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,