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Mario G. Pérez

Mario Germán Pérez was born in the Oriente Province, Cuba, on February 28, 1949. Up until his thirteenth birthday life was probably an uneventful course of occurrences, crowded by all those unimportant things that budding teenagers do, or dream about.

Unexpectedly his life would turn upside down when his parents took note of a rumor being spread, stating that that the Cuban government led by Fidel Castro would soon begin taking children against the wishes of their parents to military schools and to Soviet labor camps. They decided to seek the help of a program – seemingly sponsored by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami and its dynamic leader, Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh – that had been transporting Cuban children to safety, in the United States. Under the designation “Operation Peter Pan,” the US Central Intelligence Agency moved over 14,000 children to Miami, Florida, between 1960 and 1962, placing them with relatives, friends, foster care or group homes in 35 states. Mario, like scores of other Cuban children, would always carry within him the pain of being forced to leave his parents behind, and facing alone the uncertainty of the future.

In 1963, he moved to Union City, New Jersey, the place where he would begin his musical career. Heavily influenced by his friend, flautist Mike García who later became music director of the well-known group Charanga Novel, he decided to learn to play “güiro”, which is a Latin percussion instrument mostly used in tropical music that plays a key role in the typical rhythm section of important genres like cumbia and son. Fortunately, Mario is a good student with a natural inclination for music. Soon, his friend Mike finds him a job as “güirero” and background vocalist with the Havana Brass orchestra. Additionally, he learns to play the “congas” and is quickly promoted to “conguero.” There was an obvious absence of good bass players at the time, in New Jersey, and this knowledge compels him to go for the bass. He was fortunate to run into the legendary Israel “Cachao” López and Mario expresses his desire to become a “real bass” player. Cachao told him that he would test him, and if he passed – with “flying colors”—he would teach him. Other than his first experience as a bass player, he would later get further instruction with maestro Víctor Venegas, and the extraordinary, Papito Hernández. Mario becomes bass player for the Havana Brass.

Between 1970 to 1974, Orquesta Riviera is organized and Mario becomes music director, bass player and background vocalist. During this time, they record two LP’s and Mario begins a distinguished musical career that would take him to accompany the leading performers of the time, such as: Ismael Miranda, Celia Cruz, Adlaberto Santiago, Blanca Rosa Gil, Roberto Ledesma, Vicentico Valdéz, Orlando Contreras, la Lupe, Rolando Laserie, Daniel Santos and many more. In 1974, he begins playing with the Broadway Orchestra, with which he moves to Miami, Florida. He stays with it until 1976, when the orchestra returns to New York, but Mario decides to stay in Miami. It is 1976, when Mario joins Conjunto Impacto as music director, bass player and background vocalist. During the next decade Mario and Conjunto Impacto enjoy a path of successes, record eight albums and also accompany the most famous performers of the time, but the emergence of “disco music” and “disco clubs” causing the temporary demise of tropical music and the group decides to part company.

In 1988, Mario joins Conjunto Cristal in Miami, and in 1989 joins Charanga Típica Tropical, as bass player. He stays with the group until 1994. He retires from music and starts a real estate business where he will do very well, but in the course of the next few years, he is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. On February 25, 2011, he decides to re-organize Conjunto Impacto and they celebrate an event called “La Reunión” – “ the “reunion”—and from that time on, the original Conjunto Impacto has been playing together. In 2013, they launch their first recorded CD, entitled “El Regreso” – “the return”.