Ismael Rivera

“El Sonero Mayor” was the moniker given to Puerto Rican singer Ismael Rivera. A few of the best songs he recorded were “Sale El Sol,” “Las Caras Lindas” and “Mi Negrita Me Espera.”

In Salsa’s history, Rivera was considered as one of its best singers. His style influenced a whole generation of Salsa singers. Ismael Rivera likewise had very good influences since he was young. First was his mother who fully supported his interest in music. He later joined Rafael Cortijo, an old schoolmate and they formed Calle Calma. Cortijo gave Rivera the direction and structured music discipline that led to his unique vocal style. The two soon became very popular in Puerto Rico and later, the world. They came to New York in the 1960s and were well accepted in Manhattan’s Latin music scene. Their sounds had the combination of Puerto Rico’s plena and bomba, just like most groups at that time.

Rivera was an expert in Cuban son and it was his voice that set Calle Calma apart from the rest. The band broke up due to Rivera’s imprisonment because of drug use. He got out after four years but he and Cortijo were unable to get bookings. Rivera went on to form his own band, Los Cachimbos, and continued to show that his talent had not waned even after years of inactivity. He gave back to the community that supported him and helped launch the careers of Rubén Blades and Ismael Miranda.


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