Sworn To the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella (1995)
When you think of Latin percussion, think of Francisco Aguabella. Perhaps the finest Afro-Cuban master percussionist still living, he has become synonymous with his instrument — one of the highest compliments a musician can receive. Indeed, what Carlos Santana is to the guitar, Aguabella is to the conga drum.
Carlos Santana reveres him. Bill Graham honored him. Katharine Dunham wouldn’t let him go home to Cuba for 5 years. Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee swear by him. He’s a master of Bata (the sacred Santeria drumming tradition), Abaqua and Yeza, and secular Afro-Cuban jazz and salsa styles. Discover this enigmatic Cuban drummer, a virtual Rosetta stone of African culture, who has been highly influential in the growth of Latin jazz, pop and fusion in the U.S.
The conguero’s long career dates back to the ’50s, and though he never has been afforded rockstar status, he has recorded with some stellar musicians, including Frank Sinatra, Cal Tjader, Hugh Masekela, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, and Weather Report — as well as both Carlos and Jorge Santana (Aguabella and Jorge were members of the ’70s Latin fusion group Malo, best known for their hit “Suavecito”).
Born in Matanzas, Cuba, Francisco Aguabella is a master of the Yoruba-derived bata drums and rumba form as well as contemporary traditions including Cuban son, salsa, and Latin jazz.Though he has released only a half dozen albums, his work is best measured by his contribution to the Afro-Cuban sounds and the growth of Latin jazz. “He is one of the strongholds of our music and has always kept the commitment to our Cuban rhythm, that’s very important, ” says Cuban jazz player Israel “Cachao” Lopez.
Aguabella has received a National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts and is the subject of a documentary film by Les Blank, Sworn to the Drum. He is also featured in a new documentary, “Aguabella,” currently in production.
Francisco Aguabella’s passion and fire on the conga drums are absolutely contagious and not to be missed.