Eugenio "Totico" Arango / June 2, 1934 - Jan 21, 2011

One of the rumberos who helped the tradition thrive in NYC, Totico is best known for teaming with Carlos "Patato" Valdes. Born in Havana, he arrived in Boston in '59 and moved to NYC shortly after. He quickly found work as a percussionist, playing with Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln & Eric Dolphy on Roach's incredible Percussion Bittersuite album in '61. He also hooked up with Pupi Legarreta's charanga ensemble (check the Salsa Nova LP) before the absolute classic rumba album Patato & Totico on Verve ('68). The album features Arsenio Rodriguez and Cachao, and I love the killer version of "Mas Que Nada" from the set.

Aside from his partnership with Patato, he also teamed with Kako and played on recordings by Cachao, Pablo Milanes and Portuguese singer Luís Represas, among others. And cop his amazing '82 album Totico y sus Rumberos, showcasing younger rumba players (including Puntilla Rios) and featuring a rumba version of the doo-wop tune "What's Your Name". Great stuff!

He is credited as composer or arranger (often with Patato) on several rumba "standards" played around the Latin music world. His percussion chops, his coros, his mentorship of serious younger students and his versatility to adapt the tradition to different contexts did much to keep the interest high in these songlines brought by African slaves to the sugar plantations of Cuba and into a popular and respected genre in the New World.

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