An interview with Enrique Papo Lucca, famed Salsa and Latin Jazz Pianist, and Director of La Sonora Ponceña

Papo Lucca, photo courtesy of Puerto Rican & Cuban Festival
Papo Lucca, photo courtesy of Puerto Rican & Cuban Festival
Latin Legacy Series: From Mambo to Salsa!

The island or Puerto Rico is known as La isla del encanto (The Island of Enchantment) and has an extremely rich cultural musical heritage, that most musicians overlook or are not aware of. Enrique “Papo” Lucca, is one of the most outstanding Latin Jazz/Salsa pianists alive today. He has influenced the Latin music world with his rich and developed sound.

I had the pleasure of seeing Papo Lucca play with his Orchestra La Sonora Ponceña in the San Francisco Bay Area, and their performance was astounding. They are one of the very few bands that actually sound like you are sitting at home enjoying an LP (long play disc), with a phenomenal performance. I have met as friends and interviewed many artists, but it is a great pleasure to speak and interview Papo Lucca, a foundation of Latin Music. Papo has made a great contribution to his homeland of Puerto Rico with his rich music, making his fellow Puerto Ricans proud of their music and rich culture.

Papo, I would like to thank you for giving me with this interview! I would like to start with the beginning of your career, starting with the man that founded La Sonora Ponceña, your father, the master orchestra director and creator of La Sonora Ponceña, Enrique Kike Lucca. In what City was your father born and what instruments does he play?

My father still lives and celebrated his 100 birthday on the 12th of December of last year. He was born in Yauco, Puerto Rico and played the guitar.

How did you discover the music that they call Salsa today and how was it that you decided to play piano?

Since I have had use of a reason, I was attracted to music. I play the flugelhorn, the tres guitar and percussion. My father put me to study music and later came the instrument.

With what groups did you play with in your youth in Puerto Rico? Please tell us a little about that history in your life.

I began to play with the Ponce group Los Magnificos (The Magnificents) of Frank Ferrer, with the “Pan American”, in his midday TV shows. Most of the programs produced by Tommy Muñiz on Channel 4 of Puerto Rico were with El Gran Combo, with the substitute of Rafael Ithier, and some of the programs that were produced by Paquito Cordero of Telemundo for this period.

Where has La Sonora Ponceña performed?

Sonora-PoncenaPeru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, United States, Japan, Spain, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, The Dominican Republic, Canada, and Mexico

Of all the musicians that you have known in the world and have had the opportunity to meet in your career or to get to know them, which musicians are kept in your heart, what instrument do they play and why are they of your liking?

Chucho Valdes (son of Bebo) for being one of the greatest jazz pianists; Ruben Gonzalez, for his humility and quality as a pianist. Maynard Ferguson, who played trumpet in the Fania Records albums. Eric Gale, for being a great composer and grand guitarist!

What advice would you give to pianists of the moment?

I am not a counselor, but I can say that my major influences were Rafael Cortijo and his Combo, The Orquesta Panamerican and their director Lito Peña, and my favorite maestro was Ramón Fernández, and he gave me all the knowledge, before studying at the Conservatory of Music in Puerto Rico. They were responsible for my musical development and I have great respect and admiration for them.

Tell me a little about your love for the piano.

It was the instrument that I studied, the instrument that has given me all that I have and all that I am.

Tell me about some of the favorite all-time concerts you have performed at?

The concerts in Madison Square Garden and some that I have done in Colombia, where I had had the opportunity to play for 50,000 people. All of them are my favorites.

What do you enjoy most with your Orchestra?

Traveling, recording and producing very quality music and that we do not have to worry about making the music commercial per se. I enjoy having a group, the most important in Salsa musically speaking. Modesty apart.

I enjoy working, producing and traveling. Always counting with the support of the public.

Papo, what are your plans for the future, for you and The Sonora Ponceña?

To keep working, producing and traveling. Always counting on the support of the public!

I would like to thank Papo Lucca for his time, patience and support for this great interview, during his busy touring schedule, it was a lot of translating, but accomplished, and thanks to our great Editor Angel Romero, without him, this Latin Heritage Series: From Mambo to Salsa, would not be possible!

La Sonora Ponceña Discography


Author: Les Moncada

Les Moncada is a former Latin Jazz orchestra leader and conguero for over 40 years. He was born in Oakland, California and currently resides in Sacramento, California.

Les Moncada was an apprentice to conga and batá master Francisco Aguabella, a friend of vibraphonist Cal Tjader, Latin Jazz band leader Pete Escovedo, conguero Armando Peraza and many more.

He has been writing for many years for World Music Central.

Les Moncada’s Facebook site is: Timbales and Congas Bongo Bata and bells.


2 thoughts on “An interview with Enrique Papo Lucca, famed Salsa and Latin Jazz Pianist, and Director of La Sonora Ponceña”

  1. Papo Lucca is my very longtime friend. We worked together on several projects in Puerto Rico during the 1970s. He is truly a national treasure, one of the all-time great musical geniuses of our time & a very quality human being. God Bless Papo & Enrique Lucca.

  2. I’ve followed Papo and his music since the 70’s while growing up in Puerto Rico. I actually sat behind him when I was just beginning to learn about music at a Fiesta Patronales of my town where he was performing. I’ve always been impressed by his playing and montunos, going so far as to memorizing a few of his tunes and solos. One thing I’ve always wondered although I’m sure Papo is pretty busy, why he never wrote a book. So many people who are inferior in both their playing and knowledge of latin music yet they’ve written books. If Papo ever did write a book, I’m sure It’d be a hit with latin pianists all over. Of course it would be nice if he started with advanced techniques since the basics have already been covered by dozens of books.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

13 − ten =