Chano Pozo

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Luciano Pozo González (January 7, 1915 in Havana – December 3, 1948 in New York City), known professionally as Chano Pozo was a Cuban jazz percussionist, singer, dancer, and composer. Despite only living to age 33, he played a major role in the founding of Latin jazz. He co-wrote some of Dizzy Gillespie's Latin-flavored compositions, such as "Manteca" and "Tin Tin Deo", and was the first Latin percussionist in Gillespie's band.

Havana Capital city in La Habana, Cuba

Havana is the capital city, largest city, province, major port, and leading commercial center of Cuba. The city has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of 781.58 km2 (301.77 sq mi) – making it the largest city by area, the most populous city, and the fourth largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region.

Latin jazz is a genre of jazz with Latin American rhythms. Although musicians continually expand its parameters, the term Latin jazz is generally understood to have a more specific meaning than simply "jazz from Latin America". Some Latin jazz typically employs rhythms that either have a direct analog in Africa, or exhibit an African influence. The two main categories of Latin jazz are:

  1. Afro-Cuban jazz – jazz rhythmically based on Cuban popular dance music, often with a rhythm section employing ostinato patterns or a clave.
  2. Afro-Brazilian jazz – includes bossa nova and jazz samba.
Manteca (song)

"Manteca" is one of the earliest foundational tunes of Afro-Cuban jazz. Co-written by Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller in 1947, it is among the most famous of Gillespie's recordings and is "one of the most important records ever made in the United States", according to Gary Giddins of the Village Voice. "Manteca" is the first tune rhythmically based on the clave to become a jazz standard.


Early life

Luciano "Chano" Pozo González was born in Havana to Cecelio González and Carnación Pozo. Chano grew up with three sisters and a brother, as well as his older half brother, Félix Chappottín, who would later become one of the great Cuban soneros . The family struggled with poverty throughout his youth. His mother died when Chano was eleven, and Cecelio took his family to live with his long-time mistress, Natalia, who was Felix's mother.

Félix Chappottín Cuban conductor (1907-1983)

Félix Chappottín was a Cuban trumpeter and bandleader. He was a member of three highly successful Cuban bands: Septeto Habanero, Arsenio Rodríguez's conjunto and Conjunto Chappottín, which he directed.

Chano showed an early interest in playing drums, and performed ably in Afro-Cuban religious ceremonies in which drumming was a key element. The family lived for many years at El África Solar (Africa neighborhood), a former slave quarters, by all accounts a foul and dangerous place, where it was said even the police were afraid to venture. In this environment criminal activities flourished, and Chano learned the ways of the street as means of survival. He dropped out of school after the third grade and earned a solid reputation as a rowdy tough guy, big for his age and exceptionally fit. He spent his days playing drums, fighting, drinking, and engaging in petty criminal activities, the latter of which landed him a stint in a youth reformatory. No official records document the crime he was sentenced for, though at least one account has him causing the accidental death of a foreign tourist, adding to a record of thievery, assault, and truancy. At the age of 13, Chano was sent to the reformatory in Guanajay, where he learned reading and writing, auto body repair, and honed his already exceptional skills playing a variety of drums.

Drum type of musical instrument of the percussion family

The drum is a member of the percussion group of musical instruments. In the Hornbostel-Sachs classification system, it is a membranophone. Drums consist of at least one membrane, called a drumhead or drum skin, that is stretched over a shell and struck, either directly with the player's hands, or with a percussion mallet, to produce sound. There is usually a resonance head on the underside of the drum, typically tuned to a slightly lower pitch than the top drumhead. Other techniques have been used to cause drums to make sound, such as the thumb roll. Drums are the world's oldest and most ubiquitous musical instruments, and the basic design has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years.

Afro-Cuban ethnic group

The term Afro-Cuban refers to Cubans who mostly have native West African ancestry and to historical or cultural elements in Cuba thought to emanate from this community. The term can refer to the combining of native African and other cultural elements found in Cuban society such as race, religion, music, language, the arts and class culture.

Police Law enforcement body

The police are a constituted body of persons empowered by a state to enforce the law, to protect the lives, liberty and possessions of citizens, and to prevent crime and civil disorder. Their powers include the power of arrest and the legitimized use of force. The term is most commonly associated with the police forces of a sovereign state that are authorized to exercise the police power of that state within a defined legal or territorial area of responsibility. Police forces are often defined as being separate from the military and other organizations involved in the defense of the state against foreign aggressors; however, gendarmerie are military units charged with civil policing. Police forces are usually public sector services, funded through taxes.


During this time he became a devotee of Santería. Also known as "La Regla de Ocha", this is an Afro-Caribbean religion derived from traditional beliefs of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Developed among Afro-Cuban slaves, the religion began as a blending of these West African spiritual beliefs and Catholic doctrine. Yoruba deities were identified with Catholic saints to fool the slave owners, as the Spanish colonialists had forbidden the practice of African religions. Chano pledged allegiance to the Catholic Saint Barbara, identified widely with Shango, the Yoruba god of fire and thunder, and took him as his personal protector. Both Shango and St. Barbara had associations with the color red, and for the rest of his life Chano would often carry a red scarf signifying his allegiance.

Santería Syncretic religion of Cuban origin

Santería, also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla de Ifá, or Lucumí, is an Afro-American religion of Yoruba origin that developed in Cuba among West African descendants. Santería is a Spanish word that means the "worship of saints". Santería is influenced by and syncretized with Roman Catholicism. Its sacred language is the Lucumí language, a remnant of Yoruba language that is used in rituals but no longer spoken as a vernacular and mostly not understood by practitioners.

Afro-Caribbean racial or ethnic group in Caribbean with African ancestry

Afro-Caribbean is the shorten ethnicity term of African-Caribbean which refers to the ethnicity and cultural heritage of Caribbean people whose ancestors were taken from Africa via the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the Caribbean Islands between the 15th & 19th century to work primarily on various sugar plantations and in domestic households. Other names for the ethnic group include, Black Caribbean, Afro-West Indian, Black West Indian or Afro-Antillean. The term was not used by West Indians themselves but was first coined by Americans in the late 1960s. This points to a controversial turn. This is because West Indian is the official term used by those from that region, and the rest of the world. The name West Indian was first used by Christopher Columbus, to describe the inhabitants that he found. Columbus was originally attempting to reach the country of India by heading west instead of heading east. Subsequently, as a result of the days of Empire, each group of colonies were given a specific description. For example, those living in the British Empire were called British West Indian. Therefore it was natural to conclude that French West Indians and Dutch West Indians, were all part of those self named empires. The term West Indian includes all of those who are born in the region, regardless of skin colour. Historically speaking, West Indian is the correct term used and accepted by those in the region and the rest of the world.

Yoruba people ethnic group of West Africa

The Yorùbá people are an African ethnic group that inhabits western Africa The Yoruba constitute about 44 million people in total. Majority of this population is from Nigeria, where the Yorùbá make up 21% of the country's population, according to the CIA World Factbook, making them one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. Most Yoruba people speak the Yoruba language, which is tonal, and is the language with the largest number of native speakers.

Upon his release from Guanajay, Chano returned to his father's house in Havana. Cecelio persuaded his son to practice his trade of bootblack, but Chano's temperament was not suited for this occupation and he quit after less than a year. In 1929 he took a job selling newspapers for El País , Havana's most influential publication, hawking papers on a number of street corners. [1] His forceful nature and success in selling brought him to the attention of newspaper owner and influential businessman Alfredo Suárez, who hired Chano as his personal driver and bodyguard. He was rumored to have performed duties as debt collector or "leg breaker" for Suarez. Chano spent his free time dancing, singing, fighting, chasing women and playing his drums. He also began to compose music.

<i>El País</i> Spanish newspaper

El País is a Spanish-language daily newspaper in Spain. According to the Office of Justification of Dissemination (OJD) it is the second most circulated daily newspaper in Spain as of December 2017. It's by the number sales in 2018 were, on average, 60.000 according to internal audits, more than 70% less than a decade prior. The current editor, Soledad Gallego Díaz, has been brough to court after dismissing five employees for what the accusers mainatin are political and ideological reasons.

A bodyguard is a type of security guard, or government law enforcement officer, or soldier who protects a person or a group of people—usually high-ranking public officials or officers, wealthy people, and celebrities—from danger: generally theft, assault, kidnapping, assassination, harassment, loss of confidential information, threats, or other criminal offences. The personnel team that protects a VIP is often referred to as the VIP's security detail.


Chano's reputation grew among the people each year, not only because of his physical prowess as a dancer, drummer, and success with women, but for the compositions he wrote for Carnival, during the nightly celebrations of which neighborhoods formed highly competitive comparsas , or street troupes. They consisted of singers, dancers, musicians, and the ever-present rumberos. Mostly young, street-toughened drummers, rumberos were integral to each comparsa (something like a 'jam club'), since rumberos provided throbbing, sensuous rhythms regarded as the base for all Afro-Cuban music. In a few years Pozo was the most well-known and sought after rumbero in Cuba, with the most talented comparsas (local groups) vying for his services, and was regularly winning top cash prizes for his compositions. Chano elevated the status and reputation of rumbero to near mythic proportions with his swaggering attitude as he led his own comparsa through the streets and with increasing successes became a hero to Havana's poor people. Pozo and some of his fellow musicians wrote a conga music composition that earned them first prize in the city of Santiago de Cuba's carnival of 1940: "La Comparsa de los Dandys," a composition that some consider an unofficial theme song of Santiago de Cuba, and a familiar standard at many Latin American carnivals.

Carnival festive season which occurs immediately before Lent

Carnival is a Western Christian and Greek Orthodox festive season that occurs before the liturgical season of Lent. The main events typically occur during February or early March, during the period historically known as Shrovetide. Carnival typically involves public celebrations, including events such as parades, public street parties and other entertainments, combining some elements of a circus. Elaborate costumes and masks allow people to set aside their everyday individuality and experience a heightened sense of social unity. Participants often indulge in excessive consumption of alcohol, meat, and other foods that will be forgone during upcoming Lent. Traditionally, butter, milk, and other animal products were not consumed "excessively", rather, their stock was fully consumed as to reduce waste. Pancakes, donuts, and other desserts were prepared and eaten for a final time. During Lent, animal products are no longer eaten, and individuals have the ability to give up a certain object or activity of desire.


A comparsa is a group of singers, musicians and dancers that take part in carnivals and other festivities in Spain and Latin America. Its precise meaning depends on the specific regional celebration. The most famous comparsas are those that participate in the Carnival of Santiago de Cuba. In Brazil, comparsas are called carnival blocks, as those seen in the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian carnivals. In the US, especially at the New Orleans Mardi Gras, comparsas are called krewes, which include floats.

Santiago de Cuba City in Cuba

Santiago de Cuba is the second-largest city in Cuba and the capital city of Santiago de Cuba Province. It lies in the southeastern area of the island, some 870 km (540 mi) southeast of the Cuban capital of Havana.

Career in Cuba

Cuba was by this time a popular tourist destination, with the biggest hotels, The Sevilla Biltmore, the Nacional, and El Presidente catering to rich Americans and Europeans, and Chano was determined to break the color barrier that restricted the employment of dark skinned people. He began to court musicians and others who might help him by auditioning in unusual places—such as in front of the Cuban-owned radio station Azul, which broadcast popular recordings as well as live Cuban folk music. Chano befriended many musicians who worked there, playing his drum on the street to catch their attention as they arrived for work. Though admired for his prodigious talent, dark skinned blacks [2] [3] were prohibited from working most venues outside of the slums, and Chano searched for opportunities. He found that opportunity with Armando Trinidad, owner of the radio station. Armando persuaded Chano to work for him as the bouncer for Azul, where his imposing size and reputation kept rowdy crowds in check.

To survive racial marginalization in Cuba, he worked cleaning shoes and selling newspapers. He first performed as a dancer in a Havana troupe known as The Dandy. His brother was the Cuban trumpeter Felix Chapotín. He later worked at the radio station Cadena Azul. [4]

Once Pozo became famous, he also became renowned for his sense of fashion, including sometimes wearing an all-white top hat and tuxedo.

New York

In 1947 he immigrated to the U.S. in search of a better life. He was encouraged to do so by Mario Bauza and his childhood friend Miguelito Valdes. It was Mario Bauza who introduced Chano to Dizzy Gillespie who was looking to include a conga player into his musical group.

Chano Pozo is one of a handful of Cuban percussionists who came to the United States in the 1940s and '50s. Other notable congueros who came to the U.S. during that time include Mongo Santamaría, Armando Peraza, Francisco Aguabella, Julito Collazo, Carlos Vidal Bolado, Desi Arnaz and Modesto Durán. Pozo moved to New York City in early 1947 with the encouragement of Miguelito Valdés, and participated in a recording session with Valdés, the legendary band leader Arsenio Rodríguez, Carlos Vidal Bolado and José Mangual. [5] In September 1947, after Mario Bauzá introduced the two, he featured in Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band at Carnegie Hall and subsequently on a European tour. [5] Their notable material includes "Cubana Be, Cubana Bop" (written by George Russell), and "Tin Tin Deo" and "Manteca", both co-written by Pozo.


Chano Pozo was shot and killed on December 2, 1948 in the El Rio Bar at 111th St and Lenox Avenue in Harlem. The Rio Bar no longer exists—even the small triangular block where it was located has been removed. Pozo's killer was a local bookie named Eusebio "Cabito" Munoz. Pozo had accused Cabito of selling him poor quality marijuana and Cabito retaliated.

Pozo is buried in the Colón Cemetery, Havana.

His grandson Joaquín Pozo, who was living in Cuba as of 2006, is also a famous conguero . [6] [ citation needed ]


With Dizzy Gillespie

Cuban drummer Chino Pozo claimed to be related to Chano Pozo.

Pozo is featured (in animated form) in the fictional animated film Chico and Rita (2010), where the circumstances surrounding his death are included as part of the plot line.

Pozo is mentioned in a monologue by character Roland Turner, played by John Goodman, in the film Inside Llewyn Davis . Turner claims to have learned Santeria and black arts in New Orleans from Pozo. [7]

See also

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  1. Reuters Staff (4 March 2016). "El Pais, Spain's best-selling newspaper may end print edition". Reuters. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  2. Angelica Weaver, Contributor. "Dear Black People…Dark Skinned Women Are Not Your Last Resort". huffingtonpost. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  3. "Dating As A Dark Skinned Black Woman Is Annoying For This Reason". elitedaily. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  4. Homepage. "WRHC, Cadena Azul 1550 ,your Latin Radio station Miami". Cadena Azul. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  5. 1 2 "Chano Pozo: Biography". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2009-11-15.
  6. Birth of the Cool: Beat, Bebop, and the American Avant Garde By Lewis MacAdams
  7. Coen, Joel; Coen, Ethan (2013). Inside Llewyn Davis (PDF). p. 68. Retrieved 11 June 2015.