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07/18/05 revised: 6/17/06

A discographic profile of the distinctive Afro-Cuban sonero, composer, bandleader, producer and mainstay of Aboudou Lassissi's legendary Sacodis label.

by John Child (


Monguito "El Unico" (b Ramón Quian, Manguito, Matanzas Province, Cuba; d May 26th 2006, NYC) Afro-Cuban sonero (extemporising salsa singer) with distinctive nasal voice, composer, bandleader, producer; dubbed "El Unico" (The Unique). Performed with Orquesta Ito and Orquesta Mazzuet in his native town before relocating to Havana, there sang with Orquesta Modernista and Conjunto Modelo; moved to Mexico '50s, there worked with Conjunto de Alejandro Sosa, Orquesta Los Brillantes, Pepé Arévalo y sus Mulatos and appeared in three movies; moved to NYC '62, began with Orquesta Broadway, made first album with Arsenio Rodríguez on Primitivo '63 on Roost.

He was a member of Johnny Pacheco's band Nuevo Tumbao '64-6 (singing on Pacheco At The NY World's Fair '64, Pacheco Te Invita a Bailar '65 and Viva Africa '66, all on Fania); sessioned on Herbie Mann's Latin Mann '65 on Columbia (aka Big Boss Mann); participated in Tico All-Stars' Descargas At The Village Gate Live, Vol. 1 & Descargas At The Village Gate Live, Vol. 3 '66 on Tico; played maracas on Larry Harlow's debut Heavy Smokin' '66 on Fania and shared lead vocals on the follow-up Bajandote - Gettin' Off '67 during a year and a half stint with his orchestra. Made Fania solo debut with Pacheco Presents Monguito '67, followed by El Unico y su Conjunto '69, De Todo Un Poco '70, Escuchame / Listen To Me '71; sang "Me Gusto El Son" on Fania All Stars' debut LP Live At The Red Garter, Vol. 1 '68. Output dropped during '70s, made Yo Si … Como Candela '72 on Teca (reissued as Punteame Bien El Tres '91 on Igle) and Monguito El Unico! mid-'70s on Oro Disco.

His debut on SAR (founded '79 by Sergio Bofill, Adriano García and Roberto Torres) Yo No Soy Mentiroso '79, produced by Torres, went gold; made albums in NY for the Ivory Coast based Sacodis label as a lead singer and musical director in style akin to SAR's popular formula of extended Cuban son montunos and guajiras with ample room for solos, including From Africa To Cuba '80, Monguito El Unico Presents Laba Sosseh In USA / Salsa Africana Vols. 1 and 2 '80, Charanga Para Todos '80; Doh Alberto A Manhattan USA: Salsa Africana Vol. 3 '80, En Curaçao '80, Algo Diferente '80, Montuno Para Ti, Vol. 1 '81 with Peruvian singer Melcochita, Monguito El Unico International '81, Alto Songo c '84. Toured Africa '80, presented there with a gold disc by Abidjan's Minister of Agriculture for sales of his Sacodis debut From Africa To Cuba. (A fuller discography of Monguito's Sacodis recordings is given at the end of this profile.)

His Monguito El Unico '82 and El Unico! '84 were both produced by Torres on SAR sister label Toboga; he released Yo Soy La Meta '85 on SAR descendant Caimán. Revisited SAR/Sacodis sound '93 with El Padrino Del Son Montuno on Manguito; returned to SAR for Sazonando '95 produced by Torres in Miami.

Compilations issued include La Crema and Sabrosura '80 with Pacheco on Fania, Sacodis collection Monguito El Unico International late '80s and SAR collections Lo Mejor de Monguito Vol. 1 & Lo Mejor de Monguito Vol. 2 '91. Monguito "El Unico": A Black Man From Cuba '95 on Japanese Blues Interactions is a well selected anthology of his Roost and Fania recordings '63-'71.

According to information received from bandleader / TV host Willie Villegas: when Monguito was admitted to hospital in Mexico following a fainting spell, a tumour was discovered in his brain. Back in his NYC home he also suffered a mild heart attack. Reportedly his health deteriorated rapidly; he passed away on May 26th 2006 and his funeral was a low-key affair attended only by a hand full of family members and no news media personnel were present.

Paintings in tribute to Monguito by Ken Abrams
Yo Soy Congo - Homage To Monguito El Unico

Monguito's Sacodis Recordings

  • LS 21 Monguito - From Africa to Cuba / Monguito El Unico 1980 '79 piano/arr. Alfredo Valdés Jr.

  • LS 22 Amadou Balaké - Amadou Balaké A New York '79 piano/arr. Alfredo Valdés Jr.; coro: Monguito

  • LS 26 Laba Sosseh - Monguito El Unico Presents Laba Sosseh In USA/ Salsa Africana Vol. 1 '80 piano Alfredo Valdés Jr.

  • LS 27 Laba Sosseh - Monguito El Unico Presents Laba Sosseh In USA/ Salsa Africana Vol. II '80 piano Alfredo Valdés Jr.

  • LS 30 Charanga Para Todos Vol. 1 '80 mus. dir./lead vocals Monguito; piano/arr. Alfredo Valdés Jr.; arr. Cabrerita

  • LS Doh Alberto A Manhattan USA: Salsa Africana Vol.3 '80 mus. dir. Monguito; piano/arr. Alfredo Valdés Jr.; arr. Cabrerita

  • LS 31 Monguito - Monguito El Unico in Curaçao '80 mus. dir./piano Alfredo Valdés Jr.

  • LS 34 Doh Alberto New Jersey USA '80 mus. dir. Monguito; piano Cabrera Jr.; arr. Doh Albert

  • LS 38 Salsa Africana Vol. 4 '80 piano Alfredo Valdés Jr.

  • LS 41 Monguito - Algo Diferente '80 arrs. Alfredo Valdés Jr. and Cabrerita

  • LS 48 Montuno Para Ti, Vol. 1 '81 with Melcochita on lead vocals; arrs. Cabrerita

  • LS 51 Monguito - Monguito El Unico International '81

  • LS Linda Leida - Linda Leida 1982 mus. dir./maracas Monguito

  • LS 68 Monguito - Alto Songo c. '84 piano Alfredo Valdés Jr.

  • LS 69 Montuno Para Ti, Vol. 2 c. '84 with Melcochita and Monguito on lead vocals

  • Mélodie 05081 Monguito El Unico International late 80s incl. From Cuba To Africa '79

    Many thanks to Sacodis aficionados Ken Abrams and John Warr

    Check out these related pieces in The Descarga Journal Archives:

    Profile: Alfredo Valdés Jr.

    by John Child July 16, 2000
    A discographic profile of the much respected pianist, arranger, composer and musical director. Alfredo was the principal arranger for the SAR and Sacodis labels and played piano on many of the sessions.

    Interview: Alfredo Valdés Jr: The Son of Buena Vista
    by John Child and David Barton July 16, 2000
    A Cuban-American resident in the US for the last 44 years, Alfredito can claim a direct line of descent from the heyday of Havana's now internationally famous Buena Vista Social Club into the new millennium. For instance, not only did he witness Arsenio Rodríguez's legendary conjunto perform there when he was a youngster, but also played and recorded with this giant of Cuban music years later.

    - This is a revised version of one of over 130 Latin music entries written by John Child ( for The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2nd Edition, edit. Donald Clarke; Penguin Books; 1998; 1524 pages; US$22.95, UK£16.99.

    They are published on the Descarga website by kind permission of Donald Clarke.

    © and John Child, produces and selects the contents of the totallyradio show Aracataca , He is an editor and journalist for the Latin music website and a contributor to the MusicWeb Encyclopedia of Popular Music, and Penguin and Guinness Encyclopedias of Popular Music

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