Celebrated Cuban Percussionist Cándido Camero Dies at 99

Cuban percussionist Cándido Camero passed away on Nov. 7, 2020. Camero was 99 years old and was a well known, and loved, pioneer of Afro-Cuban jazz genre. He was an innovator in conga drumming. 

Cándido Camero died peacefully at his home in New York on Saturday morning according to Camero’s grandson, Julian, told NPR member station WBGO of the sad news. Despite his age Cándido Camero played music up until the very end. 

Cándido Camero
Cándido Camero performs with Paquito D’Rivera at Flushing Town Hall (November 2019)

He was born in San Antonio de los Baños, near Havana, in Cuba on April, 22 1921. His parents were Caridad Guerra and Cándido Camero. He moved to New York in 1946 and was “already a well-known musician in Havana as a percussionist and also for playing the Cuban tres, a folkloric guitar. He spent eight years playing at the famed Tropicana nightclub, backing the biggest Cuban stars of the day and counted the young Mongo Santamaría among his bandmates” according to NPR’s article

Throughout the years Cándido Camero became a well known and extraordinary pioneer of the Latin Jazz genre and played with the best of the best throughout the years. Some of the big names he performed with include Charlie Parker, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, and Machito. He is known for being one of the first percussionists to play multiple congas at the same time, with each conga tuned to a different pitch, enabling him to play not only rhythm but melodies. 

His biggest mainstream track came in 1979 with his disco recordings for Salsoul. He recorded several albums for the audiophile label Chesky Records. One of these records included Inolvidable, with Graciela, which earned him a nomination at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards. He was still playing and performing live up until the end. Back in Sept. of 2019 he joined Flushing Town Hall to celebrate their season’s launch with a performance from Canadian Afro-Cuban artists Jane Bunnett & Maqueque. He then returned in November to perform with the Gathering of the Masters alongside fellow greats Paquito D’Rivera, Joanne Brackeen, Jimmy Owens, Jimmy Cobb, and Reggie Workman. 

Cándido Camero will be greatly missed from the music community. We mourn his loss and send our condolences to his family and friends.

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