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Jésus "Chucho" Valdés: 1941—: Musician Biography

Grew Up Around Jazz Greats, Became Known In United States, Hosted Radio Show

Known the world over as a musical giant, the six and a half foot tall Chucho Valdés's physical stature matched his musical accomplishment. The Afro-Cuban musician has been been the recipient of five Grammy Award nominations and two Grammys. His fascinating blend of African, South American, Cuban, and Spanish musical traditions seemed to rate a category of music all its own, and was just beginning to garner wide recogntion in the United States in the late 1990s. In 1996 Valdés played on Roy Hargrove's widely acclaimed album Crisol, and numerous U.S. concert dates and a North American record contract followed.

Cuban musicians were not officially permitted to perform in the United States until 1988. Some Cuban musicians, including Valdés's father, overcame that obstacle by defecting. But Valdés, who remained in his own country, was loved not only for his musical genius, but also for the fact that unlike so many musicians, he chose to continue living in Havana, claiming it as his permanent home. Despite the fact that the Cuban government has presented Valdés's success as one of its own, many Cuban people viewed Valdés as "one of them," and therefore, his success as their own.

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