Federico Arístides Soto Alejo, known all over the world as Tata Güines, was born on June 30, 1930 in the town of Güines, Havana. He grew up in the midst of sones and parties and within a family with musical concerns.
Before he was ten years old, he used to climb onto a stool to play the double bass with Ases del Ritmo and Partagás ensembles. From all percussion instruments, the tumbadora was the only one that caught his attention. When he was 15 years old he already admired Chano Pozo, creator of themes such as Blen blen blen and Manteca, and even listened to Chano`s pieces on the radio and imitated his beats. At that time, there were some prejudices against drum players so Tata Güines decided, according to his own words, "to give prestige to the instrument" because "without percussion there is no rhythm and without rhythm there is no Cuban music".
He traveled to the city and, since the very beginning, he joined La Nueva Orquesta América led by Pao Domini and acted as substitute performer in dancing academies while making presentations on the radio. Later on, he joined Belisario López`s typical orchestra; then, performed as double bass player at a country-music ensemble and with the Camacho ensemble in other radio stations. While engaged in these activities, he met Chano Pozo and participated in his radio program in the Cadena Azul broadcasting station.
During the 1950s he recorded together with Arturo Chico O`Farrill and with Cachao y su Ritmo Caliente, as well as with Frank Emilio, Guillermo Barreto and other outstanding instrumentalists who were interested in achieving a more experimental sound.
In 1955, Tata Güines visited Caracas and was flabbergasted at the welcome extended to him by percussionists who were anxious to receive his instructions. Nevertheless, he achieved the most successful reception in New York where American experts described him as "Golden Hands". In New York, he performed at the Palladium, in Broadway, together with Fajardo y sus Estrellas orchestra and, later on, he staged a successful show with five tumbadoras. He shared the stage with Josephine Baker, Frank Sinatra and others. He traveled across the United States giving classes, lecturing on Cuban percussion and successfully performing at night centers.
In 1960, he cancelled pending contracts and returned to Cuba with an indisputable international prestige and his tumbadoras (always taking them with him for decades) made by the Bergaras, the innovators of this instrument made of Spanish cured-oak wine barrels.
Tata Güines is a virtuoso of the Cuban music. His rhythmic inventive, versatility and stylistic audacity are legendary, as well as his strong nails, fingertips and back of his hands capable of conveying astounding multiple sounds with the drums.