In Memory of Tito
percussionist Tito Puente talks to qvMagazine in one of his very
LATIN MUSIC WORLD felt a huge loss when legendary percussionist
Tito Puente died on May 31, 2000. Tito was a man whose musical
evolution and passion inspired all races. His talent and drive
was one of the major forces that set the stage for the entire
Latin music boom today. Shortly before his death, qvMagazine
conducted what turned out to be one of his last interviews--an
interview which captured Tito's passion, energy, and his love
of life and music.
Do you prefer your interviews in Spanish
or in English? Chinese, Japanese...any
way you want! (laughs)
What is it like to be one of the first
artists ever to be nominated for a Grammy, and years later to
be nominated again? Great! I've
been nominated ten times, but I've won four times. This year
might be my fifth (Which Tito did win after our interview). If
I win, fine. It's really just recognition for me worldwide and
for our music because it puts us on a higher level musically
throughout the world.
What has been your greatest satisfaction? Having recorded 118 albums over the years is important
to me. My recording schedule allows me to go and tour around
the world. That is important not only because it's fun but being
recognized worldwide opens up new doors for other Latin musicians
What is your current touring schedule
like? I play most cities-all the
major cities-two or three times a year.
You've had many great vocalist sing
on your albums over the years. Do you have any favorites? Not really. Out of the females I can mention, some
of the bigger names are La Lupe, Celia Cruz and many others.
As for the male vocalists, guys like Santito Colón, Tico
Valdez, Gilberto Monroy, and now I have a new boy who's very
good whose name is Frankie Morales. I really don't have any favorites-each
one of them has different styles of singing.
Who do you listen to at home or in the
car? I listen to a lot of jazz,
actually. I listen to all the bands from Puerto Rico, Dominican
Republic, Cuba, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia! I listen to anybody
How do you feel about the most recent
boom in Latin music? It's very
good thanks to Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Chayanne,
and others. There are a couple of Latin artists who are on the
rise as well. It's still Latin music, but they hit the pop market.
People dig their music and eventually will come around and dig
ours, which is more of the Mambo and Cha Cha Cha.
For those who have never seen you in
concert, what can they expect at a Tito Puente concert? The excitement of the music! The rhythm part of
it! I always ask my audience, "Did you feel it?" or
"Am I getting to ya!?" And they do feel it, especially
young people-and I hope the rest get into me soon because I'm
going to hang up soon.
So is it true that you might be retiring?
No, not retire. I just have to
watch my health. I travel too much and it takes a lot out of
After so many years, how do you maintain
your energy and passion? My health
is important. I don't drink. I take my vitamins. I do my exercise.
I practice a lot; I rehearse a lot with the band, so it keeps
me active. I'm surrounded by creative people which is important.
I'm a creative person-that's how you end up with 118 albums.
(He proudly smiles)
With all due respect, how old are you? 12 years old! (playfully frowns) I've been a band
leader now for 50 years. I started off drumming and doing big
bands in the '40s.
You mentioned earlier something about
your young fans. What message could you bring to predominantly
young male qvBoys? I recommend
for them to really study their art. I've had a scholarship under
my name for 20 years now, and I've always said you'll make it
whether it's acting, dancing, singing or general performing arts.
Just stay at it! Say, "NO! NO! NO!" to drugs, and you'll
eventually make it.
How does one end up with such a full
and thick set of hair as yours? I
don't know. (smiles) I just have to thank God for that one. (laughs)
Back when discrimination was one of
the biggest obstacles-especially to get a gig and play at a respectable
venue, how did you deal with it? I
just did. I was sort of prepared because my family dealt with
it before I did. When I was born as a Puerto Rican in 1923, there
was a lot of discrimination, especially with the blacks and Latinos.
But over the years, as I became a professional, I'm proud to
say that my music has brought a lot of people together.
How do you feel about the Latin Grammy's? Some people think it's the best thing, while others
think it's segregating. I just think Latinos deserve more nominations,
more appropriate categories, and more recognition. There are
many genres and many people don't get recognized But the Latin
Grammy's might work out. We'll just have to wait and see.
Over the years, you've covered many
styles. How many more musical styles can we expect? Well, my next project will be a swinging album
with Eddie Palmieri. The idea was to put two bands together in
a recording studio. The only thing left to do after that would
be to come out in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first
Latin artist to play on the moon! (laughs) n
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