969, reissued by Blue Note)
  • Beautiful (Blue Note, 1970)
  • Drum Fever (Polydor, 1973)
  • Dancin' and Prancin' (Salsoul, 1979)
  • Candy's Funk (Salsoul, 1979)
  • The Conga Kings (Chesky, 2000) – with Giovanni Hidalgo and Carlos "Patato" Valdés
  • Jazz Descargas (Chesky, 2001) – with Giovanni Hidalgo and Carlos "Patato" Valdés
  • Inolvidable (Chesky, 2004)[12] – with Graciela
  • Hands of Fire/Manos de fuego (Live) (Latin Jazz USA, 2008)
  • The Master (Chesky, 2014)

As sideman: selected examples[edit]

With Gene Ammons

With Art Blakey

With Ray Bryant

With Kenny Burrell

With Duke Ellington

With Don Elliott

  • Jamaica Jazz (ABC-Paramount, 1958)[19]

With Erroll Garner

  • Mambo Moves Garner (Mercury, 1954)[19]

With Bennie Green

With Grant Green

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Coleman Hawkins

With Bobby Hutcherson

With Illinois Jacquet

With Jazz at the Philharmonic

  • Jazz at the Philharmonic in Europe (Verve, 1963)[21]

With Elvin Jones

With Wynton Kelly

With Stan Kenton

With Benjamin Lapidus

  • Ochosi Blues - Latin, Soul, Organ Jazz - Benjamin Lapidus & Kari B3 (2014)[23]

With the Lecuona Cuban Boys

  • Dance Along with the Lecuona Cuban Boys (ABC-Paramount, 1959)[24]

With Machito

With Gary McFarland

With Ellen McIlwaine

With Wes Montgomery

With Tito Puente

  • Cuban Carnival (RCA, 1956)[28]

With Sonny Rollins

With Bobby Sanabria

  • Afro-Cuban Dream: Live & in Clave!!! Bobby Sanabria Big Band (Arabesque, 2000)[29]
  • 50 Years of Mambo - A Tribute to Damaso Perez Prado - The Mambo All Stars Orchestra (Mambo Maniacs, 2003)[30]
  • Kenya Revisited Live!!! Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra conducted by Bobby Sanabria (Jazzheads, 2008)[19]

With Billy Taylor

With Tico All-Stars

With Randy Weston


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Sanabria, Bobby (7 November 2020). "Remembering Candido Camero, Percussionist and Afro-Cuban Pioneer, Who Has Died at 99". WBGO. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  2. ^ a b León, Luis Leonel (13 November 2016). "El último viaje musical del legendario Cándido". Diario Las Américas (in European Spanish). Archived from the original on 15 November 2016. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Fernandez, Raul A. (23 May 2006). From Afro-Cuban Rhythms to Latin Jazz. University of California Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-520-24708-6. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  4. ^ a b c "Candido Camero". The Kennedy Center. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  5. ^ a b Leymarie 2002, p. 198.
  6. ^ a b c Contreras, Felix (7 November 2020). "Cándido Camero, A Father Of Latin Jazz, Dies At 99". NPR. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  7. ^ Quinn, Mike (1 November 2000). "Carlos "Patato" Valdés". Jazz Times. 30 (6–10): 22. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  8. ^ Njoroge, Njoroge M. (2016). Chocolate Surrealism: Music, Movement, Memory, and History in the Circum-Caribbean. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-4968-0692-5. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  9. ^ "Candido Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  10. ^ "Candido at All About Jazz". Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  11. ^ Hawthorn, Carlos (9 November 2020). "Legendary Cuban drummer Cándido Camero dies aged 99". Resident Advisor. Archived from the original on 10 November 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  12. ^ a b c "Candido Camero – Artist". The Recording Academy. 19 November 2019. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  13. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (22 November 2020). "Cándido Camero, Conga Master Who Transformed Jazz, Dies at 99". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  14. ^ "NEA Jazz Masters: Candido Camero, Percussionist". Archived from the original on 16 October 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  15. ^ NEA Jazz Masters: America's Highest Honor in Jazz. Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Arts. 2008. p. 13. OCLC 1049897457.
  16. ^ "Candido Camero, Beth Carvalho, Charly Garcia, Tania Libertad, Marco Antonio Muñiz, and Juan Romero to Receive the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award". The Latin Recording Academy. 24 September 2009. Archived from the original on 2 July 2020. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  17. ^ "Candido – Album Discography". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  18. ^ Barnhart, Stephen L.; Gillespie, John (2000). Percussionists: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Press. p. 57. ISBN 9780313296277. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z "Candido – Credits". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  20. ^ "The United States Steel Hour series – Ep: Duke Ellington's "A Drum is a Woman"". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 23 January 2016. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  21. ^ "Jazz at the Philharmonic in Europe". The Gramophone. 41 (487–492). C. Mackenzie: 46. 1963.
  22. ^ Lord, Tom (1992). The Jazz Discography, Vol. 11. Lord Music Reference. p. J-478. ISBN 978-1-881993-10-0.
  23. ^ Da Gama, Raul (25 August 2014). "Benjamin Lapidus & Kari-B3: Ochosi Blues". Latin Jazz Network. Archived from the original on 21 September 2020. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  24. ^ Lanning, Jerry (1959). Dance Along with the Lecuona Cuban Boys liner notes. ABC-Paramount. ABC 230.
  25. ^ Leymarie 2002, p. 174.
  26. ^ "Gary McFarland - The In Sound". HiFi/Stereo Review. 16. Ziff-Davis Publishing Company: 101. 1966.
  27. ^ "Ellen McIlwaine - We the People". Audio. 57. Radio Magazine, Incorporated: 63. 1973.
  28. ^ Bruns, Roger (2008). Icons of Latino America: Latino Contributions to American Culture. Greenwood Press. p. 367. ISBN 978-0-313-34088-8.
  29. ^ "Afro-Cuban Dream: Live and in Clave!: Bobby Sanabria – Credits". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 18 November 2016. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  30. ^ Franckling, Ken (26 November 2002). "Jazz Notes: Goings on in the jazz world". United Press International. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  31. ^ Gates, Henry Louis (2011). Black in Latin America. New York University Press. p. 9. ISBN 9780814733424. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 8 November 2020.


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