Armando Boza- Musician and Orchestra Director Extraordinaire. Part II

Armando Boza accompanies Beny More.

Armando Boza in a classic group photo.

Images thanks to .

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’sBaila 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.

14 responses to “Armando Boza- Musician and Orchestra Director Extraordinaire. Part II

  1. Thank you so much for this post, my father who is 81 today has had me searching for more information on Sr. Boza for years now. His sister had a cd with some of his greatest hits and almost positive she bought it in Panama on one of her visits. I hope you find it. I'm only 29 but I enjoy listening to the music iI know brought my father much joy.

  2. Valentin Long

    When I was a child back in the late forties and early fifties, my grandmother had a bar in Chilibre, which went by the name “La Suprema”. There was also a dance hall attached to the rear. Anytime they had a dance there, it was either Boa, Alvarez, Lombardo or Boza. There was a skinny young man who would always show up and stand in front of the bandstand to watch them play. Before I went to sleep, he would be standing there and sometimes I would wake up at around two in the morning to use the rest room. From the balcony, I could see that this young man was now playing the maracas and doing chorus. In those days the musicians were either masons,carpenters or ditch diggers by day and musicians at night. At times I would see four saxophones but only two were playing. The other two had the saxs hanging from their neck but they were asleep, obviously tired from their daytime jobs. The same went with the maraca player and one or two other.

    One day I asked my grandmother who was that young man and she explained that he was from Chiriqui, but was living with an elder sister in Chilibre. As time went by, I would see him “soneando” and practically getting involved with the different bands. Suddenly, we started hearing his voice coming from all the juke boxes all over Panama. His name : Tito Contreras. I have the CD that has Rivoli, Los Tres Barberos, Mi Nina Preferida, El Comejen, Me Voy Pa Panama, Sospecha, Los Reyes, Cita de Amor, Sonar, Rio Mar, Mujeriego, Ensalada Panamena. Bought it three years ago in Tamayo at Albrook Grand Terminal.

  3. Valentin Long

    Contreras died a couple of years ago at the age of eighty one. I contacted Menique Barcasnegras via email shortly before Tito passed because I was trying to find out where I could buy a second LP (now CD) that Tito, Juan Coronel and Menique had recorded with Barberia Kubavana Orchestra. I have the first one, which presents Tito Contreras and Juan Coronel with Barberia and something they were trying, called “Ritmo Chevere.”
    Tito does a new version of Los Tres Barberos, Mi Niña Preferida , Milagro de Amor , (first time I hear Tito singing bolero and let me tell you, nothing to envy Beny More about) and one that Cascarita sang and starts “ahora, cuando yo te llame, pero ahora, etc…” and the chorus says “ahora si!”
    This LP was recorded in the mid seventies and what shocked me was that Tito’s voice was like when he was in my grandmother’s dance hall, clear as a beach in Bocas del Toro. In that Cascarita song he belts out a “soneo” that would make Beny wonder. I have that LP, but I was trying to obtain the other one. No luck yet.
    Tito became a piano player and had a small band in Virginia some years ago. When Tito decided to remain in South America for a few years, he recorded quite a few records with Sonora Sensación and Lucho Macedo, but by that time the so called payola had kicked in and only a few were played on the local radio stations. Most were never played. It is shameful that such a great singer has passed and I have not seen anything concerning what or who he was.
    Daniel Santos, Javier Solis, Beny More, Julio Jaramillo, Rocio Durcal,Lew Rawls, Angel Viloria, Joe Arroyo , Felipe Pirela and Libertad Lamarque are remembered every day in their respective countries and Tito Contreras….nothing,nada. At least not here.
    Musicwise, Panama is in permanent reverse. Nowadays there is a new dialect which is called reggae. Kids are growing up speaking this dialect. Good luck Ruben and don’t worry, the world will remember you. Here, who knows.

    • Valentin,
      Thanks for the great updates on Tito Contreras and other musicians of the “Tres Barberos” time. You were born with a Silver Spoon of a Cultural insight right into”Chilibre Bush,” so like me give thanks to your brave grandmother and give us some e-mail notes on her life and where she is buried so that we may add her to our Silver People Cultural treasures and we all have some place where we can see her and honor her for what she has done for all of us “pelaos” of those historic times. RR

  4. Robert,

    My grandmother passed in 1992 and is buried in Corozal Cemetery. Her name: Guillermina Speer, she was a member of the an association known as Dueños o Proprietarios de Bodegas y Cantinas de Panama. I remember one of the members of that association because he was very active in baseball. His name : Stanford Graham. I also remember his daughter Elsa Garzon. They were both very active.
    I was raised in a land lease in an area known as Obispo, in the former Canal Zone. Studied in Santa Cruz Elementary, Balboa Junior/Senior High School and English as a Second Language in La Universidad Nacional de Panama.
    Retired from the Panama Canal Commission/Autoridad del Canal after twentythree years on March/05. Moved to Los Angeles, Ca. and became a citizen on October 26/11. Since I refuse to sit around and wait for St. Peter to “pull my file”, I am now driving “Big Rig” cross country. You can say that I am being paid to be a tourist. Since you and I are now friends via Facebook, I will be contacting you through those means. Take care and good luck.


    • Valentín,
      Always good to hear from someone with an excellent memory especially from the ranks of the Silver People of Panamá. Thank you for sharing about your grandmother and the people who also touched her life.
      Now that we are connected on Facebook I would like to invite you to join our group “Afro-Heritage of Panama.” It is an historic and very dynamic group of mainly descendants of the Silver Community and diverse enough to include our panamanian Spanish people both from Panama and the U.S. and abroad. Check us out from my Facebook page and give me permission to add you to the group; you will enjoy the interaction. Saludos!

  5. Valentin Lyong

    I see that my name is pretty same like Valentin Long. Can you write me at Skype : icedge2. I would like to meet you..

  6. Adyaribeth Boza

    I really appreciate this article, Armando Boza was my grandfather, unfortunately I never had the chance to meet him, he past four years before I was born, but my mother Miroslava Boza she always made sure to share many memories and pictures. Now i’m passing theses wonderful memories to my children, and they really enjoyed reading this.


  7. Adyaribeth,
    It always thrills us to hear from the children and grandchildren of such great figures as Armando Boza. It is probably our geatest accomplishment through this and our other websites that we can leave our wonderful West Indian Panamanian legacy to persons such as yourself, your children and grandchildren. After all, all the learned people and scientists in the world who study the human mind know the power and healthful effects of knowing where and who you come from.
    If you have images you can share with us, please do send them to us even if they are scanned. We are also receiving recordings as the recordings of your grandfather, who is a Panamanian icon, are almost impossible to locate. What good is it to hold on to these things until they are totally erased from our collective memory?
    If we do not bring them out now, this is exactly what will happen, our community will lose them.
    Thank you so much for leaving your comment.

    • Thank you so much for this post, my father who is 81 today has had me searching for more information on Sr. Boza for years now. His sister had a cd with some of his greatest hits and almost positive she bought it in Panama on one of her visits. I hope you find it. I’m only 29 but I enjoy listening to the music I know brought my father much joy.

      • Mayelo,
        Glad we made an 81 year old happy! Armando Boza is probably as popular now with the new generations as back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. A tribute to his skill and talent as a musician and band leader.

  8. I have been unable to find a place where I may purchase Tito
    Contreras and Armando Boza’s music. Could someone let me know
    how and where I may purchase those CD? I live in Los Angeles,
    California, but resided in Colon, Panama.

  9. Además de esto, es esencial ser consciente de
    lo que escribes en las redes sociales.