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 8, 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 began playing with an unusual young band called La Pandilla de los Cabezas de Perros, and at age 11, 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.
By the age of 12, he was regularly appearing at the Morroco nightclub on Havana's Prado Boulevard in Old Havana while 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 worked 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.
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.
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 he transformed 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. This original album, The Syncopation, was produced by Tony Thorpe and is an interpretation of what can happen when Havana, London and Jo'burg collaborate. Courtesy Calabash Music