El Tecolote archive

Francisco Urrutia Aguabella was born in Matanza, Cuba on October 10, 1925. He passed way on May 7, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

Francisco Aguabella’s extensive music career spans more than six decades earning him the most well deserved title of “Legendary Conguero” and “Master of the Bata drum.”

Aguabella left Cuba in the 1950’s to perform with Katherine Dunham in the Shelley Winters movie “Mambo” (1954) filmed in Italy. After touring with Katherine Dunham he came to the United States and toured with Peggy Lee for the next seven years. He traveled the world: Europe, Australia, Asia, South America and the United States, including a special appearance at the White House.

Francisco performed and recorded with many great artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Frank Sinatra, Eddie Palmieri, Cachao, Peggy Lee, Nancy Wilson, Poncho Sanchez, and Bebo Valdes. His love of music transcended genres as he also performed and recorded with rock legends Carlos Santana, Paul Simon, and the Doors.

Francisco was the recipient of multiple awards and honors including the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Durfee Foundation’s Master Musicians’ Fellowship, and recognition by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. He was featured in the documentary “Sworn to the Drum” by filmmaker Les Blank. A documentary on his life, “Aguabella,” is currently in production, directed by actor/filmmaker Orestes Matacena (The Mask, Bitter Sugar). He also appeared with his Latin Jazz Ensemble on television programs including the Orlando Jones Show.

A widely recognized master conguero and bata artist and a caring and knowledgeable instructor, Francisco led his own Latin Jazz Ensemble for over a decade. He was invited to perform as a featured conguero with various groups such as the Conga Kings, which has been home to Giovanni Hidalgo, Candido Camero and Patato Valdez. Francisco has endorsed Pearl Drums since 2004 and taught Afro Cuban drumming at UCLA under the Department of Ethnomusicology.

Francisco’s passion and fire on the conga drums have been absolutely contagious. He is an artist whose music and spiritual connection to the drums will continue to inspire both musicians and listeners worldwide.

Francisco is survived by daughters Menina Givens, Martica Jenkins; sons Mario and Marco Aguabella; and seven grandchildren. He is buried at Holy Cross Cementary and Mortuary in Culver City, California.

Excerpted from http://www.franciscoaguabella.com/biography.htm

Youtube video: Francisco Aguabella with Carlos Santana.