This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

Coming up, Super Bowl XLV is history. Congratulations, Packers fans. And I'm not hating, but I have another take on our national obsession with football. It's my Can I Just Tell You commentary in just a few minutes.

But first, we continue our series in honor of Black History Month. We've invited members of the TELL ME MORE staff, some of our guests and our NPR colleagues to share stories of their own heroes from black history. Today we spotlight a musical innovator.

FELIX CONTRERAS: I'm Felix Contreras, a producer for NPR News and co-host of the NPR online show "Alt.Latino." My black history hero is percussionist Armando Peraza.

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Mr. ARMANDO PERAZA (Percussionist): (Singing in foreign language)

CONTRERAS: He was born in Havana in 1924 and came to the U.S. in 1949 as part of a wave of black Cubans who brought some of the first authentic Afro Cuban drumming to the U.S. Armando Peraza made a name for himself as a side man playing congas and bongos. Charlie Parker, George Shearing and Count Jader(ph) are just a few of the musicians he either recorded or performed with during the 1950s and '60s. Then in 1972, at age 48, Peraza joined Santana just as the guitarist was adding jazz to his fusion of rock and Afro Cuban rhythm.

(Soundbite of music)

CONTRERAS: I used to like to watch Armando Peraza walk offstage after he performed in extended solo during one of their shows. He never looked tired or worn down. In fact, it was just the opposite. He walked with a deliberate stride, his back was straight, his head held high. It was in that regal bearing that I felt a strong sense of Africa, of his ancestors and of powerful, endless rhythms that are almost as old as a human heartbeat. Armando Peraza will celebrate his 87th birthday in May.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: That was NPR's Felix Contreras, NPR producer and co-host of "Alt.Latino," paying tribute to his black history hero, Armando Peraza.

(Soundbite of music)

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