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Arsenio Rodríguez (born Ignacio de Loyola Rodríguez Scull, 1911–1970) was a Cuban musician, bandleader and prolific composer of African descent who developed the son montuno and other Afro-Cuban-based rhythms that formed the basis of what became known as salsa in the 1960s and 70s. Although he was not widely known before his death, today he is seen as one of the most important figures in Latin music, his influence evident not only in Latin music but in African popular music as well. He is also recognized (along with Israel ‘Cachao’ López and Dámaso Pérez Prado) as one of the creators of the mambo, which Rodríguez himself often referred to as ritmo diablo. His most famous compositions are “La Vida Es Un Sueño,” “Bruca Manigua,” “El Reloj De Pastora,” “La Yuca,” and “Adivinalo.” Although he was blinded as a child by a kick in the head from a mule, Rodríguez nevertheless learned to play guitar, bass, maracas, bongó, and tumbadora (conga drum) by age 15, mastering the more difficult tres guitar soon after. His skill and innovation earned him the nickname “El Ciego Maravilloso” (The Marvelous Blind Man).

-Pablo Yglesias

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