Manny Oquendo

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Manny Oquendo (January 1, 1931 – March 25, 2009)[1] was a percussionist of Puerto Rican ancestry. His main instruments were bongós and timbales. [See: "Timbales Demonstration" (Manny Oquendo) and "The Martillo [Bongo] Pattern" (Manny Oquendo)].

Oquendo grew up in New York City and began studying percussion in 1945. He worked in the bands of tropical and Latin music ensembles such as Carlos Valero, Luis del Campo, Juan "El Boy" Torres, Luciano "Chano" Pozo, José Budet, Juanito Sanabria, Marcelino Guerra, José Curbelo, and Pupi Campo.

In 1950, he became the bongó player for Tito Puente. Following this he played with Tito Rodríquez in 1954 and Vicentico Valdés in 1955. He worked freelance in New York before joining Eddie Palmieri's Conjunto La Perfecta in 1962, where he helped develop the New York style of the mozambique rhythm.[2][3]

He co-led Conjunto Libre (later simply Libre) with bassist Andy González from 1974 and had a worldwide hit with "Little Sunflower" in 1983. This Freddie Hubbard composition was included on their album "Ritmo, Sonido y Estilo." This album included a wide variety of Latin rhythms. The Cuban guaracha rhythm is represented by the interpretation of the song "Que Humanidad" and the Puerto Rican plena rhythm is employed by the tune "Elena Elena."[4]


Típico style[edit]

Oquendo's timbales solos were famous for their tastefully sparse, straight forward "típico" phrasing. The following five measure excerpt is from a timbales solo by Oquendo on "Mambo."[5] The clave pattern is written above for reference. Notice how the passage begins and ends by coinciding with the strokes of clave.[6]

Incorporation of rumba quinto vocabulary[edit]

Oquendo's solos also incorporated the rhythmic language of the folkloric quinto, the lead drum of rumba.[7]


  • Con Salsa, Con Ritmo, Vol. 1, (Salsoul Records, 1976)
  • Con Salsa, Con Ritmo Vol. 2 - Tiene Calidad, (Salsoul Records, 1978)
  • Los Líderes de la Salsa (Salsoul Records, 1979)
  • Libre Increíble (Salsoul Records, 1981)
  • Ritmo, Sonido, y Estilo (Montuno Records, 1983)
  • Mejor que Nunca (Milestone Records, 1994)
  • Muévete! (Milestone, 1996)
  • Ahora (Milestone, 1999)
  • Los New Yorkinos (Milestone, 2000)

With Paul Quinichette


  1. ^ Grimes, William (April 12, 2009). "Manny Oquendo, Latin Band Leader and Stylistic Innovator, Dies at 78". The New York Times. Retrieved April 13, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Timbales Demonstration" (Manny Oquendo). Unlocking Clave. Web. Facebook.
  3. ^ Mozambique (Eddie Palmieri). Tico CD 1126 (1965).
  4. ^ Latin: 100 Essential CD's, Sue Steward, Page 33-34, 2001, ISBN 1-85828-733-2
  5. ^ "Mambo" Understanding Latin Rhythms (Patato, et al.) LP Ventures LPV-337-A (1974).
  6. ^ Peñalosa, David (2010). "Mambo Timbales Solo Excerpt," The Clave Matrix; Afro-Cuban Rhythm: Its Principles and African Origins p. 200. Redway, CA: Bembé Inc. ISBN 1-886502-80-3.
  7. ^ Peñalosa, David (2010). "Soloing in Popular Music," Rumba Quinto p. 112. Redway, CA: Bembé Books. ISBN 1-4537-1313-1


External links[edit]