MILLENNIUM MAMBO MAN

by Bobby Sanabria

The Call to Excellence

On June 6, 2000 Ernest Anthony Puente, the son of a foreman and a homemaker, was buried in St. Anthony's cemetery, near his home in upstate New York. In a moving eulogy Felipe Luciano mentioned what Tito represented excellence. He posed the question. Would we be ready to make the same kind of commitment to excellence in our profession, in our lives, just as Tito did? Audrey, his daughter, spoke of fond personal memories that made those who attended realize that although Tito was a celebrity, he was also a beloved father.

Child of Obatala

Tito was a Santero, a child of Obatala. The Yoruba deity of creativity and King of the white cloth—a wise fatherly figure like Tito. The pouring rain at Tito's burial was a fitting symbol of Obatala's cleansing grace as friends and family said goodbye. Although he is physically gone, he lives in the music that we listen and dance to, and in the company that Martin Cohen founded to represent excellence in percussion. A mentor to many like myself and Martin, I will always smile and think of Tito when I hear the beautiful bell-like tone of a well-played timbale or hear someone ask a dancer, "Can you come off on two?"

Tito Puente, a true American icon that experienced everything this country had to offer and rose from "El Barrio" to become a king. Maferefon o hijo de Obatala. The king is dead. Long live the king!

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Originally from Latin Percussion. | Reprinted by permission from Latin Percussion.
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