In 1979 Tito Puente appeared in Tokyo, performing with his Latin Jazz Ensemble and conducting a workshop in Latin rhythms. Attending both events was a young Japanese percussionist, Shingo "Carlos" Kanno. It was his first experience hearing live Latin music, and it ignited him with an irrepressible passion for Latin and Caribbean rhythms. He began playing congas, studied the recordings of Puente and Carlos "Patato" Valdez, and has since mastered most every Latin percussion instrument there is.
In the early '90s, from his base in Tokyo, Kanno formed a salsa band, Orquesta de la Luz. The all-Japanese group perfected its groove by jamming with every salsa band that toured Japan, and even learned some Latin "moves" from New York choreographer Eddie Torres. Orquesta gained a huge following, their early albums topping Billboard's Latin charts. The Japanese salseros were living proof of Kanno's motto: "Salsa has no borders!".
Kanno now leads a swinging 18-piece big band, the Nettai Tropical Jazz Band, that has released two albums in the U.S. ("September" and "Live from Yokohama") and a third in Japan. Nettai recently opened for an all-star Latin show (which included Puente and Giovanni Hidalgo) at New York's Carnegie Hall, and is scheduled to appear at several jazz festivals in Japan.
Besides leading his own bands, Kanno has performed with jazz flutist Dave Valentin, jazz keyboardist Naoya Matsuaka, and rockers Casiopea. He also produced an instructional video (in Japanese) that demonstrates techniques for playing modern salsa percussion.