Oye Como Va

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For an album by Arashi, see How's It Going?
"Oye Como Va"
Song by Tito Puente (1963)
Published 1963
Writer(s) Tito Puente
Composer(s) Tito Puente
Lyricist(s) Tito Puente
Language Spanish

"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 many arrangements and remakes by a number of 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 recorded by many Latin musicians in the last fifty three years, with Santana's version being the most widely recognized.

  • The Joe Cuba Sextette and Cheo Feliciano.
  • Cambodian singer Chea Savoeun has covered this song in Khmer called 'I'm Always Satisfied (Khmer: ពេញចិត្តជានិច្ច)' in 1972.
  • Jazz vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson on his 1975 album, Montara.
  • Latin rapper and singer Gerardo recorded the song on his 1991 debut album, Mo' Ritmo.[8]
  • Celia Cruz covered the song on her album, Siempre Viviré.
  • Mexican electronic/rock band Kinky covered the song for their 2004 album Oye Como Va.[9]
  • The jazz/funk band New Orleans Nightcrawlers covered the song on their 2000 album Live at the Old Point.
  • The Salsa Brothers featuring OJT on My Electric Oye Como Va (2009)
  • Eliane Elias, Brazilian singer and pianist, recorded the song in 2006, 36 years after Santana, on her album Around The City. On Elias' version, there are additional lyrics written by Elias.
  • Julio Iglesias included the song in 1994 on his album Crazy.
  • Azúcar Moreno recorded the song on their 1990 album Bandido, and coupled it with Santana's 1971 song Guajira in a two-songs medley.
  • 2 Live Crew sampled the song on the track "Mamolapenga" on their 1990 album Banned in the U.S.A.
  • The Mexican group Banda M-1 recorded a cumbia version in 1994.
  • Joe Strummer and The Latino Rockabilly War.[10]
  • Natalie Cole recorded the song in 2013, 43 years after Santana, on her #1 and Latin Grammy nominated album Natalie Cole en Español.

In popular culture[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".[11]
  • The Santana version is played in a season 5 episode of Supernatural.
  • The Kinky version is used in the movie Man on Fire.
  • One of the characters in the manga JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run is called Oyecomova, and his stand's name is "Listen to my Rhythm".


  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.[dead link]
  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. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCtwKCBFUzQ
  10. ^ Joe Strummer and The Latino Rockabilly War (Live full concert)
  11. ^ http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheChecks.html