A popular timbalero, bandleader, and occasional label executive for Alegre Records, Kako recorded as a leader only sparingly, but contributed much to the development of Latin music from his debut in the 1950s to the end of the century. Born Francisco Bastar in San Juan's Barrio Obrero, Kako worked as a dancer early on and began playing percussion -- including timbales, conga, and bongo -- for bands led by Arsenio Rodriguez, Tito Puente, and Mongo Santamaria. He recorded a single for the SMC label in the late '50s, and soon after began an association with the new Alegre imprint. Founded by Al Santiago, the label hired Kako for A&R and management work; he also played on the label's early recordings by Mon Rivera, Felipe Rodriguez, and Johnny Rodriguez.
In 1961, Kako made his full-length debut -- on Alegre, natch -- with Kako Y Su Combo, Vol. 1, the first in a series. He also debuted with a new house band, organized by Charlie Palmieri and named the Alegre All Stars. In 1964, the collective appeared under Kako's own leadership -- with Palmieri, Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Louie Ramirez, and Joe Quijano, among others -- for Tributo a Noro Morales, a tribute to the popular '40s bandleader and close personal friend. That same year, Alegre debuted another all-star band with the LP Puerto Rico All Stars Featuring Kako, recorded in Puerto Rico two years earlier. During the late '60s, Kako also appeared on the third and fourth LPs from the Alegre All Stars, then moved to Musicor for 1968's excellent Live It Up, recorded with Camilo Azuquita. He also worked as part of the Salsa All Stars (with many of his old Alegre friends) and the Cesta All Stars (organized around Joe Quijano's Cesta Records), then released one last LP under his own name, 1976's Union Dinamica. Though Kako also recorded one year later for an Alegre All Stars anniversary LP, he didn't appear on any dates after the early '80s. He continued playing, however, and organized a band with his son, percussionist Richie Bastar, during the '90s. ~ John Bush