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Ochoa, 55, looks striking in his trademark black cowboy hat and gray wisp of a goatee. He specializes in Cuban son, music steeped in the country's rural tradition that is played with acoustic guitars, percussion and trumpet as easily on a sidewalk as in a theater.
Ochoa says he was born in Santiago, the capital of Cuba's eastern province, with music in his blood. Both his parents were musicians.
However, his father didn't encourage him to pursue music, urging him instead to get an education. And he believed, rightly as it turned out, that once his son picked up a guitar he would be hooked for life.
"I learned that on my own, stealing time with my father's guitar when my father wasn't home," he says. "My mother hid it. It was our little secret."
In 1978, Ochoa was asked to join and lead the Cuarteto Patria, which had been founded in 1939 but whose members were aging and retiring.
Although he works in other traditional Cuban genres, including boleros and guarachas, he says "son is the main dish." His latest album is a 12-song love letter to the group he now leads, and its long and storied history.
"You're going to hear someone who's been making traditional music for a very long time, who carries that tradition into modern day," Ochoa says. "I'm playing this music with lots of love and emotion."