Ray Barretto, Giant Force
Son of Ramón Barretto and Dolores Pagán, born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; he belongs to the generation of Puerto Ricans who grew up in New York and are known as “neoyoricans”: children of Puerto Ricans who did not know the Island.
His father leaves home and returns to Puerto Rico when Ray is barely six years old, leaving his mother, Doña Lola, alone to raise her children Ray, Ricardo and Cecilia. His childhood and part of his youth were spent between the streets of Spanish Harlem and the Bronx, listening to Latin music in the morning and jazz at night.
“My mother fought hard to keep us away from drugs and crime. She rented a room in the apartment to feed us. And as I recall, popular music was an escape for her from the reality of poverty and strengthened her spirit to keep fighting,” Ray recalled.
In 1946, at the age of 17, he enlisted in the army and was sent to Europe, where he curiously began his career as a jazz percussionist, performing officially at the Orlando Club GI, in Munich, Germany, in one of those jam sessions, a point of discovery for many great figures of music.
Regarding his performance in Germany, Ray comments: “That was an inspiration of the moment! There was an old banjo with old strings, I had listened to Chano Pozo through his records with Dizzy Gillespie, and I had that desire to play, to imitate Chano.
I took the banjo, went up on the stage and started to play by hitting the snare drum. Miracle the musicians didn’t throw me off the stage! But then they told me: ‘you have talent, you must go on and try to improve yourself’.
So when I returned to the United States, I bought my first drum and started looking for any place with live music to improve my technique by listening and watching how the musicians played, not on record, but live”.
Bella Martinez “La Escritora Irreverente de la Salsa” (Virginia, USA) is pleased and privileged to provide International Salsa Magazine with a worldwide release of her most recent publication and English translation of the book Ray Barretto, Giant Force.
The availability in English of this work, assists in the diffusion of Latin culture within the English speaking public. This was made possible thanks to the rigorous research and literary skill of Colombian author Robert Tellez, as well as the linguistic precision of Puerto Rican translator Ronald Vazquez.
This year, 2021, marks fifteen years since Ray Barretto left the earthly congas and five years since Colombian journalist Téllez Moreno released Ray Barretto, Giant Force.
On April 29th of this year, on the occasion of Barretto’s 93rd birthday, the Colombian author presented the translation of the aforementioned work, published in collaboration with Be More by Bella Martínez.
Like the work originally written by Téllez Moreno in Spanish and published by some publishers in 2016, this English version by the Puerto Rican translator gathers in a chronological and rigorous way the musical work of the also known as “Manos Duras”.
The book highlights Barretto’s beginnings in jazz and his influential career in salsa, collecting 11 Grammy nominations.
Ronald masterfully translates into simple, readable English the same journalistic narrative that Téllez constructed using testimonies gathered from those closest to Barretto.
After Barretto’s death in February 2006, Annette “Brandy” Rivera and the friend of the musician who is the subject of the book, George Rivera, shared with the author their memories of various moments in Barretto’s career.
Ray Barretto, Giant Force, was a virtual activity that was transmitted from Casa Norberto in Plaza Las Americas.
The presentation was moderated by journalist and writer Jaime Torres Torres, the independent editor in charge of the translation project, Bella Martínez, translator Ronald Vázquez, music professor and researcher Elmer González, author of the prologue to Ray Barretto, Giant Force, and the author of the book, Robert Téllez.
Research Sources by: