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Con pocas palabras basta: An interview with Miguel Amadeo

In the summer of 2012, I was looking for a new set of cuatro strings. I was, at the time, relatively new to NYC and was not familiar with music stores in the area. A google search of “puerto rican music store nyc” led me to Casa Amadeo at 786 Prospect Ave in the Bronx.

I boarded the 5 train en route to Prospect Avenue.  When I arrived at the store, I was immediately captivated by the amount of recordings that make up Amadeo’s inventory of LPs and CDs.

I even forgot that I was on a mission to get cuatro strings, and started to look through the store’s record selection. I came across a CD by Mario Hernández y Su Sexteto Borinquen, Para ti son mis canciones. I grabbed the disc and kept wandering through the store. Miguel Amadeo noticed the album I was holding in my hands and casually said, “Ese disco tiene un número mío.” I looked at him as I walked to the glass counter that contained maracas, salsa singers’ keychains and shiny cencerros. From the other side of the counter, he flipped the CD and pointed to the track list, that’s when I read track number three: "Con pocas palabras basta" (Miguel Angel Amadeo). Watch here a splendid performance of Miguel Amadeo and Mario Hernández playing "Con pocas palabras basta" in this video recorded in 1985 at the store’s back room. I wonder how many other great musicians have played at the store’s almacén.

That’s how I met Miguel Angel Amadeo.  I asked him a few questions as he chatted with the store’s regulars–men that gather there to talk with Amadeo about the good old times as he plays music through the store’s speakers. It was like an animated jukebox, for every song there was a fact: "yo me acuerdo cuando salió ese disco, oye la verdad que nadie canta danzas como Julita Ross…"

It was a Saturday afternoon and the crowd was really enjoying Amadeo’s playlist and conversation. I told him that I wanted to learn more about his career and asked him if I could come back during the week with a camera for an interview. He agreed, and a couple of days after my first visit, I was back in the store with a friend and a camera to talk to him further about his compositions, the past New York music scene, inheriting this historic locale from Victoria Hernández and how it is to own a record store nowadays. When we did this interview, Cheo Feliciano was still alive and Amadeo was really pleased about the recording of the song "Lo bueno ya viene" included in the album Cheo had recently made with Rubén Blades, Eba say ajá.

Click above to watch the interview.

The video interview presented here collects a bit of Amadeo’s extraordinary life. Interestingly, Miguel Amadeo is the composer of that song popularized by El Gran Combo, "Que me lo den en vida." Let’s recognize his legacy and cherish the catalog of songs he has passed on to us.

© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices on 13 March 2015.