Poncho Sanchez is El Conguero, THE Conguero. He was not the first, but he is certainly one of the best. This conga player, or conguero, has spent a lifetime exploring the wondrous song of the congas. With his drums in hand, Sanchez escapes into a world of rhythm and fire and is willing to take anyone listening with him on a musical journey. Poncho Sanchez has played with the likes of Chano Pozo, Dizzy Gillespie, and Cal Tjader and helped create the new sounds of Latin Jazz.
Sanchez began his musical career as a guitarist for the Rhythm and Blues group, the Halos. While with the group he became the vocalist and taught himself to play the flute, drumset, and timbales all while still a teenager. It was in high school in Norwalk California, that Sanchez learned the congas and became so fond of them.
In 1975, El Conguero got his break. His idol, Cal Tjader, invited him to sit in with his group. It only took a week for Tjader to see Sanchez’s talent and made him an official member of the band.
Poncho played with Tjader for the next few years until Tjader’s death in 1982. Prior to his death, Tjader went to Concord Records and recommended that they sign Sanchez as the leader of a soon to be formed group. This request from Tjader became the launching pad for Sanchez’s success. He would go on to record 19 albums under Concord and he would eventually earn a Grammy Award. Today, El Conguero is considered among the greatest all-time Percussionists and has managed to outlive many of his own idols like Ray Barretto, Mongo, Patato, and Tata Güines. The secret to Poncho Sanchez’s success? He keeps the passion and fire alive. He says to feel the rhythm and learn to dance with the music. The rest will come naturally.