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Tito Puente

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New York City (1923 – 2000)

Tito Puente (1923-2000) was a bandleader, percussionist, composer, and arranger from New York City.

Born Ernesto Antonio Puente, Jr., on April 20, 1923, in el barrio Spanish harlem, New York, Puente was a musical pioneer for mixing musical styles with Latin sounds and for his experiments in fusing music with . The son of Puerto Rican immigrants, Puente grew up in New York City’s Spanish Harlem and took piano lessons as a child and then studied . He became a professional musician at age 13. Tito Puente later learned to play a number of instruments, including the , , , and (paired high-pitched drums). After an apprenticeship in the historic Machito Orchestra, he was drafted and served in the navy during World War II.

Once he returned to New York in 1945, Puente used money from the G.I. Bill to study at the famed Juilliard School of Music. He formed a band that would later be known as the Tito Puente Orchestra in 1948. By the 1950s, crowds came to see his band play and Puente became a Latin music sensation. In 1958, his best-selling album, Dance Mania, was released. More hit records followed as the world enjoyed the way Puente put a big band spin on traditional Latin dances.

He added other Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms to his repertoire, including , , , and , and among his notable songs are Babarabatiri, Ran Kan Kan, and Oye Como Va.

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