West Hollywood (California), USA – Tito Puente: When the Drums Are Dreaming (AuthorHouse) is the life story of Ernesto Ernesto "Tito’ Puente, the legendary Latin music king. This entertaining and revealing book by Josephine Powell, Puente’s former dance partner and artistic advisor, recounts the fascinating and inspirational life of the man once referred to as the "greatest Latin musician of the twentieth century."
Puente, a dirt-poor Puerto Rican-American, was born in 1923 in New York’s Spanish Harlem. As a young boy, he dreamed of becoming a dancer like Fred Astaire; however, an ankle injury gave him the opportunity to explore his musical talents. At 14, Puente won the Benny Goodman-Gene Krupa drum contest. He soon discovered the intoxicating sound of Cuban music, and at 17 he joined the Machito Orchestra, becoming proficient in the Cuban timbales drums.After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Puente felt compelled to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he led a band performing wartime tunes for his ship’s crew. When the war ended, musical influences drove him to Havana, where he explored the ancient Afro-Cuban rhythm of the drums. It was here that Puente became a devotee of Santeria, an Afro-Cuban cult religion. The ritual drum pattern of this music was mesmerizing to Puente and would forever haunt him.
In 1956 Puente signed with RCA Records, but with the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll, record producers soon bailed out of Latin music. The Cuban Revolution brought stringent embargoes of products and music that ended an era of flourishing creativity and sent Cuban music and entertainment underground. Puente was forbidden to return to Havana to further his knowledge of Cuban music. While he went on to record more than 135 albums, receive numerous awards and Grammy nominations, and achieve worldwide acclaim and respect, his inability to explore this type of music left him feeling unfulfilled. Powell concludes, "Tito became larger than life. He was highly recognizable and while his adoring public sought his signature, he wasn’t satisfied. Until his death, the Latin beat continued to haunt him."
Powell, a gold medal ballroom dancer, has been a presenter and judge for the Feather Awards, the U.S. Open National Swing Dance Competition and the National Salsa Dancing competitions. She is a Cuban music historian, and a lecturer/consultant on ballroom music and dancing, as well as in Latin American music. She was a consultant on the motion pictures "Salsa," "Havana" and the "The Mambo Kings," whose soundtrack received a Grammy nomination.
She is a regularly featured musicologist on radio stations KXLU and KPFK in Los Angeles. In 1990, Powell obtained a star for Puente on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Now retired from the entertainment industry, Powell is a successful Realtor in Beverly Hills, and the President of Pan Americana Enterprises Inc. Tito Puente: When the Drums Are Dreaming is the author’s first book.
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