Oye Como Va

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"Oye Como Va"
Song by Tito Puente (1963)
Published 1963
Writer Tito Puente
Composer Tito Puente
Lyricist Tito Puente
Language Spanish
Recorded by Santana (1970),
Tito Puente, Jr. (2004),

"Oye Como Va" is a song written by Latin jazz and mambo musician Tito Puente in 1963 and popularized by Santana's rendition of the song in 1970 on their album Abraxas, helping to catapult Santana into stardom with the song reaching #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also reached #11 on the Billboard Easy Listening survey and #32 on their R&B chart.[1]

The title comes from the first words:

Spanish: English:
Oye como va Listen to how [it] goes OR Hey, how is it going[2]
Mi ritmo "My rhythm"
Bueno pa' gozar "Good for enjoying" or "good to enjoy"
Mulata See: Mulatta[3]

The fact that the phrase "Oye como va" is the title of the song and is sung somewhat separately from the phrase "mi ritmo" makes it easy to interpret the meaning as "Hey, how's it going?" However, the first sentence is actually "Oye como va mi ritmo", meaning "Listen to how my rhythm goes."

The song has the classic rhythm and tempo of cha-cha-cha. It has similarities with "Chanchullo" by Israel "Cachao" López. The Latin Beat Magazine writes, "Cachao's tumbaos for his 1937 composition of Rareza de Melitón (later changed to Chanchullo) inspired Tito Puente's signature tune 'Oye Como Va'."[4] On the original recording of the song the voice of Santitos Colon, the Puente orchestra singer at the time, can be heard in the song along with those of Puente and other orchestra musicians. Cachao can be heard playing contrabass in some of Tito Puente's live versions of "Oye Como Va".

The song has had numerous arrangements and remakes by numerous artists in various tempi. NPR included the song in its "NPR 100: The most important American musical works of the 20th century".[5]

Santana version[edit]

Santana's arrangement is a "driving, cranked-up version"[5] in a new style of Latin rock (attributed to musicians like Santana), adding electric guitar, Hammond B-3 organ, and a rock drum kit to the instrumentation and dropping Puente's brass section. The electric guitar part takes on Puente's flute melody, and the organ provides accompaniment (with organist Gregg Rolie's discretional use of the Leslie effect). There are several guitar solos and an organ solo, all of which are rooted in rock and the blues but also contain licks similar to those of the original arrangement.[5][6] The song was inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.[7]

Tito Puente, speaking in the intro to his recording of "Oye Como Va" on the album "Mambo Birdland," said "Everybody's heard of Santana. Santana! Beautiful Santana! He put our music, Latin rock, around the world, man! And I'd like to thank him publicly 'cause he recorded a tune and he gave me credit as the composer of the tune. So, since that day... all we play... is Santana music!" The version of the song on "Mambo Birdland" is a Santana-ized version.


This song has been covered by Latin musicians in the last forty years, with Santana's version being the most widely recognized.

Other media[edit]

The song is referenced in the Syfy Channel's Warehouse 13 series in the second season episode "Around the Bend". The "original studio recording" of Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va" (itself a supernatural artifact) is used by agents of the Warehouse in combination with an electrical shock to counteract the influence of another artifact. It is also featured in the 1998 Coen Brothers film The Big Lebowski as a scene opener.

Elaine Benes lists the song as among her favorites in the Seinfeld episode "The Checks".[10]

The Santana version plays in a season 5 episode of Supernatural.


  1. ^ "Carlos Santana", Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 1, 2006.
  2. ^ http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/122822/what-does-oye-como-va-mean
  3. ^ Standard LA Spanish for a female of mixed African/European heritage. The term is in everyday use in Cuba, and has no pejorative connotation. The OED supports the derivation of mulatta, and gives the first usage in English as 1622.
  4. ^ Salazar, Max. "Orestes Lopez, brother to Israel Lopez Cachao, and the mambo", Latin Beat Magazine. September, 2002.
  5. ^ a b c "Oye Como Va" (RAM). NPR 100. Retrieved 2007-05-12. 
  6. ^ "Oye Como Va" (PDF). McGraw Hill. Retrieved 2007-05-12. 
  7. ^ "Latin GRAMMY Hall Of Fame". Latin Grammy Award. Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. 2001. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  8. ^ 'Artists Direct'
  9. ^ Joe Strummer and The Latino Rockabilly War (Live full concert)
  10. ^ http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheChecks.html