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Agustín (Tuto) Feliciano

Celebrated performer, consummate professional

"Tuto's playing was revolutionary. He was bold..." Yomo Toro

Tuto Feliciano was one of the best performers of the Puerto Rican Cuatro of modern times, often reaching the same musical plane and technical level of Ladi, Nieves Quintero Neri Orta, Francisco Ortiz Pineiro and Yomo Toro. He was also an expert player of the Puerto Rican tres.
        In 2005, David Morales and William Cumpiano, members of the Cuatro Project, visited don Tuto in his home in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The maestro agreed to several lengthy taped interviews, during which he discussed his life and his music. Throughout the years, Tuto
generously gave his time to the Cuatro Project, providing numerous interviews and answering our phone calls requesting information from him on his recollections of the four-and eight-string cuatros he played as a youth in Yauco, Puerto Rico.
       During the most recent visits we began to notice the cumulative effects and ravages of his battle against Parkinson's disease, during which he slowly lost his ability to be understood clearly and  to play his beloved cuatro. We recall one visit when upon arriving at his home, we were surprised to see him tenaciously practicing his cuatro.He told us it was because he wanted to show us, despite his neurological shortcomings, a beautiful piece without pauses or errors.

On this special page dedicated to Tuto Feliciano, we  provide photos, footage and interviews with this distinguished Puerto Rican artist.

Here is a wonderful piece that demonstrates the ingenuity and facility of two great heroes of our culture: Tuto playing lead cuatro for Ramito in a playful mix of a seis chorreao and danza. How delicious! Recorded in 1964, it’s called Que Se Rían  (Let them laugh)

Tuto backed-up and recorded with Ramito on numerous occasions. Tuto was particularly proud of his contributions to the development of the sies llanero. He felt a bit ignored because all the credit for this historic arrangement was given to Ramito. In the first recording of this Seis Llanera, made at Ansonia Records, (Ramito: El Cantor de la Montaña (The Mountain Singer), Volume I) we can hear Tuto playing on the cuatro in his style the introduction and accompanyiment of the llanera
Quererte Como Te Quiero.  (To Love You As I Love You)
      Tuto explained that, because the pace is distinctly that of a Venezuelan Llanera, he tried to imitate, with his cuatro, the sound of the Venezuelan harp, the Venezuelan folk instrument that gives the Llanera it’s flavor. If you hear this selection carefully you will hear the repeated arpeggios of a harp, made with special expertise by Tuto Feliciano on his cuatro.


Click here to hear Tuto Feliciano’s private tape recordings.
Digitized by the Puerto Rican Cuatro Project























Watch Tuto in a video from the Cuatro Project's DVD Nuestro Cuatro Vol. 2. recorded in Hartford, Connecticut in 1998.

Photos from Tuto Feliciano's personal album

Tuto was also an expert tresista. Above we see him at age 20
in his hometown of Yauco, with its own rustic tres.
Photo Tuto Feliciano collection

Tuto was for many years principal accompanist for the
singer Flor Morales Ramos, "Ramito". Above we see
them together in the mid 1950s on stage at WKAQ-TV in San Juan.
Photo Tuto Feliciano collection

During the 60s and 70s Tuto appeared
frequently on television in New York and New Jersey,
at one time even hosting his own show.

Photo Tuto Feliciano collection


Photo of Tuto Feliciano by Juan Sotomayor
         After the news that our distinguished friend Tuto Feliciano had suffered a heart attack on October 2005, the folklorist John "Kacho" Montalvo wrote to us:
     "Tuto Feliciano was a cuatrista
of great talent from Yauco, Puerto Rico. At the age of seventy-odd years he could still play Edwin Colon Zayas’ difficult pieces, and enjoyed playing them at the same speed as Colon Zayas could.
In the 1990s, when I was producing the field recordings of tiple players (Aguinaldo Viejo and Adoradores del Fuego) I shared time with him at his friend Puntilla’s house in Mayagüez, where always stayed when he was in Puerto Rico.     

     He also played the Cuban tres. He loved to play for orchestras and was hired by merengue orchestras in New York and Florida, where he also occasionally recorded. He was a virtuoso cuatrista who accompanied Ramito on the radio in Mayaguez on the program Fiesta en el Batey during the 50s.
     It is important to know and recognize that the introduction of the Seis Llanera was Tuto's creation. The story arose that while waiting for Ramito to arrive in Esteban Romero’s (brother of the great troubadour Toñín Romero's) home--which was near the Ponce quarry, and birthplace of Cheo Feliciano, Pete Conde, etc., Esteban played some records of Venezuelan llaneras. The troubadours quickly began to adapt the melody to the decíma, which was quite similar. Tuto cleverly composed an intro that had the cadence, if you listen sharply, of the Venezuelan harp sound heard on llanera. Ramito, a very good businessman, later incorporated them with slight variations into his productions. That introduction (from Tuto’s Cuatro) became a standard that everyone plays today. "