The Passionate Story of Fado

Fado star Mariza

Fado music is the heart of the Portuguese soul. It is one of the oldest urban folk music styles in the world. Some say it came as a dance from Africa in the 19th century and was adopted by the poor on the streets of Lisbon. Or perhaps it started at sea as the sad, melodic songs created by homesick sailors and fishermen.

Whatever its origins, fado’s themes have remained constant: destiny, betrayal in love, death and despair. A typical lyric goes: “Why did you leave me, where did you go? I walk the streets looking at every place we were together, except you’re not there.” It’s a sad music and a fado performance is not successful if an audience is not moved to tears.

All fado is dominated by the sentiment known as saudade. While there is no precise English definition for this word, it may be translated roughly as ‘yearning.’ Essentially it describes the soul of the music and is the measure of understanding that passes between performer and audience.

Cover of A Origem do Fado by José Alberto Sardinha

Fado History

By the early twentieth century, fado had become popular in the everyday life of Lisbon’s working class. It was played for pleasure but also to relieve the pain of life. Skilled singers known as fadistas performed at the end of the day and long into the night. Fado was the earthy music of taverns and brothels and street corners in Alfama and Mouraria, the old poor sections of Lisbon. (Another strain of fado, Coimbra fado, was favored among university students and professors.)

The fado is normally sung by men or women and accompanied by one Portuguese guitar and one classical guitar, which in Portugal is called viola. This song reached its golden era in the first half of the 20th century, when the Portuguese dictatorship of Salazar (1926-1968) forced the fado performers to become professional and confined them to sing in the fado houses and the so called “revistas”, a popular genre of “vaudeville”.

The main names of that period were: Alfredo Marceneiro, Amalia Rodrigues, Maria Teresa de Noronha and guitar players Armandinho and Jaime Santos.

The Queen of Fado Amalia Rodrigues

From the 1940s until her death in 1999, the towering figure of Portuguese fado was Amalia Rodrigues. She was the diva of fado, worshiped at home and celebrated abroad as the most famous representative of Portuguese culture. When she died the country’s prime minister called for three-days of national mourning. Such is the hold of fado over the people of Portugal.


The essential element of fado music is saudade, a Portuguese word that translates roughly as longing, or nostalgia for unrealized dreams. Fado flowers from this fatalistic world-view. It speaks of an undefined yearning that can’t be satisfied. For Portuguese emigrants fado is an expression of homesickness for the place they left behind.

Like other forms of deeply moving folk music such as flamenco, American blues, Argentine tango or Greek rembetiko, fado cannot be explained; it must be felt and experienced. One must have the soul to transmit that feeling; a fadista who does not possess saudade is thought of as inauthentic. Audiences are very knowledgeable and very demanding. If they do not feel the fadista is up to form they will stop a performance.

Duarte at EXIB 2016 in Evora – Photo by Angel Romero

Fado can be performed by men or women, although many aficionados prefer the raw emotion of the female fadista. Dressed in black with a shawl draped over her shoulders, a fadista stands in front of the musicians and communicates through gesture and facial expressions. The hands move, the body is stationary. When it is done correctly, it is a solemn and majestic performance.


Aside from the Lisbon fado there is another completely different form of this song, sung by the students of Coimbra University whose ancient roots can be found in the medieval songs called trovas. Here the subjects are mainly love, friendship and nostalgia. This form of fado reached its most famous period in the 1950s and 1960s when names like Edmundo Bettencourt, Luis Gois, José Afonso and the musicians Artur Paredes, Carlos Paredes and Antonio Portugal among others, combined new forms and lyrics to a song which was limited to student circles.

Fado guitarist Antonio Chainho playing the Portuguese guitar – Photo by Alexandre Nobre

The traditional accompaniment for the fadista is a Portuguese guitar, or guitarra, a 12-stringed instrument, and a bass guitar, or viola. Sometimes a second acoustic guitar is added. In recent years, fado recordings have added piano, violin and accordion, instruments which sometimes accompany the music on the streets of Lisbon.

Fado Today

Cover of the album New Queens of Fado (Arc Music, 2016), featuring Joana Amendoeira, Ana Moura, Carminho, Mariza, Cristina Branco, Katia Guerreiro, Mafalda Arnauth, Misia

Today the younger generation in Portugal is respectful but not dedicated to fado. However, a new generation of young musicians have contributed to the social and political revival of fado music, adapting and blending it with new trends.

Contemporary fado musicians like Misia have introduced the music to performers such as Sting. Misia and fadistas like Cristina Branco and Mariza, Amelia Muge, Antonio Zambujo, Ana Lains, Ana Moura, Joana Amendoeira, Katia Guerreiro, Mafalda Arnauth, walk the fine line between carrying on the tradition and trying to bring in a new audience.

Cover of the album Queens Of Fado – The Next Generation (Arc Music, 2017) featuring Cuca Roseta, Yolanda Soares, Carminho, Raquel Tavares, Gisela João, Claudia Aurora, Carla Pires and Joana Rios

(Sources: World Music Central, World Music Institute, World Music Network)

Coimbra Fado

Coimbra Fado is a genre of fado originating in the city of Coimbra, Portugal. This fado is closely linked to the academic traditions of the University of Coimbra and is exclusively sung by men; both the singers and musicians wear black capes during performances, the remaining part of the students outfit. It is sung at night, almost in the dark, in city squares, streets, or fado houses. (source: Fado group Verdes Anos)

Recommended Fado Recordings

Portugal: The Story of Fado
Fado: Exquisite Passion
The Rough Guide to Fado
Queens of Fado
Fados from Portugal
Great Voices of Fado
Queen of the Fado by Amalia Rodrigues
Rough Guide: The Music of Portugal
Queens Of Fado – The Next Generation

Fado Artists:

The following artists perform fado or fado-influenced music: Ala Dos Namorados, Almaplana, Amélia Muge, Ana Laíns, Ana Marina, Ana Moura, Antonio Chainho, Antonio Zambujo, Armenio de
Melo, Bicho de 7 cabeças, Camané, Catarina Cardeal, Cristina Branco, Custodio Castelo, Duarte, Grupo Cancao de Coimbra, Joana Amendoeira, Jorge Fernando, Katia Guerreiro, Lula Pena, Mario Pacheco, Madredeus, Mafalda Arnauth, Maria Amelia Proen, Mariza, Melian, Mike Siracusa, Misia, Nem Truz Nem Muz), Ramana Vieira, Sonia Tavares, Teresa Salgueiro, Verdes Anos – Fado group, Cuca Roseta, Yolanda Soares, Raquel Tavares, Gisela João, Claudia Aurora, Carla Pires and Joana Rios.

Fado Books:

A History of the Portuguese Fado by Paul Vernon (Routledge, 1998)
Fado Portugues – Songs from the Soul of Portugal by Donald Cohen (2004)
Fado and the Place of Longing, Loss, Memory and the City by Richard Elliott (Routledge, 2010)
A Origem do Fado [includes 4 CDs] by José Alberto Sardinha (Tradisom, 2010)
Fado Resounding: Affective Politics and Urban Life by Lila Ellen Gray (Duke University Press, 2013)
Fado and the Urban Poor in Portuguese Cinema of the 1930s and 1940s by Michael Colvin (Boydell & Brewer, 2016)

Fado sites:

Portal do Fado, Portuguese portal dedicated to fado.


The SGAE Foundation to Present ‘Flamencos y mestizos’ from December 13 to 16 in Madrid

Cynthia Cano

The SGAE Foundation will present one more edition of the Flamenco and mestizo series this year. The performances begin today, December 13 and will run until December 16, 2018. The artists include Diego Amador, Lela Soto, Cynthia Cano, Israel Fernández, Claudia ‘La Debla’, and Chico Pérez in collaboration with Amparo Navarro.

Lela Soto

Flamencos y mestizos will start on Thursday, December 13 with showcases by two of the youngest artists. First, one of the most promising vocalists of the current flamenco scene, Lela Soto, heiress of the legacy of La Casa de Los Sordera (the Sordera Family). After that, bailaora (dancer) Cynthia Cano, will stage her show, full of inspiration, grace and flamenco temperament.

Israel Fernández

On December 14, the Sala Berlanga will host the pure cante (singing style) of Israel Fernández. It is 21st century flamenco with a lot of rhythm, harmony and spirit.

Claudia ‘La Debla’

The double set will close with the very young Claudia ‘La Debla’ who has managed to win the hearts of flamenco lovers with her dance.

Diego Amador

Diego Amador, known as the Gypsy Ray Charles (El Rey Charles Gitano) because of the free and energetic spirit with which he plays the piano,will present a single show on Saturday, December 15.

Chico Pérez

 The series will close on Sunday, December 16th, with Chico Pérez, an emerging pianist from Jaén, who will perform accompanied by Amparo Navarro’s dance.

Flamencos y mestizos is a showcase created to present a window to emerging artists who explore the borders between deep flamenco and mestizo (hybrid) flamenco through compositions, dance and song. This is the second installment of this series in 2018 (it has been running since 2015), directed by the producer, composer and singer Paco Ortega.

Shows start at 21:00 (9:00 p.m.) at Sala Berlanga, Calle Andrés Mellado 53, Madrid. Price: 5.50 euros. Advance sale at the box office and at


Russian World Music Awards 2018 Ceremony

Kedr folk band from Novosibirsk – Photo by Jora PhR

On December 8th, 2018, the Alexey Kozlov club hosted the solemn presentation of the first Russian prize in the field of ethnic music, the Russian World Music Awards.

On two stages at the same time there were such groups as: Khoomei Beat from the Republic of Tuva, Abstaktor from Voronezh, a young project Beneath the skies from Moscow, Unknown Composer from Arkhangelsk, and Taisia Krasnopevtseva from Moscow.

The winner of the 2017 Award, Seven Eight Band, closed the festival. A special guest was the master of Russian folk Sergey Starostin.

The Russian World Music Awards is the first professional award in Russia in the field of ethnic music. This year, 90 musical groups from 27 cities were presented to the jury in the following categories: Best ethnic project, Best authentic project, Best experimental project, Best new ethnic project, Best music journalist and Audience award. Voting was held with 12 judges, consisting of experts in the field of ethnic music from 9 countries.

Jury 2018: Andrey Klyukin — festival director Wild Mint, Russia; Roger Short — BBC Radio3, England; Arthur Rozhek — OFF Festival, Poland; Vadim Ponomarev — Russian journalist; Natasha Podobed — More Zvukov Agency, Germany; Kirill Kuzmin — Aga Khan music (AKMI), Switzerland; Vladimir Potanchok — FM Hudba Sveta, Slovakia; Nick Hobbs — Charmenko agency, Turkey; Peter Doruzka — journalist, Czech Republic; Marina Ivanenko — head of music business and entertainment Management Department, RMA, Russia; Maria Semushkina — Usadba Jazz, Russia; Jahangir Selimkhanov — member of the European Cultural Parliament, expert on cultural policy, Azerbaijan.

Organizers of RWMA: Natalia Myazina, Daryana Antipova and Yuri Romanov – Photo by Jora PhR

For three years now, founders of the Russian World Music Awards , Natalia Myazina and Daryana Antipova, have been supporting and motivating professional musicians whose work does not fit into the modern standard of popular music, but draws inspiration from the deep traditions of Russian ethnic culture.

The mission of the award is the development of world and ethnic music in Russia and abroad, improving the image of Russia in the modern world, and fostering good international ties, by promoting its rich and vibrant Culture, Music, History and Art.

Winners of Russian World music Awards 2018:

Best ethno project — Alash, Republic of Tuva

Maria Arkhipova from Arkona band gives awards to Alash band – Photo by Jora PhR

Best experimental ethno project — Khoomei Beat, Republic of Tuva

Khoomei Beat performance at RWMA – Photo by Jora PhR

Best authentic project — Drowned Songs Project, Irkutsk

Andrei Kotov gives awards to “Drowned songs” project from Irkutsk – Photo by Jora PhR

Best new project — Abstractor, Voronezh

Inna Zhelannaya gives awards to Abstraktor – Photo by Jora PhR

Best young project — Beneath the skies, Moscow

Academy gives prize to Beneath the skies project – Photo by Jora PhR

Sergey Starostin and “Beneath the skies” project – Photo by Jora PhR

Best journalist — Lev Belyakov, Moscow Folk Room radio program

Vladimir Potanchok from FM Hudba Sveta, Slovakia gives awards to Lev Belyakov, best ethno journalist

For contribution to the development of ethnic music in Russia — Ivan Kupala, St. Petersburg

Ivan Kupala – Photo by Jora PhR

Listeners choice – Unknown Composer, Arkhangelsk

You can watch the whole ceremony here:

More at:


2018 Holiday Gift Guide – Day 5

More gift ideas…

Scully Men’s Music Note Embroidered Retro Western Shirt

Scully Men’s Music Note Embroidered Retro Western Shirt

Eat Sleep Drums T-Shirt long sleeve

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Music Keyboard Scarf

Music Keyboard Scarf

Jstyle Jewelry stainless steel Best Friend Puzzle Pendant

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Soulbreezecollection Treble Clef MusicNote Brooch Pin

Soulbreezecollection Treble Clef MusicNote Brooch Pin

Stevie Wonder Ltd. Edition Platinum Record Display – Memorabilia Wall Art

Stevie Wonder Ltd. Edition Platinum Record Display – Memorabilia Wall Art

Whimsical Watches Unisex G0510002 Violin watch

Whimsical Watches Unisex G0510002 Violin watch

MarryAcc Vintage Music Guitar Head Belt Buckle

MarryAcc Vintage Music Guitar Head Belt Buckle

On This Date In Music: A Day to Day History of the Music that Inspires Us and the Artists Who Create It

On This Date In Music: A Day to Day History of the Music that Inspires Us and the Artists Who Create It by Michael Walter. Paperback.

Hank Williams Country Music legend poster

Hank Williams Country Music legend smiling in Stetson 24×36 poster

Baby Night Light, AnanBros Remote Control Star Projector with Timer Music Player

Baby Night Light, AnanBros Remote Control Star Projector with Timer Music Player, rotating star night light 9 color option

Kungyo Vintage Guitar Shaped Decorative Hooks

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Think Fun Compose Yourself Music card game

Think Fun Compose Yourself Music card game

Mother Goose Club Bluetooth Sing Along Portable MP3 Player

Mother Goose Club Bluetooth Sing Along Portable MP3 Player

Artist Profiles: Mariza

Mariza – Photo by Carlos Ramos

Mariza began singing Fado as a child, before she could read. Her father sketched out little cartoon stories to help her remember the lyrics. At the age of five, she would join in the spontaneous singing at her parents’ restaurant in Mouraria, one of Lisbon’s most traditional neighborhoods.

Mariza was born in Mozambique, but her family moved to Portugal when she was a baby, giving her plenty of time to get immersed directly in the Fado tavernas (Fado houses) where singing is part of everyday life. She told the BBC, “Half of me is very, very Portuguese and the other half is very, very African.”

At the age of twenty-six, Mariza released her first CD, Fado Em Mim, the recording presents six classic Fados and six original compositions, all of them tugging listeners at the heart and soul.

Fado is Portugal’s passionate and bittersweet musical gift to the world, equivalent to Blues or Rebetika or Tango or Flamenco. “They all stand on emotions,” said Mariza. “Fado is an emotional kind of music full of passion, sorrow, jealousy, grief, and often satire.”

Mariza had her first major national exposure in 1999 as one of the guest performers in Tribute Concerts for Amália Rodrigues in the Coliseums of Lisbon and Oporto. Both performances were broadcast live on one of Portugal’s Network TV channels. Mariza’s performances immediately sparked interest in the public and in the national media. In 2000, she received the award, “Voice of Fado,” presented by Central FM (Portugal’s national radio station). She was invited to “introduce” Fado to rock icon Sting by a highly rated national television show Hermansic.

Mariza walks the fine line necessary to both genuinely carry the tradition and bring it freshness for today. Her performance style captures the raw emotion that characterizes the genre, but with her own personal twist.

When Mariza recorded Transparente, her latest studio album, she recruited Brazilian Jaques Morelenbaum to help her create the sonority she wanted. “He gave me a more velvet, more intimate, more romantic sound,” Mariza dreamily recalls.


We recorded the Transparente album in Brazil,” explains Mariza. “I am looking for fado from a different perspective, because I now travel a lot. One month I am at the Sidney Opera House, another month I am in China or Thailand. I am starting to find that this music that belongs to Lisbon, to Portuguese people, is starting to feel more and more universal. It speaks about universal feelings. Each country interprets it in its own way. We are crossing cultural lines now. And I feel so proud about it.”

When Lisbon’s mayor invited Mariza to perform for Lisbon in this way, she brought Morelenbaum in once again for the arrangements and conducting duties. One a rainy summer evening in 2005, around 25,000 people gathered at the Tower of Belem’s gardens in Lisbon to hear Mariza.

The 500 year-old Tower of Belem sits at the mouth of the River Tagus. The Tower of Belem looks in one direction onto the river and towards the sea, the departure point for Portugal’s famous sailors. In the other direction it looks over the city of Lisbon. Looking forward while looking back.

At the gardens, Mariza performed favorite songs from her young-but-full career with a full orchestra, the Sinfonietta de Lisboa, conducted by Jaques Morelenbaum. The magical night is captured on Concerto em Lisboa, released on CD with a bonus DVD documentary. Concerto em Lisboa went platinum in Portugal for both CD and DVD version.

Having the river and the Tower, the place where the boats left to make their discoveries in the 16th Century; going to India and Africa. Being in that place, singing fado was very emblematic that night,” says Mariza. “Even if I didn’t want to think about it, the sea was so near, and all these things came to mind that night. I never thought a girl with roots in Africa would have all that!

I was not expecting so many different ages, from a younger generation, to grandmothers with grandchildren. There were traditional people from my neighborhood and people coming from the north and the south, even from Spain!” exclaims Mariza. “When I saw the images, showing my Lisbon people, and not only people from Lisbon, but a very eclectic audience, all clapping and singing along, I realized what a beautiful night it was. It was not a typical fado audience. I was so surprised. I loved it.”

Outside interest in Mariza abounds, from her sell-out concert at the 6,000-seat Royal Albert Hall in London, to her BBC World Music Award, and being picked by Germany’s ‘100 most important women in Europe.’ She performed a duet with Sting for the Athens Olympics album, and became a UNICEF Ambassador.

In 2007 Mariza took the symphonic show on the road. “Sometimes when you talk about classical music, people have a cold approach and they get a little bit distant,” Mariza says. “But with John Mauceri, it was amazing. He had a very, very special way of treating the music. Always explaining it to the audience and saying funny things. It was unbelievable! I learned from him that even if you have a light approach, it doesn’t mean you are not respecting the music.”

Mariza has also been getting her feet wet in the film world. The BBC released a documentary in 2007 titled Mariza and the Story of Fado, compellingly profiling both the artist and the genre. There will be a special limited edition version of the Concerto em Lisboa album that includes the full BBC documentary. And Mariza played the lead role in a new film called Fado by Carlos Saura, whose past works include the Oscar-nominated Tango and Flamenco, giving fans a chance to see her in an acting role.

In 2007 prominent architect Frank Gehry designed a set for a performance by Portuguese fado singer Mariza later this year. Gehry, renowned for his stunning and daring urban visions, agreed to create a taverna-inspired stage for Mariza’s performance in October at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Gehry said he met Mariza several years ago in Lisbon and was enamored by fado, Portuguese folk music that often has mournful lyrics. “It’s a very intimate setting and there is a dark ambiance,” said Mariza. “It’s a huge privilege to have my own taverna directed by Mr. Gehry.”

Her international acknowledgement is notable: in 2003 she won the BBC Radio 3 Award For World Music, in the European category. She was the first Portuguese artist ever nominated for the GRAMMY awards in the category of Best Folk Album.


Fado Em Mim (World Connection, 2001)
Ao Vivo Na Culturgest ‎(2002)
Fado Curvo (EMI, 2003)
Fado Curvo / Ao vivo em Espanha ‎(EMI-Valentim De Carvalho, 2004)
Ao Vivo No Casino ‎(Corda Seca, 2004)
Transparente (EMI, 2005)
Concerto Em Lisboa (EMI Music Portugal, 2006)
Terra (EMI Music Portugal, 2008)
Fado Tradicional (EMI Music Portugal, 2010)
Live at Philharmonie im Gasteig in Munich ‎(2013)
Mundo (Warner Music Portugal, 2015)
Mariza (Warner Music Portugal, 2018)


Live in London

Live 8 at Eden – Africa Calling (Real World/Rhino, 2005)


Artist Profiles: Edwin Bonilla

Edwin Bonilla

Edwin Bonilla was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico and transplanted to Elizabeth, New Jersey, at the age of four. Aside from the Puerto Rican “jibaro,” or countryside music, his parents often played at home, he listened to Motown, R&B, and rock during his preteen years. By the time he was 11 years of age, Edwin began to pay more attention to the music of New York figures such as Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri, Willie Colón and the rest of the emerging Salsa groups. The process of self-learning timbales started at 13 years of age. Within a year, he was already playing professionally with a trio that mostly played “jibaro” music in Elizabeth, which eventually led to work with Salsa bands.

At 15 years of age Edwin started playing with a local band called Orquesta Sonica that featured two youngsters who are well know today, Jimmy Bosch on trombone and Herman Oliveras on vocals. While playing with several groups, Edwin studied at the Drummers Collective in New York.

In 1981, he joined the Charanga Casino that was extremely popular throughout America’s Northeast and Miami during the early 1980’s. The experiences in the Charanga Casino led to further learning of Cuban music as he was exposed to Afro-Cuban rhythms early on during the frequent. By then, Edwin was into Cuban septets, traditional and “tipico” ensembles.

While performing with the Charanga Casino, he caught the eye of Hansel Martinez who invited him to join him and Raul, whereupon Edwin moved to Miami in 1987.

As a percussionist, Edwin is familiar with rhythmic patterns from all over the world. His professional experiences include performances and recordings in Jazz, Rock, Soca, Pop, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Indian and Brazilian music. He has participated in more than 1000 recordings during the last 12 years. He has done work for videos, movie scores and jingles. In 1999, “Edwin y su Son” was his first solo release. In March 2002 Edwin released “Soy la Candela.”

He has one of the most impressive resumes in the music industry. He has worked for such distinguished and popular figures as Lenny Kravitz, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Arturo Sandoval, N’Sync, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Madonna, Dave Grusin, Gloria Estefan, Patty Labelle, Quincy Jones, Nestor Torres, Giovanni Hidalgo, Gypsy Kings and Stevie Wonder among a host of others.


Edwin y Su Son (SAR Productions, 1999)
Soy La Candela (SAR Records, 2002)
Pa’ La Calle (SAR Records, 2004)
Tirando Pa’ Charanga (SAR Records, 2006)
Homenaje A Los Rumberos (Sonic Projects Records, 2010)
Back To Basics (Sonic Projects Records, 2015)


Artist Profiles: Adalberto Santiago

Adalberto Santiago

Born in Ciales, Puerto Rico, Adalberto Santiago was influenced and inspired by the vocal styles of Beny Moré, Chapottin, Pancho Alonso and Miguelito Cuni. These free-style singers helped him form a method of singing that has turned him into one of the most popular vocalists of Latin music.

He became the lead vocalist for Ray Barretto?s Orchestra in 1966 and captivated audiences with a string of hits. He was once nicknamed The Puerto Rican Elvis Presley.

In addition to his solo albums, Adalberto Santiago made numerous recordings with With Chuito Velez, Ray Barretto, Típica 73, Los Kimbos and The Fania All Stars


Adalberto (Fania Records, 1977)
Adalberto Santiago Featuring Popeye El Marino (Fania Records, 1979)
Feliz Me Siento (Fania Records, 1980)
Adalberto Santiago (Fania Records, 1981)
Calidad (Fania Records, 1982)
Cosas del Alma (WS Latino, 1984)
Más Sabroso (Budda Records, 1985)
Fania Dancing Club Collection #7 (Fania Records, 1985
Sex Symbol (Mayor Music, 1989)
Hay Algo En Ella (JV Music, 1991)
Romantico y Salsero, Exitos (La Ola Musical, 2009)
Exitos (Edenways Records, 2010)


Artist Profiles: El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico

El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico

El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico began after the breakup of the Combo de Rafael Cortijo in 1962. At the time, several former members met with Rafael Alvarez Guedes, a business manager, with the purpose of forming amusical group that would accompany Dominican singer Joséito Mateo in a recording for the Gema label. The album, titled Meneame los mangos (Shake my mangos), featured Rafael Ithier, Eddie Pérez, Hector Santos, Kito Velez, Martin Quiñones, Miguel Cruz and Roberto Rohena. The group, baptized then by Alvarez Guedes as El Gran Combo, met again to set the foundation of what would be one of the most prestigious nationally and internationally.

After a stormy beginning, the quality of their musicians opened the doors to WIAC radio, where they started a show together with Fidel Cabrera. Little by little, they became better known in Puerto Rican homes. On May 26 of they that year they made their first public presentation at the Bayamón Rock and Roll club. Later they moved over to WKAQ, where the group had its TV debut on “La Taberna India (The Indian Tavern). They later played at La Concha Hotel, in a tribute to Rafael Cortijo.

After that, singer Chiqui Rivera left the group and Sammy Ayala recommended a young man from Trastallares named Junior Montañez as a replacement. During his premiere, at WKAQ, the singer performed a number that impressed several of those who were present, including Felipe “LaVoz” Rodríguez, who told him that there were too many ‘Juniors’ in the business and that he should change the name for “Andy.” Since then,and for the next 15 years, Andy Montañez, became a legendary figure in Latin American music. After that, Roberto Rohena returned and stayed with the Combo for seven years, before leaving permanently to create his Apolo Sound.

Two days before the murder of President John F. Kennedy, the group’s first album, Acángana, came out. The island was in mourning and the producers of the album, the brothers Alvarez Guedes, stopped the distribution in Puerto Rico and sent the recording to Panama, Venezuela and Mexico, where it got considerable airplay. Afterwards, it arrived to New York and finally to Puerto Rico, where it reached gold status.

The following year, El Combo performed in New York City forthe first time. There, they had a great success at the top dance halls,including the Palladium Ball Room, the Bronx Casino, the Manhattan Center and The Caborrojeño. From there, other doors were opened in Curacao, Panama, Santo Domingo, Venezuela, Colombia and the rest of the American continent, where their songs reached the top of the charts. During that time the Combo acquired so many fans, that soon they were given an exclusive contract with the Puerto Rican TV show “El Show de las 12,” produced by Paquito Cordero.

The excess of publicity through the TV screen shrank the demand for the group at dance halls and public and private celebrations,because the fans enjoyed their music daily from their arm chairs. The album sales declined and so did the bookings. After recording LPs, in 1967 the group won its second “gold album” for Boogaloo con el Gran Combo.

Two years later, the group’s stability was at stake. Several musicians left and joined the ensemble. Roberto Rohena and Elias Lopes left el Gran Combo. They were replaced by Baby Serrano and Edwin Cortés. Later, Hector Santos and Victor Pérez also left, and they were replaced by José Duchesne and Mike Torres. Mike left and was eventually replaced by Tommy Sánchez. Soon after, Edwin Cortés left and Gerardo Cruz joined the group, staying for ten years. In spite of the difficulties, the members were able to get along and”Los mulatos del sabor” became popular again.

The decade of the 1970s began with other changes. Milton Correa left and Miguel Marrero joined El Gran Combo. Mike Ramos joined the band and Mike Torres left. He was replaced by Alfredo (Taty) Maldonado. In spite of the renovation, the orchestra continued winning followers and that year they received yet again the “Momo de Oro, the top Venezuelan award, for best international orchestra. The group had achieved international fame.

Representatives of several record labels entered into conversations with El Gran Combo, but they did not prosper. Gema did not renew their contract. Without a record company the orphaned group took the difficult decision of producing its own albums. To do this, Andy had to mortgage his home for $7.000 payable in 30 days. That’s how the EGC label was born. Its first release was Estamos primeros, El Gran Combo (We Are first, the Gran Combo).

In 1971 the combo added the trombone, skillfully played by Epifanio (Fanny) Ceballo, who remained with the group until he died of cancer in 1991. The first release with the new sound was De punta a punta. It included the classics “Don Goyo,” “Achilipu” and “Le dicen papá.”The following year Record World Magazine gave them the award for “El Combodel Año” (Combo of the Year) and they also won the Gold Album Festival in Miami. A little later, singer Pellin Rodríguez left to pursue solo projects. Hewas replaced by Marcos Montañez, Andy’s brother. Marcos stayed with the group for about six months, until he was replaced by sonero Charlie Aponte.

One of the group’s founders, bassist Miguel Cruz left in1975 due to health reasons. He was replaced by Fernando Pérez. The following year, El Gran Combo’s members were declared “Honorary Citizens of New Orleans”and in 1977 they won the Presidential Cup of Venezuela for best international musical group. Sadly, that year other members left. Martin Quiñones retired and Andy Montañez received an offer to sing with Dimension Latina in Venezuela.Substituting Andy was difficult, but they found the right voice in the talented Jerry Rivas.

Many doubted the new singers, but the doubts soon vanished with the recording of “El Gran Combo en Las Vegas,” winner of a gold album in 1978.

The decade closed with other important rewards, including an acknowledgment from the Festival of Bomba and Plena of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. The new decade began with yet another gold album, “Aqui no se sienta nadie” (No One Sits Down Here); as well as a successful trip to Peru. The following year El Gran Combo received the Calendario de Plata (Silver Calendar) in Mexico, a traditionally difficult market to conquer.

Upon turning 20 years old, El Gran Combo received multiple national and international recognition, including “El Congo de Oro”from Colombia, a Resolution of the Puerto Rican Senate and another from the town of Dorado, as well as a Paoli Prize. Two years later El Gran Combo took its music c to the cold lands from Alaska, where they lit the atmosphere with the heat of their rhythm. They celebrated the visit with Breaking the Ice – El Gran Combo en Alaska, nominated for a Grammy. That year they won another Paoli Prize and the radio station Z-93 dedicated its First National Salsa Day to Rafael Ithier. By then,  El Gran Combo had conquered countries like England,Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, Japan and the United States.

In 1982 came in a historical concert in the Madison Square Garden, where they celebrated their Silver Anniversary in front of a packed audience that intoned standing “Happy Birthday.” Other accolades followed: “The Guayaquil Luminoso” from Ecuador, the “Premio Aplausos a la Mejor Orquesta,” a Resolution by the Puerto Rican House of Representatives, another by the town of Bayamon and a proclaim by the town ofJuncos, among others. Five years later El Gran Combo celebrated its 30th anniversary with a series of festivities that included a softball game with current and legendary Major League baseball stars as well as guest artists like Victor Pellot Power, Rubén Sierra and Gilberto Santa Rosa.

The tributes continued in Madrid (Spain), where they held a big celebration and got wide press coverage. Upon their return, the Senate of Puerto Rico honored them and passed a resolution called Embajadores de Nuestra Musica (Ambassadors of Our Music).” But the people of Puerto Rico had its biggest celebration at the Hiram Bithorn stadium in front of thousands of loyal fans who enjoyed the musical history of the “Mulattos del Sabor,”together with Andy Montañez, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Jerry Rivera, Alex D’Castro,Johnny Ventura and La Sonora Ponceña. Two months there was another tribute at the Puerto Rican convention center.

In 2006, they released Arroz con Habichuela (“Rice and Beans”) which featured three hit singles: “No Hay Manera” (“There’s No Way”), the title song, and “Si la ves por ahí”.

On August 9, 2013 founder Eddie “La Bala” Perez died.

On December 12, 2014 the lead singer Charlie Aponte retired.

On January 24, 2015 Anthony Garcia became lead singer, replacing Aponte. Later in 2015, El Gran Combo received the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.


Menéame los Mangos, el Gran Combo con Joseito Mateo (Gema Records, 1962)
El Gran Combo… de Siempre (Gema Records, 1963)
Acángana (Gema Records, 1963)
Ojos Chinos, Jala Jala (Gema Records, 1964)
El Caballo Pelotero (Gema Records, 1965)
Traigo un Tumba’o, Meneíto Me (Gema Records, 1965)
El Swing del Gran Combo con Pellín y Andy (Gema Records, 1966)
En Navidad (Gema Records, 1966)
Maldito Callo (Gema Records, 1967)
Esos Ojitos Negros (Gema Records, 1967)
Fiesta Con El Gran Combo (Gema Records, 1967)
Boleros Románticos (Gema Records, 1967)
Tú Querías Boogaloo, Toma Boogaloo (Gema Records, 1967)
Pata Pata, Jala Jala Y Boogaloo (Gema Records, 1967)
Boogaloos Con El Gran Combo (Gema Records, 1967)
Tangos (Gema Records, 1967)
Merengues (Gema Records, 1968)
Guarachas (Gema Records, 1968)
Bombas, Bombas, Bombas (Gema Records, 1968)
Los Nenes Sicodélicos (Gema Records, 1968)
Latin Power (Gema Records, 1968)
Smile, It’s El Gran Combo (Gema Records, 1968)
Este Si Que es el Gran Combo (Gema Records, 1969)
Estamos Primeros (EGC Records, 1970)
De Punta a Punta (EGC Records, 1971)
Por el Libro (EGC Records, 1972)
En Acción (EGC Records, 1973)
5 (EGC Records, 1973)
Disfrútelo Hasta el Cabo! (EGC Records, 1974)
7 (EGC Records, 1975)
Los Sorullos (EGC Records, 1975)
Mejor Que Nunca (EGC Records, 1976)
Internacional (EGC Records, 1977)
En Las Vegas (Combo Records, 1978)
¡Aquí No Se Sienta Nadie! (Combo Records, 1979)
Unity (Combo Records, 1980)
Happy Days (Combo Records, 1981)
Nuestro Aniversario (Combo Records, 1982)
20th Anniversary (Combo Records, 1982)
La Universidad de la Salsa (Combo Records, 1983)
In Alaska: Breaking The Ice (Combo Records, 1984)
Innovations (Combo Records, 1985)
Nuestra Música (Combo Records, 1985)
Y Su Pueblo (Combo Records, 1986)
25th Anniversary (Combo Records, 1987)
Romántico y Sabroso (Combo Records, 1988)
¡Ámame! (Combo Records, 1989)
Latin Up! (Combo Records, 1990)
20 Grandes Éxitos (Discos Fuentes, 1990)
Erupción (Combo Records, 1991)
¡Gracias!: 30 Años de Sabor (Combo Records, 1992)
30 Aniversario: Bailando Con el Mundo (Combo Records, 1992)
First Class International (Combo Records, 1993)
Puerto Rico: La Ruta del Sabor (Combo Records, 1994)
Para Todos los Gustos (Fonovisa Records, 1995)
The Best (Sony Discos Norte, 1995)
Por Todo lo Alto (Fonovisa Records, 1996)
16 Boleros (Discos Fuentes, 1996)
35th Anniversary: 35 Years Around The World (Combo Records, 1997)
Pasaporte Musical (Combo Records, 1998)
Nuevo Milenio: El Mismo Sabor (Combo Records, 2001)
40 Aniversario en Vivo (BMG, 2002)
Estamos Aquí…¡Y de Verdad! (Sony Discos Norte, 2004)
Arroz Con Habichuela (Sony Discos Norte, 2006)
Sin Salsa No Hay Paraíso (Sony Discos Norte, 2010)
50 Aniversario, Vol. 1 (EGC Records, 2013)
Alunizando (EGC Records, 2016)


Quebecois Powerhouse Collaboration

Le Vent du Nord and De Temps Antan – Notre Album Solo

Le Vent du Nord and De Temps Antan – Notre Album Solo (La Compagnie du Nord, 2018)

 Two of the greatest acts in the Quebecois music scene, Le Vent du Nord and De Temps Antan, got together to record Notre Album Solo (Our Solo Album). It’s a delightful collection of recreated traditional music from Quebec (Canada) along with new pieces and some Celtic music elements.

You’ll find outstanding vocal work, including entertaining call and response vocals, foot percussion, fiddles, accordion, hurdy gurdy and more.

Le Vent du Nord and De Temps Antan

Notre Album Solo is a tribute to the Quebec traditional music revival that has been ongoing for the past decades. The two bands share tradition and family. Two members of each band have a brother in the other.

The CD booklet includes lyrics and song descriptions in French and English.

The artists featured in Notre Album Solo include Éric Beaudry on vocals, bouzouki, guitar; Simon Beaudry on vocals, bouzouki, guitar; Nicolas Boulerice on vocals, hurdy gurdy, piano; André Brunet on fiddle, foot tapping, vocals; Réjean Brunet on basses,button accordion, jaw harp, piano, vocals; Olivier Demers on fiddle, foot tapping, vocals, guitar, mandolin; Pierre-Luc Dupuis on button accordion,harmonica, jaw harp, vocals; and David Boulanger on fiddle, vocals.

Notre Album Solo presents masterful performances by Le Vent du Nord and De Temps Antan, celebrating Quebec’s effervescent Francophone culture.

Buy Notre Album Solo in North America
Buy Notre Album Solo in Europe


New York’s 5th Annual A World in Trance Festival Program Announced

A World in Trance 2019 artists

World music presenter Robert Browning Associates has announced the artists that will be featured at the 5th Annual A World in Trance Festival in 2019.  A World in Trance is a 4-part festival featuring spellbinding music of West Africa, Morocco, India and Pakistan. The concerts will take place at Roulette in New York City.

This year’s festival features virtuoso guitarist Derek Gripper, who performs the hypnotic sounds of the West African kora (21-string harp-lute) on solo guitar (March23); along with the stimulating sounds of Bachir Attar and Mustapha Attar of the Master Musicians of Jajouka in a thrilling meeting with American musicians Ned Rothenberg, Arrington de Dionysio and Ben Bennett (March 30).

Also included, the classical music of India with Jayanthi Kumaresh, one of the world’s leading veena (lute) players, accompanied by percussionists K UJayachandra Rao and Pramath Kira (April 12); and ecstatic performances of Sufi qawwali with Pakistan’s Hamza Akram Qawwal & Brothers (April 13).

5th Annual A World in Trance

Saturday March 23, 2019 at 8:00pm
Derek Gripper
Hypnotic Strings of Africa

Saturday, March 30, 2019 at 8:00pm
Bachir Attar and Mustapha Attar (of the Master Musicians of Jajouka) with Ned Rothenberg, Arrington de Dionysio & Ben Bennett
Jajouka Meets New York

Friday April 12, 2019 at 8:00pm
Jayanthi Kumaresh
Invoking the Goddess Saraswati

Saturday April 13, 2019 at 8:00pm
Hamza Akram Qawwal & Brothers
Sufi Chants of Pakistan

Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue at 3rd Avenue, Downtown Brooklyn

Box office: 917-267-0363


Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion