Armando Boza- Panama’s Big Band Legend

At the center of this vintage photo is Armando Boza flanked by his original "La Perfecta." Most of his original musicians were of West Indian parentage born in Panama.

Armando Boza posing with his "orchestra of orchestras" in 1961.

By Lydia M. Reid

The great musician and orchestra leader, Armando Arturo Boza Cogley, was born in Panama City on October 3, 1911 on Calle Colon where his family lived. His mother was Doña Onorina Cogley of British Westindian origins and Don Pablo Boza, his father, was one of three Cuban brothers who arrived as exiles from Cuba. His cousin Máximo Arrates Boza, in fact, composed the famous song Reina Roja (The Red Queen), which we would all remember as Pescao, a very popular dance number especially during Carnaval season.

At a very young age Armando formed part of The Republican Band (La Banda Republicana) when it was directed by the Maestro Albert Galimany (grandfather of the former President of Panama, Guillermo Endara).

Boza was an innovator from the beginning and in 1938 formed his own orchestra “La Boza, Jr.,” which gave him a chance to try his wings. He got his start in popular music in the orchestra of a close friend, pianist, composer and organist Avelino Muñoz but later (1940) he organized another orchestra of his own “La Perfecta” which led him to innumerable successes, both nationally and internationally. “La Perfecta” was originally formed in the City of Colon at the peak of W.W. II.

During this golden period of popular music there was a healthy competition among leading orchestras from which his band, which was playing in the Cabaret Florida, quite naturally emerged triumphant. From that time on La Perfecta lived up to its, by now, well-known reputation since it was comprised of the most extraordinary Panamanian and Cuban musical talent that the times had to offer. Such names as Coco Barretto, Pedro Justiz “Peruchín”, “El Peñito” Peñalver, José Silva “Chombo,”and local greats such as Clarence Martín, Fernando Peña, Rafael Corcho and many others were commonly linked to Boza’s orchestra.

Subsequently, between the 1950s and until the first months of the year of his death in 1966, Armando Boza and his “La Perfecta” would pursue a whirlwind of artistic activity. He traveled several times to Peru and Colombia, and toured throughout Panama which was permeated with the joy of his unsurpassed musical arrangements.

The “Carnaval” festivities in Panama during this period were typically hosted by the music of “La Perfecta.” The prestige and quality of his musicians accompanied the most fashionable and unforgettable singers of the time. Boza’s band accompanied indisputable figures such as Silvia De Gras, Fernando Fernández, El Negrito Chapuseaux, Simó Damirón, Daniel Santos, Rolando Laserie, Roberto Ledesma, Beny Moré “El Bárbaro del Ritmo,” and many others. We all know Beny More’s reputation for being a demanding artist and orchestra director himself.  Only the best of the best musicians could play with him or for him and Armnado Boza and his band accompanied Beny on innumerable gigs.

During the 1950s, boza recorded a large number of records with national themes that included “Historia de Un Amor“, which immortalized Carlos Eleta Almarán; “Soñar” by Arturo Hassan “Chino,” brilliantly sung by the great “crooner” Germán Vergara who lived in Venezuela for many years and is today based in Panama. There was also the extremely popular number “Chomba, Chombita” and “Me Voy Pa’Panama“, originally composed by the great Panamanian pianist Alonso Wilson, who today resides in the city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The two songs were performed by vocalists Manito Johnson and Tito Contreras, respectively.  For more on his friendships with Beny Moré and Miguelito Valdés see our article on our Chronicle site here.

You may visit Armando Boza’s Tribute Page here and leave him a note and some virtual flowers.

2 responses to “Armando Boza- Panama’s Big Band Legend

  1. Denise,

    It is nice to hear from you and we would love to fill in our readers on more about Armando Boza, and the others with a little help from people who knew them more closely- Like YOU. We’d like to hear from you. Terry Pearce sounds like a very talented musician to be playing in Boza’s orchestra.

    Lydia

    Like this

  2. My husband Terry Pearce worked with Armando Boza from 1953 until 1959. He was the youngest member (still in High School). Other members included ( but were not limited to) Vitin Paz, Mene Nieto, Mauricio Smith. It would be nice to give these guys a mention also.

    Like this

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