Ismael Rivera

Ismael Rivera

Ismael Rivera also known as "El Sonero Mayor" (The Premiere Improviser) (October 5, 1931 – May 13, 1987), was a renowned composer and singer of salsa music.

Early life

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 Cortijo and sing songs. [ La Fundacion Ismael Rivera] ]

In 1948, Rivera and Cortijo joined El Conjunto Monterrey, where Rivera played the conga and Cortijo the bongos. Rivera was unable to work full-time as a musician, due to the fact that he worked as a carpenter.

Musical career

In 1952, Rivera joined the U.S. Army but, was quickly discharged as he didn't speak English. When he returned to Puerto Rico he 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: [ Music of Puerto Rico] ]
*"El Bombon de Elena",
*"El Negro Bembon",
*"Juan Jose",
*"Besitos de Coco",
*"Palo que tu me Das",
*"Quitate de la via Perico",
*"El Chivo de la Campana",
*"El Yayo",
*"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 City and played in the famed Palladium Ballroom, where the orchestras of Tito Rodriguez, Tito Puente and Charlie Palmieri also played. [ 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 Ithier and 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 Combo de Puerto Rico. [ 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 Marley in 1979. [ [ About Fania] ]

Later years

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 Clemente Coliseum. 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 [] , and even wrote a song about the Black Christ, known affectionately as "El Nazareno". [ [ Ismael Rivera Nazareno] ] On October 5, 2008, Puerto Rico's governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá signed a proclaim stating that every anniversary of Rivera's death will be celebrated as "Día Conmemorativo del Natalicio de Ismael Rivera". [cite web| url=| 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 Cruz recorded a tribute to Ismael Rivera and so did Dario y su ComboRican. [ [ Tribute] ] On September 27, 2001, the Puerto Rican Senate approved the law #134 declaring October 5 as "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. [ [ PROCLAMAN EN PUERTO RICO EL DÍA DE ISMAEL RIVERA] ]

Further reading

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.

ee also

*List of famous Puerto Ricans


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ismael Rivera — Datos generales Nombre real Ismael Rivera Rivera Nacimiento Santur …   Wikipedia Español

  • Ismael Rivera — El Sonero Mayor (l improvisateur de Première) (5 octobre 1931 13 mai 1987) était un compositeur et chanteur portoricain de salsa. Ismael Rivera, surnommé Maelo, était le premier né des cinq enfants de ses parents, Luis (charpentier) et Margarita… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Ismael Rivera — (* 5. Oktober 1931 in Loiza Aldea, Puerto Rico; † 13. Mai 1987) war einer der einflussreichsten Sänger Puerto Ricos. Er war in den 1950er Jahren sehr populär in der gesamten Karibik. Leben Schon seit seiner Kindheit musizierte er zusammen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Rivera (disambiguation) — Rivera is a surname of Spanish origin which was the old spelling of ribera , the Spanish word of “riverbank”.IndividualsBy name* Albert Rivera (born 1979), politician * Alberto Rivera (1935–1997), anti Catholic religious activist * Alexis Rivera …   Wikipedia

  • Rivera — heißen die Orte Rivera (Kolumbien), Kolumbien in Huila Rivera TI, Schweiz Rivera (Uruguay), Uruguay Rivera (Buenos Aires), Argentinien Pico Rivera, Kalifornien, USA Paterna de Rivera, Spanien ein Department in Uruguay, siehe Rivera (Departamento) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Rivera (homonymie) — Rivera Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Sommaire 1 Patronyme 2 Toponyme 3 Géologie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Rivera — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Sommaire 1 Patronyme 2 Toponyme 3 Géol …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Ismael Herráiz — Este artículo o sección sobre biografías necesita ser wikificado con un formato acorde a las convenciones de estilo. Por favor, edítalo para que las cumpla. Mientras tanto, no elimines este aviso puesto el 17 de julio de 2008. También puedes… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Nelson Rivera — Personal information Full name Nelson Ismael Rivera Tobías Date of birth 24 June 1991( …   Wikipedia

  • José Antonio Primo de Rivera — Para otros usos de este término, véase Primo de Rivera. «José Antonio» redirige aquí. Para otras acepciones, véase José Antonio (desambiguación). José Antonio Primo de Rivera …   Wikipedia Español

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.