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December 11

Pérez Prado

Though trained in classical piano, Pérez Prado was instrumental in spreading Afro-Cuban music’s engaging beat after World War II.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

1916: Mambo King
Pérez Prado is born in Mantanzas, Cuba
Of Mexican and Cuban heritage, Pérez Prado helped bring Latin music to whole new crowds of listeners around the globe. The “King of the Mambo” played piano and led bands throughout his career, including the Pérez Prado Orchestra—today led by his son, Perez Prado, Jr. in Mexico City. And, he wrote music for people to dance the mambo, better known today as salsa dancing.

Prado described his mambo as being “an Afro-Cuban rhythm with a dash of American swing.” Makes sense. Prado’s best-known pieces, like “Mambo No. 5” and “Mambo Jambo,” had American audiences dancing in the aisles of his concerts, which often sold out.
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