Bio — July 2, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Giovanni Hidalgo – Bio



Legendary percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo was born in Puerto Rico in 1963 and grew up in home filled with the drums, bongos, congas and timbales used by his father and grandfather, both musicians themselves.

Hidalgo began playing on a home made conga crafted by his father from a wooden barrel, when he was just eight years old. He also practiced on other percussion instruments, applying his great talent to become one of the top Latin percussionists in the world today. The sounds other drummers create with sticks, Hidalgo creates with his hands. His lightning-fast precision is particularly admired by others

Hidalgo first became popular outside his native Puerto Rico in the early 1980′s. In 1981 he went to Cuba to work with Batacumbele. There he met Changuito and Hidalgo’s career took a different turn. The two artists were perfectly attuned to each and this was evident in Batacumbele’s debut album. That effort, featuring Hidalgo’s incredible hand drumming technique, gave him instant prominence among musicians around the world.

As much as Hidalgo drew inspiration from the Cuban musicians he performed with, they too took something away from the experience. Many tried to replicate Hidalgo’s technique, and incorporated it into their style of music called songo. This effect was mirrored in Puerto Rico as the Cuban style music was a smashing success.

But the rapport and life-long friendship with Changuito was a precursor to a similar relationship that Hidalgo forged with American jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie, just a few years later. Hidalgo met Gillespie while performing with Eddie Palmieri in New York. Gillespie liked what he heard from Hidalgo and suggested a future collaboration. The future came in 1988 when Gillespie recruited Hidalgo to play with him in the United Nations Jazz Orchestra.

In 1992 Hidalgo accepted a teaching position at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He remained there for four years of which Hidalgo said, “I was teaching and learning at the same time,” he says. “I put together all types of rhythms—Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, reggae, African, and jazz”, with songs like Bahia San Juan from his Villa Hidalgo album.

Giovanni Hidalgo  a.k.a. “Mañenguito” (born November 22, 1963) is an educator, percussionist and recording artist in the genre’ of Latin jazz.

Early years

Hidalgo was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico where he received his primary education. His grandfather had also been a musician, as well as his father José Manuel Hidalgo “Mañengue”, who was a renowned conga player. Therefore, Hidalgo was raised in a household surrounded by drums, bongos, congas andtimbales.[1] He received a conga for his eighth birthday which had been handmade by his father. As a young child he practiced and developed his speed and playing skills on the conga and on the other instruments in his house. Hidalgo would drum a tune with sticks and then play the same tune with his hands.

Musical career

In 1985, Hidalgo was performing with Eddie Palmieri at The Village Gate in New York City, when the legendary jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie walked in and listened to Hidalgo play. He was so impressed with Hidalgo that he told him that someday in the future they must get together and play. In 1988 Hidalgo joined Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra.[1]Hidalgo auditioned and was hired by the Batacumbele Band in 1980. In 1981, he traveled with the band to Cubawhere he met a musician by the name of José Luis Quintana ”Changuito”. Together they were able to create a unique style of rhythm and ushered in a new musical era in Latin music.

In 1992, he was hired as an adjunct professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. There he taught many types of rhythms; Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, reggae, African and jazz. He held this academic position until 1996.


In 1991 Hidalgo received a Grammy Award in the category of world music (the first year the category existed) as part of Mickey Hart’s percussion ensemblePlanet Drum for the album of the same name. He also performed on the 1993 Arturo Sandoval album Danzon (Dance On) which won the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Performance, and received Grammy nominations in the same category for the albums Hands of Rhythm in 1997 and The Body Acoustic in 2005. In 2009 he collaborated with Hart again as part of the Global Drum Project, whose title album won the world music Grammy that year.

On October 31, 2010, Giovanni performed with the legendary jam rock band Phish during their special Halloween ‘musical costume’ concert. The band learned Little Feat’s “Waiting for Columbus” and performed it in its entirety along with Giovanni Hidalgo on percussion and Aaron Johnson, Stuart Bogie, Ian Hendrickson, Michael Leonhart, and Eric Biondo on brass during set two of three for the evening. He also returned along with the horn section to perform “Julius” the encore for the evening.

Source- Wikipedia

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