Born March 7, 1970 in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, percussionist Paoli Mejias’ rise to Latin jazz fame is a story of sweat and dedication. Completely self taught, Paoli purchased his first set of congas at age twelve, inspired by records of conga great Carlos “Patato” Valdés and Latin jazz innovators Batacumbele and Irakere. Learning by imitating the sounds he heard on the records, Paoli taught himself the language of the congas without the benefit of an instructor. By his mid-to-late teens, he could be found at jam sessions in the streets and on the beaches of San Juan. He earned invitations from bandleaders like Rafú Warner, José Nogueras, Glen Monroig and Charlie Sepúlveda. As he worked his way up the live music food chain in Puerto Rico, Paoli found himself performing alongside the Latin jazz legends who had inspired him in his early years.