Legendary Palladium Mambo Bassist

Professional Composer, Arranger, Scorer



Alfonso Panama, also known as "Alfonso El Panameno" Joseph was born in the Republic of Panama, and immigrated to New York at 11 years of age, where he studied music and became one of the forefront bassists of Afro-Cuban legendary bands include Arsenio Rodríguez, Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco, Machito, and others.

Joseph's musical career began in the mid-1950s, learning and playing guitar with many Latin-American groups, "conjuntos", and playing diverse rhythmic variations of Afro-Cuban music. He replaced the guitar strings with electronic strings and used the guitar as a bass, playing only the last four strings. With this convention, he became a bass player. Soon after, he graduated to Fender bass guitar and an Ampeg bass amplifier. Joseph was one of handful of bass players at that time, who introduced and popularized the bass guitar in the Latin, Jazz, Latin/Jazz and R&B venue.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Joseph performed at the Palladium and Roseland Ballroom, two of New York City's most famous venues. He also played bass at Birdland, a famous NYC club where all the jazz and Latin Jazz greats have performed, at Hunts Point Palace, Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and others.

Bassist Composer, Arranger, Scorer "Alfonso Panama"


As a bassist and vocalist, Joseph accompanied, recorded and performed with some of the most popular and prominent bandleaders and musicians during the heyday of Latin music and Latin Jazz. Historians and fans of this era as well as the older generation of Latinos, will remember most of these artists such as Arsenio Rodríguez, Candido, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Machito, Johnny Pacheco, Yomo Toro, Cachao, Miguelito Valdez, Doc Cheetham, Alfredo "Chocolate" Armentero, Mauricio Smith, Richie Ray, Marcelino Guerra and many others.

Arsenio Rodríguez was a tres guitarist, a renowned master of Afro-Cuban music and in particular is regarded as the originator of a Latin style called the son montuno. Rodriguez personally taught Joseph the intricate techniques of Cuban bass rhythms and syncopation. Joseph performed with Arsenio at Carnegie Hall and recorded with Rodriguez on Ansonia Records Arsenio Rodríguez y Su Conjunto, (Vol.2) and Tico Records (Arsenio Dice... Arsenio Says).

Candido, the great Cuban Latin-Jazz percussionist, also personally coached and trained Joseph on Cuban bass rhythms and syncopation. Joseph recorded with Candido as vocalist, with Tito Puente conducting and playing vibes and timbales and he often substituted with Cachao on bass, (Tico Records, Candido's Latin McGuffas Dust).

After the death of his mentor, Arsenio Rodríguez, Joseph devoted his time composing and orchestrating. In this undertaking, he conceived the vision of employing his knowledge, skills and technique as acquired from Latin and Classical music into one form. In 2008, he joined forces with his Salsa-legend musician-friends Charlie Rodriguez (tres guitar) and Luis Mangual (bongos) and his Mambo-legend dancer-friends Pedro "Cuban Pete" Aguilar (Mambo dance pioneer), Freddy Rios, Mike Ramos, and Andy Jerrick (original Mambo Aces) for the international mega-educational production La Epoca, directed and produced by his son - Josue Joseph.


In 2011, he joined forces with Salsa legend Carlos De Leon (trumpet) for the soundtrack of the second edition of La Epoca.


In early 2012, Panama and Joseph joined forces with Johnny Rodriguez, Jose Madera, George Delgado - the first time Panama had reunited with his former musician colleagues in over 38 years (the last time being when Rodriguez and Madera and Panama were with the Machito Orchestra). They recorded for the soundtracks of two separate films. Rodriguez, Madera, Delgado, and Panama were also band-members of the Tito Puente Orchestra during the 1960's.


In mid-2012, Panama traveled to Vilnius (Lithuania) to record with the Vilnius Symphony Orchestra - a 33-piece symphony-orchestra - led by conductor Vytautas Lukocius  - for the soundtrack of the film Pyotr - The Great Tchaikovsky (2017). They recorded several selections of Panama's own compositions which he arranged and scored which he had written since the death of Arsenio Rodriguez.




Joseph attended the Lyn Oliver Jazz Studios (New York) and the Hartnett Manhattan School of Music (New York) majoring in composition harmony and theory during the 1960's, and was a student of Lisle Atkinson and Rector Bailey.


After years of many professional collaborations, recordings, and television appearances with the bands of the times, he semi-retired. In 2011 he won the "Song of the Year" award by London Global Vybz World Music for "Vale Mas" - one of the songs from the soundtrack of the award-winning film Part I La Epoca - The Palladium Era which features many of the legends of Mambo and Salsa before they departed us. Alfonso contributed his bass-playing, arrangement, and knowledge on the entire soundtrack.


In 2010, the same film won "Film of the Year" by the Stuckies Awards by Earl  Rush from StuckOnSalsa. The film was also a feature selection at the Orlando Hispanic Film Festival, as well as the Virginia Tech University Hispanic Month Film Festival.


Alfonso Panama, 1962.


Alfonso Panama as the bass player with the Arsenio Rodriguez Conjunto in the Bronx, New York, 1963.



Alfonso Panama

Photo by Josue Joseph (Virginia, USA)
Name Alfonso Panama aka "Alfonso El Panameno"
Born February
Work Titles

Legendary Palladium Mambo Bassist,
Professional Composer, Arranger, Scorer, Vocalist

Genres Palladium Mambo, Classical, Blues, Jazz, Calypso

Lyn Oliver Jazz Studios, Hartnett Manhattan School of Music, Lisle Atkinson, Rector Bailey, 2010 "Film of the Year" Stuckies Awards, London Global Vybz World Music,

Associations Tito Puente, Arsenio Rodriguez, Machito, Mario Bauza, Johnny Pacheco, Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, Doc Cheetham, Israel "Cachao" lopez, Josue Joseph,




Television Talkshow Interview / Photo in Timisoara (Romania)