b. 29 August 1908, Havana, Cuba. As a child López studied several instruments, including piano and cello, and he was briefly with a local symphony orchestra. His brother, Israel ‘Cachao’ López, also became a musician and influential composer. From the late 20s onwards, López played with charanga bands such as that led by Miguel Vásquez and he also led and co-led bands. In 1937 he joined Antonio Arcaño’s band, Sus Maravillas. Playing piano, cello and bass, López also wrote many arrangements in addition to composing some original music. One of his compositions, broadcast by Arcaño in 1938, was a rhythmic danzón entitled ‘Mambo’, with which López unwittingly laid the foundation for what would become, by way of variations, two immensely popular dance crazes. One of these was the mambo, although Perez Prado would lay claim to originating the form after making a musical breakthrough in 1949. The other was the cha cha cha, popularized by Enrique Jorrín. López’s ‘Mambo’ appears to have had its roots in a tumbao of his brother’s. Among other songs López either composed or popularized through his infectiously rhythmic arrangements were ‘Camina Juan Pescao’, ‘El Truco De Regatillo’, ‘Los Jóvenes De La Defensa’ and ‘El Moro Eléctrico’.
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