Milton Cardona

Article Bio Works Projects Video
modernity, ritual, tradition
Music (Afro-cuban, jazz)
America, Caribbean, America, North
Cuba, United States of America
New York
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May 16, 2003
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New York´s priest of rhythm

The percussionist and singer Milton Cardona, ´the Latin New Yorker´, is eminent among percussionists and bandleaders developing new personal concepts on the basis of traditional Afro-Cuban music and jazz. On the one hand he mixes the sounds of Puerto Rico and Manhattan, and on the other he mingles the Yoruba rhythms and orishas of the Santena cult with an innovative vocal style recalling at times the doo-wop-singing of the 50s. Milton Cardona lives in New York and has played on more than 700 CDs and records.
In his youth, Milton Cardona studied the violin for seven years then worked as a bass player. The street jams (spontaneous street concerts) in New York brought him into the field of percussion, whereby he was especially influenced by the music of Mongo Santameria. His main instruments apart from the congas are the batas, horizontally played double-headed drums with an asymmetrical narrowing of the barrel. The batas are the basic instruments of the Santeria cult, which after the Cuban revolution spread widely in the rest of Central America and in parts of North America. Milton Cardona is an ordained Lucumi priest of the Santeria and counts now as being the leading authority on the cult´s ritual songs and rhythms. His first solo-record Bembe is of an authentic Santeria ceremony.
Apart from playing in this traditional cult style, Cardona is also very much in demand for the salsa and Latin jazz. He not only uses familiar elements but also creates a new independent mixture marked by his deep knowledge and basic respect for all forms of traditional music. As a salsa musician he played for a long time in Willi Colon´s and Hector Lavoe´s bands, as also in Frankie Dante’s Orquestra Flamboyán, in the Grupo Folklórico Experimental Neoyorquino, Eddie Palmieri´s band and was one of the first players in Jerry Gonzalez’s Fort Apache Band.

In recent years he has worked on many projects with the eminent New York musician and producer Kip Hanrahan, who also produced his second solo-album Cambucha. He played in Hanrahan´s project Deep Rumba, which with eleven musicians, including the top percussionists Richie Flores, Horacio ´El Negro´ Hernandez, Changuito and Paolo Mejias explores and partly defines the limits of Afro-Cuban music concepts. His great versatility and stylistic range are likewise evident in his co-operation on the project Mega Drums from Reinhard Flatischler and his co-operation on The Sultan´s Picnic with the Libanese ´_d virtuoso Rabih Abou-Khalil, now living in Germany.

In 2001 Milton Cardona toured with the Latin jazz flautist Dave Valentin and played for Paul Simon in his musical project ´Songs from the Capeman´. In the unsuccessful Broadway version, Cardona had two bit parts.

(Translation: Phil Stanway)

Author: Richard Berkowski


Milton Cardona began in the 50s by learning the violin then changed after seven years to the bass, while also learning percussion and song, to which he devoted all his attention in the later 60s. His singing combines sacred songs of the Santeria cult, traditional call and response structures and the doo-wop of the 50s. He is said to be one of the world´s most versatile percussionists and has worked on over 700 CDs ranging from traditional orishas, salsa and Latin jazz to world-music and experimental projects. Milton Cardona lives and works in New York.


Records and CDs which Milton Cardona has played on (choice)

Published Audio,
Adela Dalto, Papa Boco, 1996 Brian Lynch, Spheres of Influence, 1997 Cachao, Dos, 1995 Celia Cruz, Willie Colón/ Only they could have made this Album, 1977 Celia Cruz, Celia, Johnny, Pete, 1980 Celia Cruz, Willie Colón/ Celia & Willie, 1981 Conj. Clásico, Los Rodríguez, 1979 Conj. Clásico, Si No Bailan Con Ellos, No Bailan Con Nadie, 1981 Conj. Clásico, Llegó La Ley, 1985 Conj. Clásico, Así Es Mi Pueblo, 1986 Conj. Clásico, Felicitaciones, 1988 Conj. Clásico, Mas Clásico Que Nunca, 1989 Conj. Clásico, Sensaciones/con Rafael de Jesús, 1990 Conj. Clásico, Las Puertas Abiertas, 1992 re-issue Conj. Clásico, Tus Dulces Labios, con Rafael de Jesús, 1992 Conj. Clásico, El Panadero 1996, reissue Conjure, Music for the Texts of Ishmael Reed, 1983 Conjure, Cab Calloway Stands in for the Moon, 1988 Conrad Herwig, The Latin Side of John Coltrane, 1996 Eddie Palmieri, Sueño, 1992 Edward Simon, Edward Simon, 1995 Flora Purim/Airto Moreira, Humble People Frankie Dante y Los Rebeldes, Los Rebeldes, 79 Daniel Ponce, Changó Te Llama, 1991 Danilo Pérez, The Journey, 1994 Danny Rivera, Tiempo al Tiempo,1992 Dave Valentín, Musical Portraits, 1992 Dave Valentín, Red Sun, 1993 Dave Valentín, Tropic Heat, 1994 Dave Valentín, Primitive Passions, 1996 David Byrne, Rei Momo, 1989 David Byrne, Uh-Oh,1992 David Sánchez, The Departure, 1994 David Sánchez, Street Scenes, 1996 David Sánchez, Sketches of Dreams, 1995 Don Grolnick, Medianoche, 1996 Grupo Folklórico y Experimental Nuevayorquin o, Concepts in Unity, 1975 Grupo Folklórico y Experimental Nuevayorquino, Lo Dice Todo, 1976 Hector Lavoe, De Ti Depende, 1976 Hector Lavoe, Van Lester, The Master and the Protege, 1993 Hilton Ruíz, Island Eyes, 1997 India, Llegó La India, Via Eddie Palmieri, 1992 Ismael Miranda y Junior Gonzales, Cantar O No Cantar, 1995 Jerry González & The Fort Apache Band/ Ya Yo Me Curé, 1980) Jerry González & The Fort Apache Band/ Obatalá, 1993 J.J. Johnson, The Brass Orchestra, 1997 Johnny Pacheco, Pupi Legarreta, Los Dos Mosqueteros, 1977 Johnny Pacheco, Pete "El Conde" Rodríguez Jícamo, 1985 Johnny King, The Meltdown José Mangual, Jr., Tribute to Chano Pozo, 1989 José Mangual, Jr., Mis Mejores Exitos, 1994 José Mangual, Jr., Tribute to Chano Pozo 1996 Junior González, Lo Pasado es Pasado, 1993 Kip Hanrahan, Desire Develops An Edge 1982 Kip Hanrahan, Vertical´s Currency, 1984 Kip Hanrahan, Tenderness, 1990 Kip Hanrahan, Exótica, 1994 Kip Hanrahan, All Roads are made of the Flesh, 1995 Larry Harlow, El Dulce Aroma Del Exito, 1980 Latin Jazz Orchestra, Havana Blues, 1998 Lobatón, Mi Vida Salsera, 1994 Louie Ramírez/Ray de la Paz, Otra Noche Caliente, 1992 Manny Oquendo y Libre, Ritmo, Sonido y Estilo, 1991 Manny Oquendo y Libre, Ahora, 1994 Manny Oquendo y Libre, Increíble, 1994 Manny Oquendo y Libre, Mejor Que Nunca, 1995 Margareth Menezes, Elegibo, 1990 Maridalia Hernández, Amorosa, 1993 Mario Bauzá, My Time is Now, 1993 Marlena Shaw, Dangerous, 1996 Michael Brecker, Now you see it, now you don´t Mon Rivera, Forever, 1978 Oscar D´León, La Formula Original, 1999 Paul Simon, Capeman, 1997 Rabih Abou-Khalil, The Sultan´s Picnic, 1994 Rabih Abou-Khalil, Blue Camel, 1992 Ramón Rodríguez, El Dulcero, 1992 Raulín, ¡Qué se Cuiden Los Soneros!, 1992 Ronnie Cuber, The Scene is clean, 1996 Rubén Blades, Metiendo Mano, 1977 Rubén Blades, Maestra Vida I, 1980 Rubén Blades, Maestra Vida II, 1980 Rubén Blades, Canciones del Solar de los Aburridos, 1981 Rubén Blades, The Last Flight, 1982 Rumba Profunda, Deep Rumba, 1998 Ryuichi Sakamoto, Beauty, 1990 Santiago Cerón, Mi Campeón Jukin, 1994 Sarabanda, A Golpe de Morea, 1993 Seis Del Solar, Decisiones, 1992 Steve Turre, Sanctified Shells, 1993 Steve Turre, Rhythm within, 1995 Steve Turre, Steve Turre, 1997 Tito Puente, India with The Count Bassie Orchestra, Jazzin´, 1996 Van Lester, My Way - A Mi Manera, 1996 Willie Colón, El Juicio, 1972 Willie Colón, Lo Mato, 1973 Willie Colón, Asalto Navideño 2, 1973 Willie Colón, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, 1975 Willie Colón, There Goes The Neighborhood, 1975 Willie Colón, La Gran Fuga, 1976 Willie Colón, Ismael Miranda, Doble Energía, 1980 Willie Colón, Corazón Guerrero, 1982 Willie Colón, Especial No. 5, 1987 Willie Colón, Rubén Blades, Tras La Tormenta, 1995 Wolfgang Puschnig, Mixed Metaphors, 1993 Yolandita Monge, Mi Encuentro, 1997 VA/ Global Meditation, Vol. 1 Chant - Voices of the Spirit, 1993 VA/ Global Meditation, Vol. 3 Percussion - Pulse of Life, 1993 VA/ Global Meditation, Authentic Music from meditative Traditions around the World, 1993 VA/ Pérez, Family Soundtrack, 1995

Cambucha, American Clave

Published Audio,

Street Date

Published Audio,


Published Audio,
American Clave

Street Date

Published Audio,


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

The Back Room

(01 January 98 - 14 June 05)

Concert excerpt

taken from "The Back Room. Grupo Libre. Special Edition. New York Latin All-Stars Meet Berlin"
Haus der Kulturen der Welt, 02.12.2000
© Manuel Forster
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