Widely regarded as the greatest conga player alive today, Giovanni Hidalgo seemed destined to make that title his own at a very early age. Born on March 9, 1963 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Hidalgo grew up with a percussionist father and grandfather. Jose Hidalgo, his father, was a famous conguero in his own right. At the age of eight, Hidalgo received a handmade conga from his father and, literally, practiced night and day on the instrument. This intense attention to practice and to honing his skills led Hidalgo to acquire an amazing amount of speed. Ultimately he became so fast that, today, he is considered the world’s fastest player.
When he was 17, Hidalgo auditioned for the Puerto Rican rhythm band Batacumbele. He was hired in 1981 and traveled to Cuba where he met a diverse group of musicians that helped him elevate his style and introduced him to a wider audience. In 1985, while performing at the Village Gate Club in New York City, Hidalgo had a chance encounter with legendary jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie. Gillespie made a promise to Hidalgo that one day in the future the two of them would jam together. True to his word, three years later, Gillespie fulfilled his promise and asked Hidalgo to join him with a project he was calling the United Nations Jazz Orchestra — a music outfit that blended multiple styles of music from around the world.
In 1992 Hidalgo became an adjunct professor at the Berklee College Of Music in Boston. He taught a wide range of music and rhythms that included Puerto Rican, Latin, and African. He left the college in 1996 to focus on recording and touring. In 1997 he was nominated for a Grammy Award for the "Best Latin Jazz" album.