“It’s one thing to be a tremendous virtuoso musician and performer, and it’s another to be a living legend. And José Luis Quintana Fuentes, Changuito, is all that and more”.
This how it is recognized worldwide this humble man who was born on January 18, 1948, in one of the most beautiful villages on the Cuban Riviera, Casablanca. The nickname of Changuito accompanies him since 1964 thanks to the pianist, composer and director Felipe Dulzaides, one of the greatest exponents of Cuban jazz.
Changuito is a self-taught percussionist who played the bongo when he was 5 years old and when he was 8 he made his debut in the famous cabaret “Tropicana“, with the Habana Jazz Orchestra. He was so virtuous that he used to substitute his father, Pedro Luis Quintana, playing the congas in a Galician orchestra named Quinteto Tomei. Later he joined the Conjunto Cubamango.
Changuito, the songo creator
“Los Van Van is my orchestra and it will be my orchestra as long as I live”, said once the unique Changuito. In 1970, together with Juan Formell, he founded Los Van Van orchestra, becoming one of its essential musicians for over 20 years.
With this band he began the development of songo, a rhythm that combines percussion instruments (timbales, bells, drums, cymbals) with beat and folk music. As it was said, “he has a characteristic technique with both hands, very difficult to repeat”. That is why Changuito is recognized as “The drum´s acolyte”, creator of rhythms and a revolutionary in percussion techniques.
It’s solo career
After this phase, he decided to continue his solo career, dedicating himself to study and teaching percussion. It is very sad to recognize that Changuito did not have, as a soloist, the commercial success he deserved.
Critics attribute that to two fundamental factors. The first, that he was a “purist” in music so he was not influenced by market influences, and the second, because he considered himself “advance” for his time and was not always well understood.
However, the fame reached by Changuito is unsurpassed. He holds a Chair of Music of the Cuban Institute of Art of and became the teacher, professor and mentor of famous percussionists such as Giovanni Hidalgo, Karl Perazzo (Santana), Karlos Marrufo and the unique Patricio “el Chino” Díaz, big ones that were fortunate to be his disciples.
Hes “Master Class” of tumbadora and timbal, holds in such prestigious institutions as the University of Puerto Rico, the Modern School of New York and the Berklee University in Boston are legendary.
According to the specialized press, Changuito puts the beats where they must, with an absolute mastery and a control that cause envy. “He is the master of conga and timbales “. His artistic life has been so prolific that he has also been part of important record projects with Billy Coban, Fora Purim, Robert Trunz, Amampondo, Airto Moreira and Chucho Valdés.
Awards and distinctions for talent
Among the main recognitions to the José Luis Quintana Fuentes Changuito´s work are:
• 1996: Nominated for the Grammy Awards for Ritmo y Candela.
• 1998: Grammy winner for Habana.
• 1999: Nominated for the National Music Award.
• 2001: Grammy winner for La rumba soy yo.
• 2002: Alejo Carpentier Medal.
• 2004: Winner of the Latin Grammy for Lágrimas Negras with Diego El Cigala.