- Ismael Rivera
Ismael Rivera also known as "El Sonero Mayor" (The Premiere Improviser) (
October 5, 1931– May 13, 1987), was a renowned composerand singerof salsa music.
Rivera, nicknamed "Maelo", born in Santurce,
Puerto Rico, was the first of five children born to Luis and Margarita Rivera. His father, Luis, was a carpenter and his mother a housewife. As a child, Rivera was always singing and banging on cans with sticks. He received his primary education at the Pablo G. Goyco elementary school and then went on to learn carpentry at a vocational school. He shined shoes to help his family financially and when he was 16 years old, he worked as a carpenter. During his free time he would hang around the corner with his best friend Rafael Cortijoand sing songs. [http://www.ismaelrivera.org/ La Fundacion Ismael Rivera] ]
In 1948, Rivera and Cortijo joined El Conjunto Monterrey, where Rivera played the
congaand Cortijo the bongos. Rivera was unable to work full-time as a musician, due to the fact that he worked as a carpenter.
In 1952, Rivera joined the U.S. Army but, was quickly discharged as he didn't speak English. When he returned to
Puerto Ricohe went to work as a lead singer with Orquesta Panamericana, thanks to the recommendation of his friend Cortijo. With Orq. Panamericana, Ismael Rivera recorded and scored his first "hits" with the songs "El Charlatan", "Ya Yo Se", "La Vieja en Camisa" (The Old Lady in a Shirt) and "La Sazon de Abuela" (Grandmother's Seasoning). However, an incident between Rivera and another band member over a girl, led to his departure from the popular band.
In 1954, he joined Cortijo's Combo and recorded the following songs which soon became hits in the American Latino community: [http://www.musicofpuertorico.com/index.php/artists/ismael_rivera/ Music of Puerto Rico] ]
*"El Bombon de Elena",
*"El Negro Bembon",
*"Besitos de Coco",
*"Palo que tu me Das",
*"Quitate de la via Perico",
*"El Chivo de la Campana",
*"Maria Teresa" and
*"Yo Soy del Campo".
"El Sonero Mayor"
Cortijo's Combo continued to gain fame and so did Rivera's reputation as a lead singer. Benny More visited the island and was impressd with Rivera's voice, he baptized Rivera "El Sonero Mayor" (The Premiere Improviser). The band went to
New York Cityand played in the famed Palladium Ballroom, where the orchestras of Tito Rodriguez, Tito Puenteand Charlie Palmierialso played. [http://www.ismaelrivera.org/ La Fundacion Ismael Rivera] ]
In 1959, Rivera, together with Cortijo and his Combo, participated in the European produced movie titled "Calipso", starring
Harry Belafonte. He traveled with Cortijo's Combo, which also included Rafael Ithierand Roberto Roena, to Europe, Central and South America. Rivera was suspected of being involved with an illegal drug transaction during a trip to Panama. He was arrested upon his arrival to Puerto Rico, convicted and sentenced to jail. This event led to the break-up of Cortijo's Combo. Shortly after, Rafael Ithier, regrouped some of the former members and formed El Gran Combode Puerto Rico. [http://www.musicofpuertorico.com/index.php/artists/ismael_rivera/ Music of Puerto Rico] ]
Upon his release from jail, Rivera formed his own band called Ismael Rivera and his Cachimbos. The successful band lasted for eight years. Rivera reunited with Cortijo and recorded "Juntos Otra Vez" (Together Again). Later, Rivera went solo and did well with the recordings of "El Sonero Mayor" and "Volare (salsa style)". He was to score his greatest "hit" with "Las Caras Lindas (De Mi Gente Negra)" (The Pretty Faces (of My Black People)) written by
Tite Curet Alonso. One of his last public performances was in Paris, as an opener for Bob Marleyin 1979. [ [http://www.faniarecords.com/fania/site/About.aspx About Fania] ]
The death of his childhood friend, Rafael Cortijo in 1982, affected him emotionally to the point that he couldn't sing in the tribute to Cortijo celebrated at the
Roberto ClementeColiseum. Rivera was actively involved in the creation of a historical museum which depicts the contributions made to the cultural life of Puerto Rico by the black Puerto Ricans.
Rivera was a faithful pilgrim of the Black Christ procession in
Portobelo, Panama, from 1975 to 1985 [http://es.caoba.org/edicion6/cultureclub/cristonegro/article.html] , and even wrote a song about the Black Christ, known affectionately as "El Nazareno". [ [http://www.salsadecuba.hu/ismaelriveraelnazareno.htm Ismael Rivera Nazareno] ] On October 5, 2008, Puerto Rico's governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilásigned a proclaim stating that every anniversary of Rivera's death will be celebrated as "Día Conmemorativo del Natalicio de Ismael Rivera". [cite web| url=http://www.primerahora.com/noticia/musica/espectaculosasi/recuerdan_natalicio_del_sonero_mayor_ismael_rivera/236086| title=Recuerdan natalicio del sonero mayor Ismael Rivera| publisher="Primera Hora"| language=Spanish| date= 2008-10-05| accessdate=2008-10-11]
Ismael Rivera died on May 13, 1987 in the arms of his mother Margarita, from a heart attack.
Celia Cruzrecorded a tribute to Ismael Rivera and so did Dario y su ComboRican. [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FXV/is_3_17/ai_n19053525 Tribute] ] On September 27, 2001, the Puerto Rican Senate approved the law #134 declaring October 5as "Ismael Rivera Day". In Villa Palmeras, Santurce, Puerto Rico, there is a plaza named "Plaza de los Salseros" which has a statue and plaque dedicated to Ismael. [ [http://www.salsajazz.com/salsa/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=715 PROCLAMAN EN PUERTO RICO EL DÍA DE ISMAEL RIVERA] ]
Among the written works about Ismael Rivera are the following:
*"Ismael Rivera, El Sonero Mayor" (1993) by
César Pagano( Colombia)
*"Salsa, sabor y control!, sicologia de la musica tropical"" (1998) by
Ángel G. Quintero Rivera
*"Dos Libros sobre Maelo"
*"Dialogo" (1998) by
Francisco Cabanillas( United States)
*"Bailando en casa del
Trompo" (1999) by Lil Rodríguez( Venezuela) and
*"Ismael Rivera, El sonero mayor" by
Rafael Figueroa Hernández.
List of famous Puerto Ricans
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