El Combo Más Grande

November Playlist Highlights

Song (iTunes)




Buena O Mala El Gran Combo Salsa Puerto Rico
Mas Feo Que Yo El Gran Combo Salsa Puerto Rico
Acangana El Gran Combo Salsa Puerto Rico
Compadre Pedro Juan El Gran Combo Merengue Puerto Rico
Chua Chua Boogaloo El Gran Combo Boogaloo Puerto Rico
Timbamania Mayimbe Timba Cuba
Mátame Anthony Santos Bachata D. Republic
My Way Henry Santos Bachata D. Republic
Ole y Ole Milly Quezada Merengue D. Republic
So Na Natal Loony Johnson Kizomba Portugal


Salsa of Puerto Rico – El Gran Combo

When it comes to the music of Puerto Rico one of the genres that has been the most popular and the most commercially successful is salsa.  And when it comes to Puerto Rican salsa and the artists making this music the most popular and commercially successful is unquestionably El Gran Combo.   So successful has the group been both locally and internationally that any serious discussion on the topic of salsa would be incomplete without mentioning them.

El Gran Combo of Puerto Rico or simply El Gran Combo was created by Rafael Ithier back in 1962.  Before then Ithier had been a member of a group lead by Rafeal Cortijo called Cortijo y su Combo whose leader singer was none other than Ismael Rivera.  Sadly, Cortijo’s group suffered a huge loss when Rivera was incarcerated for drug related offences in the early 60’s.  The group eventually broke up and Ithier took the opportunity to form his own band with some of the members of the original Combo. When he first brought his musicians together it was suggested the band be called Rafael Ithier y su Combo.   Ithier agreed the band’s name should reflect the fact that it had come from Cortijo’s.  However, he wanted the name to communicate that his band was new and improved and that his Combo was grander than any of it’s predecessors and thus El Gran Combo was born.

Their first album was released on November 20, 1963 with the playful title Menéame Los Mangos or “Shake My Mangos”.  But it was their third album, Acángana, released in 1964 that really got them international recognition.  Acángana was a hit from New York to Panama and opened the doors for El Gran Combo in a number of other Latin American markets.  Many other successful albums followed including a gold selling boogaloo album from 1967 called “Boogaloo con el Gran Combo”.

The band has taken their music all over the world from Europe to Japan to Australia and even a visit to Alaska in 1984 as part of the promotion for their first grammy nominated album “Breaking the Ice”.  In total El Gran Combo has produced over 60 albums, is arguably Puerto Rico’s most successful musical group and is considered by some to be the most popular salsa group of all time.  The band is also referred to as “La Universidad de la Salsa” because of the number of famous musicians that have either been members or who have performed with the group:  Andy Montañez, Roberto Roena, Celiz Cruz, La India, Hector Lavoe, Ruben Blades, and others.

It has been over half a century since the inception of El Gran Combo and with that it mind it should come as no surprise that the band’s membership has changed significantly with with the only original member being Rafael Ithier himself.  Though he continues to perform he has taken a back seat for live performances and just conducting the musicians rather than playing the piano. However, he is still very much the leader of the group, a group that shows no signs of slowing down.  They released a new album in 2010 called Sin Salsa No Hay Paraíso or “There is no Paradise without Salsa” and did a world tour last year in celebration of their 50th anniversary.

50 years in the music industry has resulted in a lot of music and a lot of well known classics.  I have included a small sample of some of their lesser known songs in this months playlist.

That’s it for this month.  Questions, comments, requests? Send me an email

Hasta la próxima,


Senegal to Santiago de Cuba

October Playlist Highlights

Song (iTunes)




Babalu Aye  Brisas del Palmar Traditional Cuba
Siboney Brisas del Palmar Traditional Cuba
La Cita Brisas del Palmar Traditional Cuba
Xam Sa Bop Africando Salsa Senegal
Bouré Yayé Diama  Africando Salsa Fusion Sengal
Xalass Xalass


Cha Cha Cha


Qué Grande Es el Amor

Ramón Cordero, Edilio Paredes


Dominican Rep.

No Puedo Seguir Así 





Wilfrido Vargas


Dominican Rep.

Continua Assim 

Don Kikas




Africando – Viva Africando

Get out your dancing shoes, Africando has just released a brand new album and it’s awesome!  Up until September of this year the band from Senegal known as Africando had released 7 full length albums with the most recent being Ketukuba, released in 2006.   The 7 year drought without new Africando material came to an end a couple of weeks ago with the release of the band’s 8th album Viva Africando.  It’s got all new material including some amazing salsas,  cha-cha-chas and afro-salsa fusions along with guest performances by the likes of Santana and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.  And talk about being a truly international recording.  All told,  songs on the album are sung in 10 different languages.  There are plenty of tracks on this disk to put you in the dancing mood and to give you a sample of what I am talking about I have included some of my favourites in this weeks play list.

Brisas del Palmar -Santiago en Suños

An amazing Cuban band called Brisas del Palmar has visited Edmonton on a number of occasions this past summer.  They opened for Havana d’Primera at Encore, performed at Heritage Days and the Edmonton Latin Festival, and had several other concerts around town.  If you had the opportunity to see them live you will appreciate just how amazing this band is.   Originally from Santiago de Cuba, Brisas Del Palmar was formed back in 1999 and is well known in Cuba as one of the leading interpreters of traditional music such as boleros, sons and guarchas.  The band’s talents have definitely not gone unnoticed.  Only 2 years after their inception they won second place at the Festival of Singers of the Americas held in Guantanamo and 2005 these extraordinary musicians were chosen top quintet in Cuba. They are featured daily on Cuban national radio and recently performed for the Pope.  And this success at home has allowed them to travel the world.  This summer was the 8th time Brisas has been to Canada with their first visit being back in 2004.

The band has released 4 albums to date and in their most recent Canadian tour they brought with them their latest material.  This new music was released on an album entitled Enamorado de ti recorded in April at the EGAM studios in Santiago de Cuba.  It’s a great disk featuring original material from the band including the title track Enamorade de ti and Quiéreme along with covers of some salsa classics such as La Rebelion and Oiga, Mire, Vea.  Unfortunately, the album is only available at their live performances.  So if you didn’t pick up a copy while Brisas was in town you still have a chance to get your hands on this album if you happen to be visiting Vancouver in the next few weeks.  The band will be performing there until the end of October when they will be returning to Cuba.  There is one Brisas album that is available for purchase online called Santiago en Sueños. This album was recorded in Vancouver in 2012 and contains a great collection of traditional Cuban music.  You can find a few tracks from that album in this month’s playlist.

That’s it for this month. Questions, comments, requests?Send me an email Hasta la próxima



Log in here to leave comments or purchase items.
Lost Password

Newsletter Sign Up


Contact Us

Use this section to send us or any of our instructors an email!
* (denotes required field)


Enter your details here to create an account to purchase items and leave comments on the blog.