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Ismael Rivera

Puerto Rican salsa singer and bandleader

Armando Bellmas
Armando Bellmas
Ismael Rivera

Today on Ecléctico you're listening to Puerto Rican singer and salsero, Ismael Rivera. He spent several years recording albums for the legendary Latin music label Fania Records and became known for his dynamic improvisational singing. You'll go deeper with an excerpt from a feature about Rivera and his storied career by Marcos Hassan on Bandcamp Daily.

"Incomprendido" by Ismael Rivera
1972 | Puerto Rican salsa singer and bandleader

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Ismael “Maelo” Rivera’s impact on salsa can’t be overstated. The legendary singer was one of the first soneros, a type of vocalist within the genre who delivers fast, energetic, and often improvised verses to get the crowd going, making up stories, punchlines and even nonsensical words that fit with the rhythm. Rivera also helped put Puerto Rican salsa on the map. His work with Rafael Cortijo’s combo uplifted Puerto Rican music at a time when Cuba’s son, guaracha, and mambo were still the most popular forms of Caribbean music. This came at a time crucial to Puerto Rico’s history; in 1952, the island officially became a United States commonwealth, and there were a number of uprisings against colonialism throughout the early 1950s. Rivera brought in heavily percussive Afro-Latinx rhythms like bombas and plenas to the fore of salsa, accentuating the black influence on Latin rhythms early on. As an Afro-Latinx person himself, Rivera didn’t shy away from lyrics about social injustice, racism, Black spirituality, and Black pride.

United StatesPuerto Rico

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