Felipe Garcia-Villamil was born in Matanzas, Cuba into a well-known family of musicians and spiritual leaders. He is the master of a set of three drums called bata that are central to the Santeria cultural and spiritual traditions brought to Cuba from the Yoruba people of West Africa, synthesizing song, drumming and dance. Garcia has been described as completo, a complete percussionist, as he is also a master in the Matanzas style of rumba and comparsa. In addition, he is a singer, beadworker and maker of ceremonial objects. In Cuba, Garcia founded the ensemble Emikeke in the 1970s, and moved to the U.S. in 1980. In 2000 he received the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.