El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico is Puerto Rico’s most successful musical group, and “the most popular salsa group that has ever existed.” Rafael Ithier formed the band from the remnants of Cortijo’s Combo (Rafael Cortijo and Ismael Rivera).
These are some of the artists who defined the sound of Puerto Rican salsa (as opposed to Cuban son, Cuban salsa or Cuban pachanga). It has the sicá rhythm of bomba, Puerto Rico’s African Diaspora drum, song and dance tradition. There is less clave and more bell. It has the full sound of morning in the Puerto Rican rainforest.
El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico in New York City
El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico headlines India, Jerry Rivera, and Puerto Rican Power for a night of Puerto Rican salsa at Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center on Saturday, February 11, 2023 at 8pm. From $96. 🇵🇷
El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico celebrates 60 years of Puerto Rican Salsa at Kupferberg Center at Queens College in Flushing, Queens on Friday, October 7, 2022 at 8pm. From $59. 🇵🇷
El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico celebrates 60 years of Puerto Rican Salsa at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, New Jersey on Saturday, October 8, 2022 at 8pm. From $49. 🇵🇷
El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico plays the season finale of the Salsa at Orchard Beach party in Pelham Bay Park, The Bronx on Sun, Sep 5, 2021 from 11am – 7pm. Free with registration at eventbrite.com. The show includes Oro Sólido merengue, Judy Torres freestyle rap, Johnnie Rodriguez & the Dream Team salsa and more. 🇵🇷
We saw them El Gran Combo at Club Vivo in Carolina, San Juan, Puerto Rico. We couldn’t stop dancing.
El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico is the most popular Salsa band ever
The band formed in 1962 from the remnants of Cortijo’s Combo led by Rafael Cortijo and Ismael Rivera. Cortijo and Rivera brought bomba síca rhythms into salsa. This is as Puerto Rican as it gets. You can hear it. Gran Combo’s sound is Island Puerto Rican, not New York Puerto Rican.
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, especially food. For example, “Azuquita Pa’l Cafe” describes something more explicit than a little milk for coffee. LOL.
The orchestra was founded in 1962 by Rafael Ithier. He is still around as honorary music director.
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 got their own television show in Puerto Rico El Show de las 12.
The band opened for the FANIA All-Stars at the legendary 1973 concert at Yankee Stadium.
El Gran Combo is still going strong. For New York there is nothing like la Salsa de Puerto Rico.