Charles K. Santiago, better known as Charlie “Bongo” Santiago, was born on May 29, 1961 in Manhattan, New York. At age two, his family moved back to Puerto Rico, where he first showed talent in drumming. By age eight, he played bongos for the first time at a holiday celebration. Trumpet player Elliot Feijo gave him his first opportunity to play bongos professionally at a Durango y su Nuevo Tumbao rehearsal.
Charlie was influenced and taught by Richie Ray’s bongo player, Manolito Gonzalez. Later tres player Nelson Gonzalez taught him the New York style of bongo playing and Frankie Rodriguez taught him Cuban rhythms.
At age 16, Charlie played with the group, Rafaga. A few years later, he joined Nelson Gonzalez Band Revelation II. He performed and recorded with Ismael Miranda and Nelson on various television shows, dances and concerts. This exposure led Charlie to work with musicians like Roberto Anglero, Elias Lopes, Orchestra Panamericana, Poldo Castro, Andy Montanez, Tommy Olivencia, Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez, La Lupe and Tabin Pumarejo Trio. Charlie is a founding member of the group, Zaperoko.
In 1983, Charlie relocated to Miami to perform with Luis Lefty Perez and Orchestra Fuego. Since then, Charlie has performed with Grammy Award winners and nominees including Celia Cruz, Nestor Torres, Willie Chirino, Hansel y Raul, Alex Leon, Roberto Torres, Rey Ruiz, Eddie Santiago, Tony Vega, Charlie Cruz, Cano Estremera, Tito Nieves, Conjunto Clasico, Michael Stuart, Giro, Edgar Joel, Hector Tricoche, Menique, Adalberto Santiago, Lalo Rodriguez, Ley Lejandro and Ricky Martin.
Currently, Charlie performs and records with the founder of the Miami Sound, Carlos Oliva and the Judges Nephews, Issac Delgado, Frankie Vazquez, among many others. He also enjoys playing drum set at church along with recording and performing with various Christian Salsa groups.