In tandem with his multi-instrumentalist brother Orestes, bassist Israel "Cachao" López introduced to Cuban music the African rhythms that transformed the island's traditional danzón into what is now known as the mambo -- he also pioneered the descarga, the late-night jam sessions that revolutionized the sound and scope of Afro-Cuban pop and jazz. Born in Havana on September 14, 1918, just over a decade after Orestes, Cachao was the product of a sprawling, multi-generational musical family. At age eight he joined a local children's septet that featured singer Roberto Faz, himself a significant figure in Cuban musical history as well, and within a year teamed with another future legend, pianist Ignacio Villa (aka Bola de Nieve) to play his neighborhood movie theater in support of silent film presentations. As a teen, Cachao played contrabass with the Orquesta Filarmónica de la Habana, supporting guest conductors including Igor Stravinsky, Herbert von Karajan, and Heitor Villa-Lobos before joining Orestes in the Orquesta Arcaño y Sus Maravillas in 1937. By the time of Cachao's arrival, the orchestra was beginning to move away from its roots in French parlor music into a more African-inspired, rhythmic approach fusing the popular danzón style with syncopated percussion -- together the López brothers composed more than 3,000 danzónes for the group, most notably 1938's "Mambo," which introduced an atypically slow, heavy rhythm and galvanized Cuban music for generations to follow.