About

Conjunto Guantanamo

Conjunto Guantánamo - Sizzling Ambassadors of Cuban Folklore - have arrived with a freshly interpreted, classic Afro-Cuban sound. Lively percussion, pounding syncopated bass lines, brazenly exotic trumpet melodies, uninhibited improvisation and the sultry, sexy, dynamic lead vocal of Pepito Gomez positively scorch in a variety of vintage and original compositions. Conjunto Guantánamo unite the precision and cadence of traditional Afro-Cuban music with the raw energy and edge of New York City’s unique nightlife. Conjunto Guantánamo brings you the origins and essence of what music lovers today mostly know as Salsa.

Having released their well received debut EP ‘…Oye Como Suenan’ in 2011, and a fun Christmas themed Double-Single ‘¡Las Navidades! con el Conjunto Guantánamo in 2015, CG have just release the first single off their highly anticipated upcoming album (Out Now/Nganga Records). The single titled ‘Cuchillo para la Piña Cubana’ draws the listener in with one new fresh rhythmic passage after another, before exploding into a full-on, high-energy Cuban dance number with all the strength and driving beat of a steady locomotive.

 

Click to hear Cuchillo para la Pina Cubana

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Conjunto Guantánamo's soulful sound is layered with authentic Cuban swing and sophisticated influences like "El Barbaro" Benny More, Arsenio Rodriguez, Roberto Faz, and Miguelito Cuní. Playing authentic traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms like Son Montuno, Cha-Cha-Cha, Mambo and Rumba with contemporary energy, their performances sometimes transition into extended experimental descargas -- a type of Afro-Cuban improvisational jam session -- using musical motifs straight from the streets of Havana and Matanzas, combined with the very spirit of New York City. The band inspires thousands of New Yorkers and international fans alike to swivel their hips in the name of Latin passion.

Since Conjunto Guantánamo was founded in 2003, they’ve been highly visible on the NYC nightlife scene, performing concerts at festivals, dance parties, events and venues as diverse as

  • The Museum of Modern Art
  • What a Wonderfull World 50th Anniversary Festival with the Louis Armstrong House Museum
  • Lincoln Center’s Boro-Linc: La Casita
  • The Gantries summer series
  • Langston Hughes Auditorium, Queens
  • The Schomberg Center, Harlem
  • Lowell Folk Festival

The band have also recently enjoyed the support of WPKN, WFMU and WVST in the U.S and Celtica Radio in the U.K. and was recently ranked  Number 6 on ReverbNation’s Latin Music category for their previous single ‘Y Yo Ganga’.

Founder Ulises Beato (director, conga, vocals) along with José Pepito Gomez (vocals, guitar, tres), Carlos Mena (bass, Vocals), Ittetsu Nasuda (piano), Oscar Oñoz (trumpet) and Mauricio Herrera (bongo) are the celebrated musicians who create this unique sound. You can find Conjunto Guantánamo at select venues around New York City and the Tri-State area just about every week, just check their show calendar on their Official Home Page.

 

Also see: A Brief History of Conjunto Guantanamo

 

 


 

Ulises Beato (director, conga and vocals)

…Ulises Beato is a hero of Cuban music…”

- Master Percussionist Eddie Bobé

 

Cuban-American Ulises Beato was born in New York City's Washington Heights area in 1966 and relocated with his family to Miami, Florida in early 1973. For the next 21 years he was raised within the freshly exiled Cuban community that had largely been gathering there since 1960. Early on, Ulises absorbed the traditional Cuban music, culture and Afro-Cuban religious practices of his parents and extended family, all of whom had come from Havana some years before. 

Young Ulises was transfixed the first time he attended a sacred "toque de santos" or "a playing for the saints". Though only eight years old at the time, he remembered the instruments and music he heard and saw for the first time at his godfather’s house in the 1970s, with their rustic appearance and a bewildering polyrhythm unlike anything he'd ever heard. This experience left an indelible mark on Ulises helping shape his musical inclinations throughout his life.

 After moving back to New York City in 1994, Ulises discovered a side of Cuban music that he felt had been largely overlooked in Miami. "Back in the early 90s,” says Ulises, “ I was able to discover a wide variety of Cuban musical recordings around NYC's underground nightlife and on the local radio stations. 

”When Buena Vista came out” says Ulises Beato, “it was such a stark contrast to the run of the mill commercial salsa music that was around then.  The "salsa" world was alive and well and it's roots in Afro-Cuban son were widely acknowledged but everyone was playing their own versions as they went along and they were taking the music further and further away from it’s original essence.”

In 2003, Ulises founded Conjunto Guantánamo and shortly after this, CG played its first few gigs in the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO where the band formed, solidified and eventually gelled into what it is today. In the years since, Ulises has slowly and steadily steered the ensemble towards notoriety while honing a truly authentic urban son sound allowing a wide audience to enjoy the true essence of this ubiquitously influential genre.

 


 

 

José Pepito Gomez (lead vocals, guitar, trés)

“…Pepito Gomez is one of the best voices of Cuba Today…”

- Omara Portuondo, singer of Buena Vista Social Club

 

José “Pepito” Gomez was born in 1971, in the small town of Florida in Cuba’s Camagüey province from where, in 1993 he emerged to become lead singer of Maravilla de Florida, a band boasting over five decades worth of rich musical tradition and several national number one hits in Cuba. It was as a member of  Maravilla de Florida that Pepito's future as one of Cuba’s top vocalists began to take shape.

Pepito Gomez moved to Havana in 1994. There he met Enrique Alvarez, the director of  La Charanga Latina. Alvarez asked Pepito to join his band and with them he played several successful European and North American tours.

After his stint with La Charanga Latina, Pepito explored a few solo projects and participated  in some others such as Colé – Colé and Azúcar Negra, the latter eventually took him on tour to New York City’s Lincoln Center in 1999. Pepito was also honored to tour with the late great Compay Segundo of  Buena Vista Social Club fame and has had the opportunity to share the stage with such superstars as Omara Portuondo, also of BVSC, salsa world superstars, Gilberto Santarosa and Cheo Feliciano and a slew of other world famous orchestras and singers.

A big break came for Pepito Gomez when he was invited to join Habana Ensemble, a group consisting of members of Irakere, one of most internationally important and influential of the contemporary Afro-Cuban jazz bands within Cuba. This represented a new challenge in his career as he found himself training at the highest level of Cuban musicianship. This motivated Gomez to continue polishing his musical skills.

It was during this time that he met one of the most important figures in contemporary Cuban music: César "Pupy" Pedroso. Pupy Pedroso was then the pianist, composer and, along with Juan Formel, co-founder of one of the most currently popular Cuban music groups in the world, Los Van Van who enjoy a history spanning four decades at the top of the international Cuban music scene.

At the time, Pedroso was planning a solo project that would later turn out to be one of Cuba's top new timba bands - Pupy y Los Que Son Son. Pepito was brought on as the band’s new lead singer making him one of this seminal band’s founding members. With Pupy y Los Que Son Son, Pepito had the opportunity to travel all over the world and present his music in some of the most prestigious international venues. He stayed on with the band as lead vocalist and composer until his migration to the United States in 2009.

Since arriving in New York City, Pepito has also taken part in several solo projects and even spent a two year stint in Puerto Rico where he collaborated with the late José Lugo on various recording projects there.  Around 2013, Pepito returned to NYC from Puerto Rico and continued to work with CG as well as pursuing several new solo projects. Most notably his solo release and subsequent tour in 2018 of the self titled album Oquesta Akokan.

Around 2009, soon after reaching the US, Pepito met Ulises who needed a new singer for Conjunto Guantanamo. After working together a couple of times, Pepito was brought on as lead singer and he and Ulises cemented a friendship and working relationship that flourishes to this day. In the decade since, the two have played hundreds of performances and are set to release their third recorded production together, a full LP album entitled “Moviendo los Caracoles” (out Fall 2018 on Nganga Records).

 


 

Carlos Mena (arranger, bass, backing vocals)

“…Carlos Mena is a rarely talented and gifted musician…”

- Mathias Rüegg, Directo, Vienna Art Orchestra


Born and raised in Quito-Ecuador, Carlos Mena is a rising star in the New York City Latin music scene. Taking part in numerous different projects involving Afro-Latin, Jazz, Pop and funk music which make good use of his chameleon-like musical flexibility, impeccable timing, his sense of feeling and harmony and his strong soloing abilities.

 

In 2002, he was awarded the Elsy Meyer Scholarship in Zurich Switzerland where he also finished his bachelor’s in music and pedagogy at the University of Arts (Hochschule der Kuenste). In 2010 Carlos received his Master’s in Music Performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music in New York City studying with Professors: Michael Mossman, Antonio Hart, David Berkman and Johannes Weidenmueller.

Mr. Mena's musical career has seen performances with many notable artists and shows including, Mayito Rivera (former singer for Los Van Van), Willie Colón, Pedrito Martinez, Michael Mossman, Julio Barreto (drummer for Gonzalo Rubalcaba), Amik Guerra (trumpeter for Horacio “el Negro” Hernandez), the Youth Symphonic Orchestra of Zurich, and the hit musical “Saturday Night Fever” in Switzerland and Germany to name just a few. 

 

Carlos joined Conjunto Guantanamo in 2010 as bass player and vocalist, and presently he is also the musical arranger for the band. His bass rhythms have been the band’s backbone and musical engine ever since. As a backup singer his vocal character lends an undeniable quality to the luxurious back-up harmonies of the band. At the moment, apart from touring live and producing new studio releases with CG.

Carlos is also working on a new solo project which will use jazz, hip hop and Latin influences alongside a string quartet.

 


 

 

Oscar Oñoz “Cinturíta” (trumpet)

Born in Cuba's Camagüey province in 1965 and a true “sonero” straight from the heart. While growing up in New Jersey in the 70s alongside many of the numerous great Cuban musicians living in exile there, like Luisito Quiñoes, Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros (a personal mentor) and Bomberito Zarzuela, Oscar learned the traditional Cuban style of trumpet for which he is best known today.  

Throughout his career Oscar Oñoz has performed with such greats as Cachao, David Oquendo and Juan Carlos Formell. In 1999, Oscar was honored to record with several members of the acclaimed "Buena Vista Social Club” on the album "Cuban Dreams; A New York Reunion". On the Big Screen his trumpet playing has been featured on Darren Aronofsky's classic "Requiem For a Dream (2000) and on Amauri Gutierrez's landmark documentary on Cuban music "Como Se Formo Una Rumba" (1999). He is a sought after man-for-hire around the NYC music scene and performs with numerous projects around town. 

Since 2009, Oscar has been playing the traditional Cuban music he enjoys and loves best as the lead trumpeter for Conjunto Guantanamo bringing full circle the band’s signature sound as a traditional Cuban son ensemble. Look for him on CG’s upcoming new release, a full LP album entitled “Moviendo los Caracoles” (out Fall 2018 on Nganga Records). 

 


 

Mauricio Herrera (bongo)

Mauricio Herrera was born in the Holguín Province of Cuba in 1972. He first discovered the world of music at age 7 when he started learning violin. By 14 he began to explore Afro-Cuban percussion where he found his true calling. He graduated from the José Maria Ochoa Musical Conservatory in Holguín. In 1994 Mauricio moved to Havana to set off on his musical career. While living in Havana he played, toured and recorded with the likes of Hector Valentin, La Barriada, Pachito Alonso, Manolin el Medico de la Salsa, Manolito Simonet and Paulito FG.

In 2001 Mauricio left Cuba to play a concert tour of Mexico and decided to stay there. He lived in Mexico City until 2005. Mauricio had always felt the allure of North American jazz and in February of 2005 he decided to migrate to New York to satisfy this enduring hunger. While Mauricio's upbringing in Cuba instilled in him a fundamental understanding and passion for the polyrhythms and syncopation of traditional Afro-Cuban percussion, the atmosphere and musical diversity in New York City have provided a stage for him to fulfill his musical destiny as musical innovator while remaining a torch holder of a centuries old musical tradition

Mauricio began playing bongo and singing backup with Conjunto Guantanamo in 2009 and can be heard on all of their releases since their debut “Oye Como Suenan”(Nganga Records, 2011). He is also featured in CG’s upcoming new release “Moviendo los Caracoles” (out Fall 2018 on Nganga Records).

Mauricio is also endorsed by Latin Percussion (LP) and Vic Firth. 

 


 

Ittetsu Nasuda (piano)

“El Tsunami del Son”

Ittetsu Nasuda was born in Tokyo. He began playing piano at the young age of three, under the direction of his mother, herself a professional pianist and teacher. He continued throughout this time and by the time he turned 19, he became keenly interested in playing improvisational jazz music. He spent several years performing with many talented musicians throughout the Tokyo area.

In 2011, Ittetsu followed his passion for music halfway around the world to Boston where he studied at Berklee College of Music, with Leo Blanco, Bernardo Hernandez, Joanne Brackeen, Rebecca Cline and Vadim Neselovskyi. 

Since 2012, Ittetsu has joined many recordings on A2C Productions in Massachusetts. He has also created a number of original songs, beats and soundtracks. In 2015 Ittetsu moved to NYC and he is now an active part the New York City Latin and jazz music scene, performing regularly at various live venues all over the city.

In 2016, Ittetsu joined CG on piano as its newest member diving in head first with the band’s busy calendar and deep repertoire. Ittetsu is looking forward to his first recording project with the band and has begun recording on CG’s upcoming new release “Moviendo los Caracoles” (out Fall 2018 on Nganga Records).

 


 

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