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Miguel Angá Diaz, 45; Afro-Cuban Music's Conga Drum Master, 8/12/06 LA Times

World Circuit Press Release, 8/10/06




Miguel "Anga" Diaz

Cuban master percussionist Miguel "Anga" Diaz was a musician of incredible knowledge and ability who has developed a complete mastery of the congas. Known for his remarkable soloing and muli-conga/percussion inventions, Anga has recorded and toured with The Afro-Cuban All-Stars, Ruben Gonzales, Irakere, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Steve Coleman, Roy Hargrove, Tito Puente, David Sanchez...

-- from an independent video producer's site on Diaz,

Passed on,  August 9, 2006.



Check out the Mimfilms site for a most interesting looking instructional video with Diaz:

Miguel 'Angá' Diaz, 45; Afro-Cuban Music's Conga Drum Master, 8/12/06


By Agustin Gurza, Times Staff Writer
August 12, 2006
Cuban percussionist Miguel "Angá" Diaz, an acclaimed conga master who perfected a dazzling five-drum technique with a versatility that allowed him to span genres from progressive jazz to traditional Afro-Cuban standards, has died. He was 45.

Diaz, who was also a composer and arranger, suffered a heart attack Wednesday at his home in San Sadurní d'Anoia, a small town east of Barcelona, where he had recently moved in search of a more serene lifestyle. His body was discovered by a student who had gone to the home for a lesson, according to a spokesman for his label, London-based World Circuit records.

The news came as a shock in music circles, where Diaz is hailed as one of the world's leading exponents of Afro-Cuban percussion, a complex and physically demanding discipline.

Friends who had talked to Diaz a few hours before his death said he was in good spirits with a full agenda of touring and recording, including a show with the Cuban fusion group Síntesis scheduled for that night. During a stop in London earlier this year, the musician was ebullient with new ideas and excited about future projects, said World Circuit owner Nick Gold, a co-producer of Diaz's debut album as a bandleader, 2005's boldly experimental "Echu Mingua."

Gold met Diaz in Havana in 1996 during the first recording session by the Afro-Cuban All Stars, a precursor to the Buena Vista Social Club. Gold regularly called on Diaz to work on solo albums by Buena Vista alumni, including singer Ibrahim Ferrer, bassist Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez and guitarists Ry Cooder and Manuel Galbán.

"After working with Angá as a conga player, no one else would do," Gold said Friday by phone from England. "Technically, he was just extraordinary. And he seemed to have no musical barriers whatsoever."

Jazz pianist Omar Sosa, who is also based in Barcelona and toured frequently with Diaz in his group, said the conga player had evolved far beyond his traditional instrument. For a time, recalled Sosa, Diaz even expropriated a Gymboree toy from his son because it made a unique wave-like sound the percussionist liked.

"He was always creative, that's for sure," said Sosa, whose upcoming CD, "Live à FIP," features Angá on a complex of percussion instruments. "It's astounding how many sonic colors you hear in his work. The knowledge he had, the wisdom, was just gigantic. He understood the entire language of Afro-Cuban percussion."

Sosa spoke by phone Friday from Barcelona shortly after an emotional funeral service for Diaz that featured a performance of the heart-wrenching bolero "Toda Una Vida" ("All Life Long") by Diaz's brother and bandmate, Juan "El Indio." The artist's remains were to be cremated and his ashes sent back to Cuba, where his parents live in his childhood home.

Miguel Aurelio Díaz Zayas was born in 1961 in San Juan y Martinez in Pinar del Rio province. He inherited his nickname from his father, Aurelio Diaz Fernandes, the original Angá.

He showed prodigious talent as a child and started formal percussion studies by the age of 10. Four years later, he earned a scholarship to the National School of Art in Havana, where he also had the chance to work with renowned Cuban conguero Tata Güines and drummer Guillermo Barretto.

After college, he launched his professional career with the avant-garde group Opus 13, touring and recording with them for nine years, mostly in the 1980s. It was a period of intense experimentation in Cuban dance music, a prelude to the historic explosion of Afro-Cuban dance bands in the 1990s.

When the explosion came, Diaz was at the epicenter as percussionist with Irakere, Cuba's preeminent progressive band, led by pianist Chucho Valdés. Diaz had the challenging task of replacing the band's original percussionist, the late Jorge "El Nino" Alfonso.

"Those were big shoes to fill, but Angá pulled it off," said Raul Pineda, a former member of Valdés' quartet who lives in Los Angeles. "It was difficult both musically and physically, because of Irakere's challenging arrangements and because in Cuba, unlike here, bands would play for three hours straight."

It was in Irakere that Diaz perfected the five-conga technique used by his predecessor.

"He could do things [on congas] that could only be dreamed of before he came on the scene," said Paul de Castro, an expert in Afro-Latin music who teaches at Cal State L.A. "Angá was one of the innovators in conga technique."

Diaz went on his own in 1994, recording "Pasaporte" with his conga hero, Güines. He set up a home in Paris, where he married, started a family and eventually became a French citizen, dividing his time between France and Cuba.

In 1996, he joined Roy Hargrove's band Crisol, recording on the U.S. trumpeter's Grammy-winning album, "Habana." He went on to record with a diverse set of artists, from the biting debut album by Cuba's hip-hop trio Orishas to graceful works by Buena Vista veterans Ruben Gonzalez and Omara Portuondo.

After moving to Barcelona in 2003, Diaz kept up an intense schedule of work. A week before his death, Diaz appeared in Barcelona with his new ensemble, fusing popular Brazilian music with Afro-Cuban jazz. He also recently formed a trio with Cachaito and flamenco pianist Chano Dominguez. And the new live album, recorded by Radio France, is due for release Oct. 10 on Sosa's Otá Records.

In addition to his father and brother, Diaz is survived by his mother, Maria Luisa Zayas Hernandez; twin 12-year-old daughters, Lisa and Naomi of Paris; and their half sister, Yanira, 22, of Miami.,0,696825.story?coll=la-home-obituaries

World Circuit Press Release, 8/10/06

World Circuit are shocked and saddened to announce the death of the great Cuban conga player Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz who died unexpectedly at his home in Barcelona on 9th August 2006, he was 45.

With his explosive soloing and inventive five conga patterns, Angá’ was widely regarded as one of the world’s great congueros. He was committed to the development of the conga drum, breaking down traditional percussion barriers to perform traditional latin rhythms, jazz, jungle and hip-hop, whilst retaining his distinctly Cuban roots.

Angá began playing prodigiously early, performing and recording professionally whilst still at college. He made his name as part of the pioneering Latin jazz group Irakere and it was with them he perfected his five drum technique. Emerging in the mid-nineties as an independent musician Angá was free to diversify and pursue a variety of different projects - from the experimental jazz of Steve Coleman and Roy Hargrove, to hip hop with Orishas, to his tours with Omar Sosa, and numerous side projects with musicians from all over the globe, Angá’s musical journey was a personal quest to explore and create new sounds and rhythmic fusions.

More than just a performer, Angá further demonstrated his commitment to the development of his instrument by teaching master classes at various schools and universities across North America and Europe. Angá produced a tuition video in 2000 which explained many of his techniques and his philosophy behind playing, it won Percussion Video of the Year from Drum Magazine. Angá would continue to teach on a regular basis and built up a network of students from his base outside of Barcelona.

Angá’s first project with World Circuit was the hugely influential Afro Cuban All Stars album recorded in 1996 which showcased the depth and vitality within Cuban music. Angá became an integral part of World Circuit’s extended Buena Vista family adding his trademark sound to albums from Rubén González, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, Guajiro Mirabal, and the second Afro Cuban All Stars record. Angá’s own musical vision would emerge with the release of the album ‘Cachaíto’ an inspired union of Afro-Cuban jazz, reggae, hip hop and funk which he recorded with the Cuban bass legend Cachaíto López. Building from the foundations laid by Cachaíto’s record, and incorporating elements of his own Santeria religion, Angá would finally fulfil his dream in 2005 with the release of his critically acclaimed album ‘Echu Mingua’, an exciting fusion of styles blended together the ‘Cuban way’ and is a fitting testament to the career of one of the great musical innovators.

Angá was an irrepressible character with a larger than life personality, whose beaming grin and booming laugh were matched by a warmth and humility that touched all of those lucky enough to know him. He will be sorely missed.



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