El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico headlines the New York Salsa Festival with Willie Colón, Victor Manuelle, Grupo Niche, Oscar de Leon, Jerry Rivera, Tony Vega, Edgar Joel, and merengueros Oro Sólido, with percussionists Bobby Allende and Marc Quiñones; at Barclays Center in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; on Saturday, June 10, 2023 at 8pm. From $84. 🇵🇷 🇩🇴 🇨🇴 🇻🇪
El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico is Puerto Rico’s most successful musical group. In fact, it’s “the most popular salsa group that has ever existed.”
Rafael Ithier formed the band out of (Rafael) Cortijo’s Combo when lead singer Ismael Rivera left in 1962. Cortijo and Rivera were the musicians who put the bomba sicá and plena rhythms into salsa music. Ithier is still honorary music director.
El Gran Combo is definitive of the island Puerto Rican sound. The clave is less pronounced. There is more bell, and a lusher percussion with more güiro. It sounds to us like mornings in Puerto Rico.
El Gran Combo is the Most Popular Salsa Band Ever
So many great artists have been part of the band over the years that people call it “La Universidad de la Salsa” (The Salsa University). That includes Ismael Rivera, Roberto Roena, Andy Montañez, Charlie Aponte, Jerry Rivas, and many more.
El Gran Combo’s first album was Menéame los mangos (Shake My Mango, 1963). Their third album Acángana (1964) opened doors for the band when it went No. 1 in New York, Puerto Rico, and Panama. The band had their own television show in Puerto Rico “El Show de las 12.”
The band opened the legendary FANIA All-Stars Yankee Stadium concert in 1973.
Caribbean culture has a tradition of naughty lyrics expressed in a soft, almost quaint way. Gran Combo’s lyrics are clean, but filled with double meaning. Food has lots of extra symbolism. For example, “Azuquita Pa’l Cafe” describes something more explicit than a little milk for coffee. LOL.
El Gran Combo is still going strong. For New York there is nothing like la Salsa de Puerto Rico.
We saw El Gran Combo at Club Vivo in Carolina, San Juan, Puerto Rico. We couldn’t stop dancing.
New York Venues
- Kupferberg Center
- New Jersey Performing Arts Center
- Radio City Music Hall
- Salsa at Orchard Beach