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A Google Doodle drawing depicting Tito Puente, a Puerto Rican man with gray hair in a red suit playing timbales and holding the flag of Puerto Rico.
Photo credit: Google Doodle

Google Doodle honors Tito Puente, Nuyorican musician

The acclaimed musician is honored today for his music that is widely credited for popularizing Latin music in the United States.

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Today, Google is honoring the life and legacy of Tito Puente, an American “Nuyorican” musician and internationally acclaimed entertainer through their Google Doodle, drawn by New York Based Puerto Rican artist Carlos Aponte.

Over the course of five decades, Puente displayed his skill as a percussionist, composer, songwriter, recording artist, and bandleader. He was often referred to as “El Rey de los Timbales” or “The King of Latin music.”

Surrounded as he was with Puerto Rican, Cuban, and big band music, Puente started his music career as a drummer when he was a teenager. His big break would come in the form of playing for Federico Pagani’s Happy Boys and Machito’s Orchestra.

Though World War II would take him out to sea, he continued to play music, becoming the ship’s bandleader, and played the alto saxophone, alongside ten other intrestuments. After the war, he would enroll in Julliard School of Music.

In 1948, Puente would form his own band: The Tito Puente Orchestra. His performances were known to sway audiences to dance, and Puente himself was renown for his skill with the timbales, also known as timpani, or kettledrums.

His music style combined big band instrumentation and jazz hormones with Afro-Cuban music and had recorded over 118 albums, becoming credited for dozens more. His first professional track was Ran Kan Kan, the sound of today’s Google Doodle.

Puente has played genres such as Mambo, Boogaloo, Pachanga, and Salsa, being hailed as a musical pioneer for his creativity and experimental music that is widely credited for popularizing Latin music across the United States.

As someone who was devoted to supporting the Latino community, in 1979, Puente created a scholarship fund that aided Latino percussionists for more than 20 years.

After his death, Puente was posthumously recognized at the first-ever Latin Grammy Awards, with the Harlem street he grew up on — East 110th Street — being renamed Tito Puente Way in his honor.

Though he was born April 20, 1923 in New York, today’s Google Doodle is the anniversary of the Tito Puente Monument’s unveiling in East Harlem, New York in 2021.

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