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Pedro Conga

Though many of salsa and Latin jazz music's most successful bandleaders have been congueros and percussionists, the majority fell from public notice when the salsa market waned in the mid- to late '80s. Pedro Conga, however, experienced the very height of his success at a time when other salseros were packing up and going home. His landmark album, No Te Quites la Ropa, hit number two on Billboard's Tropical Salsa charts in 1989, well after the U.S. salsa boom of the '70s had subsided. Born in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Conga got his start backing up the vocalist Justo Betancourt, with whom he had performed throughout Latin America and Europe. Through his association with Betancourt, Conga earned spots in the bands of salsa luminaries like Tito Rojas, Anthony Cruz, and Maelo Ruiz, among others. A talented arranger as well as a skilled instrumentalist, Conga set his sights on leading his own group. Pedro Conga y Su Orquesta Internacional were introduced to the salsa-listening world with their self-titled debut record in 1972. With over 17 records to their credit since that time and a career that has spanned over 35 years, Conga is one of few bandleaders with the staying power necessary to thrive in the sometimes difficult salsa market. Celebrating 35 years, Pedro Conga y Su Orquesta Internacional released Con el Golpe de Siempre in 2007, featuring the single "No Me La Pongas Dura," a radio hit throughout the States and the band's native Puerto Rico alike. ~ Evan C. Gutierrez

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