Gilded Serpent presents...

Everyone’s Uncle:

In Celebration of the Life of Drummer Armando Mafufo

Uncle Mafufo with Crystal

by Renée Rothman
posted February 12, 2013

“And remember, my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” (The Wizard of Oz to the Tinman). From The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

Armando Mafufo had such a heart. He was beloved by everyone as a favorite uncle, brother, father, husband, friend, teacher. His eyes twinkled with delight; his smile sent giggling waves of joy outward tickling all those in his presence. His joking stories—enigmatic, silly, wise—delighted all, even if we didn’t always understand them. To be in his presence was a balm to the difficulties of daily life. To hear him play a drum could lift one’s spirit to transcendent heights. Yes, Armando was much loved by others.

Knowing the breadth of his influence, his family kindly arranged for a public memorial celebration at Santa Cruz’s famed Kuumbwa Jazz Club. With a courtyard, stage, seating for 200, and a small kitchen, this was a perfect venue for the special events prepared for the day. These would include performances by many of the musicians and dancers who worked with and learned from Armando over the course of thirty years.

In fact, so many artists wanted to perform in his honor that many had to be turned down or else we might have had to stay all night.

I didn’t know Armando as intimately as others did, but he did teach me to play dumbek, one of my favorite experiences. Armando was omnipresent in the Santa Cruz Belly dance scene, playing music with any number of local and visiting musicians, teaching or accompanying a dance class, or simply watching from the audience in support. Armando, by the way, accompanied every generation of Belly dancers in Santa Cruz since the 1970s. He was everywhere and always.

Crowds of family and friends congregated, arriving from all over the San Francisco region and beyond. Those who couldn’t make it in the flesh sent letters and notes by way of Facebook, all of them exclaiming the sheer pleasure of knowing Armando. He made everyone feel like his best friend, as one wrote.

The stage that day was filled with Flamenco, Middle Eastern, Balkan, and Salsa artists spanning Armando’s life in music. I couldn’t count nor can I name all the musicians and dancers who appeared on stage to pay tribute to Armando, but I can say that they were inspired. Each song, each dance was a prayer, an offering, and Hanya, Armando’s lovely wife of 55 years, graciously accepted each and every one.

The memory of Uncle Mafufo’s heart will not soon be forgotten. His spirit resides in everyone of us who had the honor of meeting him—and that’s a lot of people. What greater legacy could be left by a man? Blessed be, gentle Armando.


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  1. Morocco

    Feb 24, 2013 - 02:02:40

    I’m almost afraid to open my monthly Snakebyte because maybe somebody else I love has died. THIS was how I heard about Uncle Mafufo’s death.
    Everybody who had the chance to know him, loved him – including me.
    Our loss is Heaven’s gain. God bless & keep his loving soul. I’m willing to bet that the angels are having a ball dancing to his beat. 
    Aunt Rocky

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