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Ray Armando

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Born on January 27, 1939 in Brooklyn, the young Armando would listen closely to his father’s Machito and Arsenio Rodriguez records and to the voice of his mother, a professional singer, dancer, and actress. While his dreams of becoming a baseball player were never realized, he did manage to become skilled on the conga drums at an early age.

He was first involved with Latin percussion through his uncle at the age of 8. His first real influence and teacher was Mongo Santamaria, who lived across the street from his family. At the age of fifteen, he went on the road with Elmo Garcia’s Big Band. After paying his dues with Garcia, he went on to work with the Mambo King himself, Tito Puente, with whom he would play at the legendary Palladium in New York City. After his stint with Puente, he continued his studies in percussion instruments and guitar compositions, delving into elements of harmony, theory and counterpoint.

In between studies, he often free-lanced, which consequently gave him the opportunity to travel the globe. This included Europe, Japan, South America, and the Caribbean Islands. He became exposed to the different facets of music in various cultures. This enabled him to develop a new rhythmic concept that was both distinctive and unique.

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