6 great percussion performances

The late Ray Baretto is a percussion legend.
The late Ray Baretto is a percussion legend. (Image credit: John Van Hasselt/Sygma/Corbis)

Good percussion parts can have a hugely beneficial effect on almost any track, elevating it both rhythmically and texturally.

Even the addition of just a simple conga or shaker part can transform a dull rhythm track into a more complete sounding, syncopated, 'human' groove, particularly if the main drums are overtly electronic sounding.

The best way to get yourself fired up for some serious percussion programming is to feast your senses on some serious percussionists. Here are some utterly unmissable YouTube videos.

For a complete guide to percussion, check out the June 2012 issue of Computer Music magazine (CM178).

Mongo Santamaria

One of the greatest congueros of all time leads his own band in a super-cool rendition of his own jazz standard, Afro Blue, from 1984. Mongo takes his solo in the intro, but be sure to also check out Sal Santamaria's sublime shekere solo at 4.40. Beautiful.

Giovanni Hidalgo, Johnny Rodriguez and Orestes Vilato

Three percussion legends - Giovanni Hidalgo, Johnny Rodriguez and Orestes Vilato - pay tribute to the late, great Ray Barretto. Feel the push and pull of the clave and pay attention to how perfectly the trio weave their separate lines together without getting in each other's way.

Ray Baretto

Whether leading his own band or contributing to other people's, Ray Barretto's style of conga playing was uniquely characterful. There's not much of him on YouTube, but this number from 1975 ably demonstrates his incredible chops.

NEXT: Chano Pozo, Airto Moreira and Sheila E

Chano Pozo

No video, sadly, but don't let that spoil the Afro Cuban freight train that is Dizzy Gillespie's Manteca, featuring Chano Pozo on congas. Chano, who died a year after this recording was made, was the first of many Latin percussionists to work with Dizzy, who was largely responsible for Latin jazz taking off in the US.

Airto Moreira

The fabulously eccentric Airto Moreira does weird things with his voice, and throws some incredible shapes with a whole armoury of Brazilian percussion.

Sheila E

Sheila E might be best known as Prince's drummer from back in the day, but she's also a superb percussionist away from the kit. That shouldn't come as a surprise, though, given that her dad, uncle, both brothers and various other Escovedo family members are all extremely big-hitters on the US Latin music scene.

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