Friday, August 15, 2008

Puntilla's Wake

Unfortunately since I live in NC, I couldn't make the trip back home on such short notice for Puntilla's wake. My friend Willie "El Ruso" called me this morning and gave me some details over the phone. Willie mentioned Skip "Brinquito" Burney being there and basically directing a double tambor, unfortunately I couldn't get the names of the bataleros in question. I know Amma was there among the people that Willie mentioned. At some point there was an Abakua procession in which non-initiates had to leave for some time until a rumba commenced. Willie had to shoot out but did find out later that a rumba in fact took place. Willie did mention that Abe Rodriguez was in attendance. I like to point that out specifically since Puntilla and Abe sang duo on many occasions, live and recorded. Abe sings probably the best rumba duo that I have ever heard.

I just remembered Willie telling me about how he got to see Puntilla and Abe sing duo recently at Sports Bar (a spot in Castle Hill that holds weekly rumbas on Sundays, I have to find out if this is still going on). In any case Willie on his way home from a guiro back in November 07' had this to tell me,

"After yesterdays guiro, we went to a local club called the Sports Bar on Castle Hill Ave. Puntilla, Abie Rodriguez and Gene Golden were in attendance along with some other cats I didn't know. Puntilla blew me away! He sounds as good today as the first day he came over. He and Abie have the soneo parts down to a science. I kicked myself for not bringing my vid-cam with me. I stayed for one set then headed home".

You can hear Abe singing duo w/ Totico on "What's Your Name?" off the "Totico Y Sus Rumberos" album. He also sang duo with Puntilla on the "Deep Rumba" album, check out the small clip of "Cuentale" if you don't already have the album. Abe sang duo on much of the extremely rare "Los Afortunados" album put together by Felix Sanabria and with lead vocals by Manuel "El Llanero Solitario" Martinez.

This album and some history behind El Llanero Solitario and Los Afortunados are covered in Mark Sander's (son of CP legend Morty Sanders) great rare cuban music blog:

Bobby Sanabria posted his experience from yesterday's service to the Latin Jazz e Group:

Although wakes are sad occasions, they are by their very nature a place whereone can reflect and honor mightily the departed by re-connecting with oldfriends, colleagues, and connecting with those who you may be meeting for thefirst time.

So too was Puntilla's wake last night at the Montero Funeral Home in Da' BoogieDown Bronx. The borough by its very nature is home to many in the Santeriacommunity and they showed up in full force to honor el maestro del tambor.Present were Rene' Lopez, Andy Gonzalez, poet Americo Casiano, Roman Diaz,trumpeter Guido Gonzalez, Anthony Carillo, David Oquendo, Olufemi, Doc Gibbs,Skip "Brinquito" Burney, Felix Sanabria and his lovely wife, Rolando Ramos(conguero w/ Orquesta Broadway), tamborero Eddie Rodriguez, Michelle Rosewomanwho is in the process of making ocha as a yawo, Milton Cardona, akpwon EmilioBarretto, Puntilla's sister and Puntilla's two sons as well as other members ofhis family, and a host of others to numerous to mention.

One of the evenings highlights was a choir acapella singing some of Puntilla'sfavorite praise songs from the Arara tradition. Skip Burney led a group thatfinally entered clapping the appropriate bata cadences. This was one ofPuntilla's many important contributions as he taught many of these unheard ofsongs here in the States to many in the community at large and they have becomepart of the standard repertoire at any ceremony. Then finally cajones werebrought in and a series of dynamic rumbas were sung for Puntilla that harkenedback to the days when the drum was omnipresent in public all over NYC. Indeed asMarta Moreno Vega has stated, "New York is the secret African city." Puntillawas at its vortex.

Que en paz descanses maestro, ibae,

Bobby Sanabria

I've added a post about what John Santos had to say about Puntilla on the Latin Jazz E Group Board:

I'm very sad to hear of this huge loss to the field and followers of Afro-Cuban folklore.
Puntilla was undoubtedly one of the greatest exponents, guardians, and teachers of sacred and secular drumming in the history of Cuban music. A list of his students which includes among many others, Louie Bauzó, Anthony and Miguel Carrillo, Penalty "Long John" Oliva, Skip Burney, Felix Sanabria, Eddie Rodriguez, Eddie Bobé, and Jesus Diaz, tells volumes about his influence and legacy. He will always be highly respected in and out of Cuba. I've only been to Cuba three times between 1990 and 2003, but always when folks would find out that I am from the States, many would ask about Puntilla with much love. I'm honored to have gotten to know him a little, visiting him in his home and receiving him in mine, and will always consider him one of the most complete maestros of most facets of Afro-Cuban folklore. He was a fabulous singer, batalero, and rumbero, played one of the deadliest quintos I've ever heard or witnessed, and could even sing son with a ton of sabor. I saw one of his sons singing in a video from Cuba, and he sounds exactly like his Dad. His legacy will endure forever.
Ibae . . .

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