We celebrate the life and legacy of American “Nuyorican” musician and well-known musician Tito Puente in honor of U.S. Hispanic Heritage Month. Carlos Aponte, a Puerto Rican artist living in New York, is the illustrator of today’s animated video Doodle.
Puente, a multi-faceted musician of Puerto Rican heritage, was a drummer, composer, lyricist, recording artist, and bandleader. He is frequently referred to as “El Rey de los Timbales” and “The King of Latin music,” with a career spanning five decades. The Tito Puente Monument was unveiled in New York City’s East Harlem on this day in 2021.
At the Spanish Harlem Hospital Center in New York City, Puente was born on April 20, 1923. Growing up, he was exposed to big band, Cuban, and Puerto Rican music, and he quickly had a strong musical aptitude. He began playing drums in his early teens and got his big break with Machito’s Orchestra and Federico Pagani’s Happy Boys.
He played the alto saxophone as the ship’s bandleader while serving in the Navy during World War II, along with more than ten other instruments. After the war, he kept up his studies at the Juilliard School of Music.
In 1948, he established his own band, the Tito Puente Orchestra, and soon became well-known for his energetic performances that got crowds moving. Puente was renowned for his astounding skill on the timbales (or timpani/kettledrums), as well as for the way he blended Afro-Cuban music with big band instrumentation and jazz harmonies. More than any other timbales bandleader to date, he has been credited on dozens more in addition to the incredible 118+ albums he recorded. Ran Kan Kan, his first recorded track for a paying customer and the basis for today’s Doodle, marked the beginning of this adventure.
Puente experimented with Latin music beyond the mambo movement, including the Boogaloo, Pachanga, and ultimately Salsa. Because of his creativity and ingenuity, he was regarded as a musical pioneer. He is also widely recognised for having popularised Latin music in the United States. He received the key to New York City in 1969.
Along with his career-long musical achievements, Puente was also profoundly committed to giving the Latin community chances. He established a scholarship programme in 1979, which has given young Latin percussionists hope and assistance for more than 20 years.
Even now, many people are aware of and respect Puente’s success, charisma, and musical ability. Many others waited in line to say their goodbyes for days after his death. In celebration of his life and legacy, the street in Harlem where he was raised, E. 110th Street, was renamed Tito Puente Way. He was posthumously honoured at the first-ever Latin Grammy Awards.
“Goza with the timbales” Tito, here’s to you!