The Best Conga Player on Pennsy Road
Papo (photo by Walt Poyck).
- "Listen, last week you said, 'Cocinando,' that I was cooking," Papo said to me. "And I got distracted cuz the dog was laying here, and I'm not playing with the dog. I'm only as good as you are. The more better you are, the better I play. And the more better I play the better you are. The energy just keeps going around."
Hardly a peace-and-love kind of guy, Joe "Papo" Daddiego didn't tolerate fools gladly. He liked to say he was president of the Anti-Social Club. But he was a patient, kind teacher to me and the ex for more than five years. He named us the ABC Ensemble (Afro-Brazilian-Cuban percussion).
A talented musician from the Five Points district of the Bronx, Joe was a blacksmith by trade who'd also built his own line of conga drums and other percussion instruments called JOPA. He played Latin music with a band called La Placa and recorded with jazz artists including Stan Kenton. Legend has it he once told an already-famous Billy Joel he'd be a great singer some day.
- Some 30 years ago he and his wife Virginia (Ginny) had moved to a Lancaster County farm with their two children, now grown. He joked that he was the best conga player on Pennsy Road. Joe enjoyed telling his friends in the city how he taught a couple white people to play bata drums.
- He passed away in the spring of 2012.
Below is a recording of lessons from September 2002. We start with bomba, then learn merengue, and finish with rumba tres golpes for dessert. You'll hear Charlie the parrot squawk when we're cooking.