Tag Archives: Puerto Rican music

Artist Profiles: Hector “Tito” Matos

Hector “Tito” Matos

Hector “Tito” Matos is a Puerto Rican percussionist who specializes in the traditional Puerto Rican rhythms, bomba and plena. His extensive work have taken him to stages and festivals all over the world playing with bands such as Pleneros de la 21 and Pleneros de la 23 Abajo.

He is considered to be one of the best requinto players of his generation. The requinto is the pandereta (tambourine, originally from Spain) that constantly improvises in plena. He has appeared in recordings by some of the most recognized Latin jazz musicians such as Eddie Palmieri’s Rumbero del Piano and David Sanchez’ Obsesion.

In 1997, while living in New York City, he founded Viento de Agua and recorded De Puerto Rico al Mundo, their first album as a band. The group modernized the traditional rhythms by including piano, bass, a brass section and, for the first time ever, a drum set. They released a second album with a more traditional approach, under the Smithsonian Folkways record label. Materia Prima is a back to the roots album featuring the genres, bomba and plena, with their original sound using only the traditional instruments.

Discography:

De Puerto Rico al Mundo (Qbadisc, 1998)
Materia Prima (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2004)
Fruta Madura (2009)
Opus IV (2013)
Sonidos Primarios (2015)

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Artist Profiles: Gilberto Santa Rosa

Gilberto Santa Rosa

Salsa star Gilberto Santa Rosa was born August 21, 1962 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He made his first recordings for Combo Records, the label of El Gran Combo’s maestro Rafael Ithier. Starting in 1990 he began achieving enormous success with his great shows in San Juan, which would become his trademark.

In 1995, El Caballero de la salsa (the gentleman of salsa) signed with the Sony label and from that time many of his CDs became gold and platinum. Gilberto Santa Rosa is one of salsa music’s superstars and a popular bolero singer as well.

Discography:

Perspectiva (Discos International, 1991)
A Dos Tiempos De Un Tiempo (Sony Discos, 1992)
Nace Aquí (Columbia, 1993)
Tres Con Cache (Bronco, 1993)
De Cara Al Viento (Sony Tropical, 1994)
En Vivo Desde El Carnegie Hall (Sony Tropical, 1995)
Escencia (Epic Records, 1996)
…De Corazón (Sony Discos, 1997)
Salsa Sinfónica En Vivo Teatro Teresa Carreño Caracas (Sony Discos, 1998)
Expresión (Sony Discos, 1999)
Romántico (Sony Discos, 2000)
Intenso (Sony Music, 2001)
Viceversa (Sony Discos, 2002)
Solo Bolero (Sony, 2003)
Auténtico (Sony Discos, 2004)
Asi Es Nuestro Navidad (Sony, 2006)
Directo Al Corazón (Sony Discos, 2006)
Contraste (Sony Music, 2007)
Irrepetible (Sony Music Latin, 2010)
Gilberto Santa Rosa (Sony Music, 2012)
Necesito Un Bolero (Sony Music, 2014)

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The Salsa Music of Ismael Rivera Reconstructed for Alto Saxophone

Miguel Zenón – Sonero: The Music of Ismael River

Miguel Zenón – Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera (Miel Music, 2019)

Puerto Rican composer, arranger and virtuoso saxophonist Miguel Zenón continues his series of tributes to Puerto Rican music on Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera. Within salsa, Ismael “Maelo” Rivera was an innovator. He introduced vocal improvisation and also incorporated Puerto Rican rhythms like bomba y plena.

On Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera, Miguel Zenón takes some of Maelo’s best-known and beloved songs and transforms them into masterfully-crafted straight ahead jazz pieces with an underlying Puerto Rican flavor.

The lineup on the album includes Miguel Zenón on alto saxophone; Luis Perdomo on piano; Hans Glawischnig on bass; and Henry Cole on drums.

Buy Sonero: The Music of Ismael River

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Songs Inspired by the Strong, Resilient Stories of Women

Taína Asili – Resiliencia

Taína Asili – Resiliencia (Taína Asili , 2019)

Resiliencia is the new album from bilingual singer-songwriter and social justice activist Taína Asili (Taina Del Valle). Although Taína was born in the continental United States, she grew up in a Puerto Rican family and has strong connections to the traditional music of Puerto Rico, Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean.

The concept of resilience has become a focal point in current society, increasingly adopted by many individuals and health providers as well. Taína Asili advocates for resistance to the current American administration and also celebrates the resilience of women, victims of violence, hurricane sufferers, cancer survivors and other individuals who have shown their hardiness and capacity to recover after facing adversity.

Taína sings in Spanish and English. Musically, Taína draws from diverse influences such as Manu Chao-style mestizo music that incorporates ska and rock, traditional Puerto Rican music, reggaeton, cumbia, salsa, electronic dance music, Indian music and American soul. Highlights include “Resiliencia”; the irresistible “La Alegria,” a collaboration with DJ Johnny Juice; the wonderful son cubano “Canción de luz”; and the Indian music-infused “Beyond the Stars” featuring the outstanding Veena Chandra on sitar.

Taína Asili

“Before I started writing songs, I conducted interviews with women from New York and California to Montreal and Puerto Rico,” says Taína about Resiliencia. “I had already planned a trip to Puerto Rico, but after the hurricane it became more urgent than ever before to witness and record what happened on the island.”

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Artist Profiles: Zaperoko

Zaperoko was formed in the early 1980s when a trombonist named Edwin Feliciano visited Cuba to perform with a leading salsa orchestra of the time. The effect of hearing a relatively new rhythm called Songo, pioneered by Juan Formell and his groundbreaking ensemble Los Van Van, sent the impressionable young musician racing back to his home in Puerto Rico to explore some of the ideas that had been already forming in his mind.

The outcome of this meditation resulted in a group called Zaperoko and a debut album released by Montuno Records in 1983 called Cosa De Locos. Produced by Rene López, one of the most admired men in the history of Latin music, this album helped pioneer the genre which today is called World Music.

Zaperoko joined forces with another band, Los Pleneros del Truco, to form Truco & Zaperoko.

Discography:

Zaperoko (Montuno Records, 1983)
Zaperoko II (Montuno Records, 1986)
Tarde En La Noche (Zap’s Records, 1989)

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Artist Profiles: Willie Rosario

Willie Rosario – Photo by Gerald López Cepero

Fernando Luis Rosario Marin was born in Coamo, Puerto Rico, on May 6th, 1930. He studied guitar bass, and saxophone encouraged by his mother. His family moved to New York when he was 16 years old. Willie Rosario studied journalism and public relations, but music soon became his profession.

Willie Rosario started his band in an era where there was fierce competition amongst the revered bands of the late 1950’s such as Pérez Prado, Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez, Jose Curbelo, Orlando Marín, Joe Cuba, Alfredito, Cesar Concepción, Moncho Lena, Cortijo y su Combo, Vicentico Valdez, and last but not least, the venerable and worshipful, Machito and his Afrocubans.

The environment in which Willie Rosario developed as a bandleader instilled in him a sense of discipline and professionalism which he has maintained to this day, but the characteristic most associated with Willie Rosario is the Swing or solid rhythm section which is geared to the dancer, the rhythm section is complemented by a unique brass section comprised of four trumpets and a baritone sax, the only salsa band with this type of brass section.

The list of hits by the Willie Rosario is as impressive as the names of his well-known singers: De barrio obrero a la quince”, Chango Ta veni”, Lluvia”, Busca el Ritmo”, Amor Clasificado”, “Botaron la pelota”, “Atizame el fogon”, “El Apartamento” and many others. Puerto Rico Caribbean

Discography

El Bravo Soy Yo! (1963)
Fabuloso y Fantástico (1966)
Latin Jazz a Go-Go-Go (1967)
Two Too Much (1967)
Haida Huo (1968)
Boogaloo y Guaguancó (1968)
El Bravo de Siempre (1969)
De Donde Nace el Ritmo (Inca Records, 1971)
Más Ritmo (Inca Records, 1972)
Infinito (Inca Records, 1973)
Otra Vez (Inca Records, 1975)
Gracias Mundo (Inca Records, 1977)
From the Depth of My Brain (Top Hits, 1978)
El Rey del Ritmo! (Top Hits, 1979)
El de a 20 de Willie (Top Hits, 1980)
The Portrait of a Salsa Man (Top Hits, 1981)
Atízame el Fogón (Top Hits, 1982)
The Salsa Machine (Top Hits, 1983)
Nuevos Horizontes ( Bronco, 1984)
Afincando ( Bronco, 1985)
Nueva Cosecha ( Bronco, 1986)
A Man of Music ( Bronco, 1987)
The Salsa Legend ( Bronco, 1988)
Unique ( Bronco, 1989)
Viva Rosario! ( Bronco, 1990)
The Roaring Fifties ( Bronco, 1991)
Tradición Clásica (NRT, 1993)
¡Sorpresas! (Tiffany Records, 1995)
Back to the Future (HMS Records, 1999)
La Banda Que Deleita (Gennara Records, 2006)
Evidencia (Gennara Records, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: William Cepeda

William Cepeda – Photo by Susanne Moss

William Cepeda was born in Loiza, a small coastal town in Puerto Rico renowned for its adherence to West African-derived customs and culture. Cepeda grew up immersed in the dynamic traditions of bomba and plena, the island’s two most distinctive folkloric styles.

In his evolution as a musician, Cepeda has thoroughly explored both contemporary Latin and jazz styles, working with and gaining the respect of such famed leaders as Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Paquito D’Rivera, David Murray, Donald Byrd, Slide Hampton and Lester and Joseph Bowie.

His work with the D’Rivera-led United Nation Orchestra further exposed jazz fans around the world to a brawny, technically brilliant trombone style that places him in the vanguard of contemporary stylists on this most demanding of instruments.

My Roots & Beyond features Cepeda in the company of such celebrated fellow Puerto Ricans as percussionist Bobby Sanabria, bassist John Benítez, both noted for their Latin jazz abilities and cuatro player extraordinaire Yomo Toro, an early exponent of the island’s jíbaro (countryside) music and a legendary figure from the heyday of salsa in the seventies. .

“Traditional Puerto Rican music isn’t heard that much outside of the island and it’s a shame. We have a very strong music. By using a variety of instruments and the wealth of jazz resources, I have brought this rich tradition to another level, to a wider audience but also to a new level of feeling, more in line with the experience of today. I’m putting a little fire into it, with the result, I hope, of offering a dynamic and beautiful music for many, many people to enjoy.”

Discography:

My Roots And Beyond (Blue Jackel Entertainment, 1998)
Bombazo – Grupo Afro Boricua (Blue Jackel Entertainment, 1998)
Expadiendo Raices – Branching Out (Blue Jackel Entertainment, 2000)
Unity (Casabe, 2007)
Live at Montreux Jazz Festival (Casabe, 2007)
Ando Vacilando (Casabe, 2008)

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Artist Profiles: Truco y Zaperoko

Truco y Zaperoko

Several decades ago, two groups were formed in Puerto Rico. Outwardly, they had little in common but as fate would have it they eventually discovered each other’s unique talents and became a group which is simply without parallel in both concept and execution.

Truko and Zaperoco were two separate bands that fused into one entity. Their trademark is the deliberate fusion of folklore with a progressive and danceable Latin ensemble, for which they received a 2004 Grammy Nomination for their album Musica Universal. The band has also been voted the most exciting live act in Puerto Rico, as well as receiving huge accolades from and touring with such legends as Andy Montañez and Gilberto Santa Rosa.

For two decades, Truco, led by Hector Valentin, was recognized as one of the leading ensembles in the history of Bomba y Plena, the traditional music of the Afro-Puerto Rican people. The distinguishing characteristic of Plena is the battery of three handheld drums which loosely resemble the tambourine in design. Each drum is pitched differently and played by a different member, the ensemble effect is stunning when left in the hands of men like the Maysonet Bros. who are the core of the Truco ensemble. The other distinguishing element are the group harmonies that these men engage in while playing these complex rhythmic passages. Bomba y Plena is in general music of celebration and this spirit of alegria (happiness) informs every note that is played by this inspired organization and its humorous and profound leader, Hector Valentin.

Zaperoko was formed in the early 1980s when a trombonist named Edwin Feliciano visited Cuba to perform with a leading salsa orchestra of the time. The effect of hearing a relatively new rhythm called Songo, pioneered by Juan Formell and his groundbreaking ensemble Los Van Van, sent the impressionable young musician racing back to his home in Puerto Rico to explore some of the ideas that had been already forming in his mind. The outcome of this meditation resulted in a group called Zaperoko and a debut album released by Montuno Records in 1983 called Cosa De Locos. Produced by Rene López, one of the most admired men in the history of Latin music, this album helped pioneer the genre which today is called World Music.

These two groups -among the greatest in any genre- come together every few years to record an album and present a very few special live concerts, where music fans are treated to one of the best fusions of folkloric and dance music in the world today.

Discography:

Fusión Caribeña (Ryko Latino, 1999)
Musica Universal (Libertad Records 2003)
En Plena Rumba (Lujuria Music, 2008)

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Artist Profiles: Tito Gómez

Tito Gómez

Salsa singer Tito Gómez was born April 9, 1948 in Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico although he became an adopted son of Colombia.

Tito Gómez was a veteran sonero, recognized internationally as a gifted singer with a spectacular voice. After making his name during a five-year stint with the great Puerto Rican institution Sonora Ponceña, Tito Gómez left in 1973 for a brief time with the breakaway La Terrifica. Thereafter, a couple of albums with Ray Barretto in 1975 and 1976 further raised his profile.

Tito returned to Ponceña in 1978 and went on to work with Tito Valentin, Venezuela’s La Amistad, Charlie Palmieri, La Terrifica, Rubby Haddock and Colombia’s legendary Grupo Niche before successfully resuming his solo career in 1991, creating several successful productions with Tito Rojas.

Tito Gomez delivered power non-stop old school salsa and mambo, pitched high, with the mix favoring the upper register.

He died June 11, 2007 in Cali, Colombia.

Discography:

Fuego En El 23! (Inca Records, 1969)
Para Gozar Borinquen (Inca Records, 1977)
Tierra Musica y Sentimiento (Nuestra Records, 1979
Brujerias (Nuestra Records, 1982)
Un Nuevo Horizonte (Musical Productions, 1991)
Agradecimiento (Zeida, 1993)
Recogiendo Frutos (Musical Productions, 1995)
Volver (Musical Productions, 1997)
Quien Nos Iba A Decir (Envidia, 2000)
Comenzando (En cero Musical Productions, 2004)
La Herencia (Fania, 2012)

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Artist Profiles: Tito De Gracia

Tito De Gracia

Rafael Angel ‘Tito’ De Gracia was born on April 4, 1962 in Villa Palmeras, Santurce, Puerto Rico. He began playing the tumbadoras at 5 years of age and at 12 he was already playing the bongos and the timbales. He also studied the trumpet from 14 to 16 years old. In his early adolescence, he joined the band Los Chiquitines del Son as a percussionist, directed by renowned guitarist Max Torres.

From 1978 to 1980, he played the timbales with the salsa band Maldades, lead by pianist Archie Pereira. Later, from 1980 to 1982, he played the tumbadoras with saxophonist Hector Lopez’s orchestra San Juan, recreating the music of Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez. From 1982 to 1984, Tito continued to play the tumbadoras with the Panamericana orchestra, under the direction of trumpetist Carlos ‘Coamito’ Rodriguez.

In 1984, due to his consistent and brilliant performances, Tito De Gracia, was signed with the company Latin Percussion. From 1985 to 1990, he joined bongo player Roberto Roena’s Apollo Sound orchestra playing the timbales and also singer ‘Cano’ Estremera’s orchestra, in this case first playing the bongos and later the timbales.

From 1990 to 1999, Tito played the timbales with Andy Montañez’s orchestra and from 2000 until today he performs with singer Michael Stuart’s orchestra, where he plays a combination of timbales and drums. From 2002 until today, he has also performed with the band Truco y Zaperoko and with Rumbantela.

Tito De Gracia has recorded and performed with various bands in several music genres, joining great contemporary music figures like Mark Anthony, Willie Colón, Celia Cruz, Oscar De León, Luis Enrique, Trina Medina, Ismael Miranda, Andy Montañez, Jerry Rivera, Eddie Santiago, Ricardo Arjona, Chayanne and Franco de Vita, pianist Papo Lucca, flute players Nestor Torres and Dave Valentin and with trumpetist Humberto Ramirez and Tego Calderón. Tito began to perform as group leader in 1996 with his 7 Knights and since 2003, directing his Naoka Jam, with whom he recorded his debut album My Latin Roots (ONC Records).

In 2003, Tito De Gracia performed in Carolina, Puerto Rico (2003) in the kettledrum player’s concert, where he was presented an Official Proclaim and he also performs in the film Habana Nights, filmed in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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