Images thanks to www.mambo-inn.com .
In June of 1958, Cuban singer and composer, Beny Moré (Bartolomé Moré) arrived in Panama to give radio and live presentations in the capitol and in the interior of the country.
When Beny discovers that Armando Boza was in the country he immediately requests that he be backed by his orchestra since Boza had accompanied him during two previous “Carnavals” in Panama with resounding success. The same thing happened in Lima when Boza backed Beny up along with Cuban pianist Rolando Columbie. This is just a glimpse into the quality of Boza’s performance as a professional musician.
Boza recorded an album in the RPC radio studios, the last album of his glorious career, in which Manny Bolaños sings the Calypsonian Lord Cobra’s theme “Combination”, and the bolero tune “Simplemente Una Ilusión.” On the same album Jaime “Manito” Johnson sang “No Le Des Color” (“Don’t Give it Color“), and Juan Coronel El Colonense sang “Mi flor” along with many other well known artists.
Other numbers that had great impact on the entertainment scene of the times were “Baila mi Tamborito” sung by Tito Contreras; “Santa Ana,” composed by Ricardo Fabrega and “La Luna tu y yo,” (The Moon you and me) by the pianist Leoncio Kipping and masterfully interpreted by the Colonense, Neville Chang. Other national compositions highlighted by the musical talents of the La Perfecta of Armando Boza were “Los Tres Barberos,” “Rivoli” and “Los Reyes“, sung by the ever popular singer from Chiriqui, Tito Contreras.
Probably the clearest memories of the golden days of Armando Boza are related by the Panamanian singer Jaime “Manito” Johnson who remembers the special rapport and excitement he experienced in the company of Beny Moré and Armando Boza when he decided to leave Panama and go to Lima, Peru where all his musician buddies were.
It was back in 1958, he recalls, that he left the Canal Zone job he had and took ship for Peru to dedicate himself fully to singing and he knew Armando Boza was there doing several gigs with his orchestra. When he arrived in Callao he was received by his friends Mane Nieto, Beto Ovalle, Tito Contreras and Armando Boza. He did well in Lima and later joined the great Beny Moré for several of the best “hot spots” in Lima. Johnson usually would open the show and Beny Moré would enter and dazzle the public who eagerly awaited him- all to the accompaniment of the spectacular Armando Boza band.
He relates that it was all an excellent time for him and the other musicians. Armando Boza, Beny Moré and the group of Panamanian singers and musicians had a lot of work performing during the “Carnavales” especially. The public was “just crazy” with joy over their music and in 1959 he recorded “Chomba, Chombita” there, one of his greatest hits. He also recorded several other hits in Peru like Alonso Wilson’s “Baila Mi Tamborito,” and “Locura de Carnaval” (Carnaval Madness), “Amalia Batista,” “Batanga Número Dos,” “Ensalada Panameña,” and “Salsipuedes,” all Panamanian themes in the LP entitled “Carnaval Panameño,” recorded on the label SONO Radio.
Armando A. Boza Cogley died in 1966 having left behind a rich legacy of wonderful music and excellent musicians. He had exacting standards for his “La Perfecta” which brought him worldwide acclaim and recognition from the musical “heavies” of the late 1940’s and 1950’s, especially Beny Moré and Miguelito Valdés, another Cuban giant on the entertainment scene best know for his dramatic performance of “Babalu.”
My best memory of Armando Boza was when he and his orchestra came to play for our sixth grade fair and dance which left the best of memories imprinted in my heart and made all the past years of trouble and strife disappear. My favorite number was “Los Tres Barberos” (named after a Social Club) and although I haven’t been able to find any of his albums anywhere in Panama, it will live forever in my memory as if I were dancing it today with the very special girl who accompanied me that night at the dance. But, more about that in future posts.
This story continues.