Salsa Musicians – Bands

Before it became known as Salsa, the music has been played all over New York City since the 1940s. When it was called exclusively as Salsa music around the 1970s, it was quickly taken up across the Western Hemisphere and Latin America.

When you’ve got special music, it means that you have outstanding musicians. Salsa music is an exciting and exhilarating fusion of several influences, with several bands receiving massive popularity during Salsa’s heyday. While Salsa music is basically performed by a band, it did not stop some singers from getting into the groove. Therefore you’ll hear names like Celia Cruz, Hector LaVoe and Ruben Blades. More recent singers or soneros (males) and soneras (females) include Marc Anthony, Gilberto Santa Rosa and Jose Alberto

Tito Puente

One of the earliest bandleaders was Tito Puente, whose parents are Puerto Rican immigrants. He was born in the Spanish Harlem area of New York. While he wanted to be a dancer, a bicycle accident as a young boy dashed his dream. He turned to music instead. He had gigs with mambo pianist Jose Curbelo and Noro Morales, a Latin band leader. Graduating from the Julliard School of Music, he founded his first band, The Piccadilly Boys, which later became known as Tito Puente and his Orchestra.

They would frequently perform at the Palladium Ballroom, a legendary Latin jazz venue. In the 1950s, Tito Puente’s name is almost a byword, and with the number of Puerto Rican immigrants frequenting the Palladium after WWII, Tito Puente’s band complimented the dancers by playing Latin jazz, cha cha cha and mambo. He was credited with founding Latin jazz and was one of the pioneers of salsa music. He was a very good percussionist and became known for what would be his signature instrument, a single headed drum called the Timbales, which was tuned higher than normal and struck with sticks. The six-time Grammy Awards winner created more waves when he and Carlos Santana created the world favorite, “Oye , Como Va.” Tito Puente was known by several nicknames, including The Sultan of Salsa, The King of Mambo and El Rey del Timbale.


Africando was an Afro-Cuban musical group that was a mix of Salsa musicians based in New York and West African singers. They became a phenomenal sensation in the 1990s.

Founders of Africando were West African producer and musician Ibrahim Sylla and Boncana Maiga from Mali. Maiga lived and studied music in Havana and was the founder of the group, Las Maravillas. Prior to the establishment of Africando, Maiga and Sylla formed the Orchestra Baobab, which included Pape Seck, Medoune Diallo and Nicolas Menheim, who later became members of Africando. Other Africando members were Ronnie Baro, Gnonnas Pedro, Dave Rimelis, Pablo Nunezon, Pape Pepin, Hector Zarzuela, and Ite Herez.

Africando was quite unique because they sang Cuban sons and mambos in Wolof, a language used in Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal. They also sang songs in French, Yoruba, Mandigo and Spanish and often used West African instruments. The group recorded and released several albums, including Volume 1: Trovador, Volume 2: Tierra Tradicional, Gombo Salsa, Baloba, Mandali, Live!, Martina and Ketukuba that earned them worldwide success.

Gilberto Santa Rosa

Popular Salsa singer Gilberto Santa Rosa was called “The Gentleman of Salsa.” He was known for his versatility with romantica and tropical style. He was also a very talented sonero, whose recordings ranged from modern Latin styles to classic Salsa ballads and traditional mambos. The Puerto Rican singer had his first big break as a recording artist at the age of 15. After being a backup for trumpeter Mario Ortiz, he made recordings with La Primerísima Orquestra, Willie Rosario Orchestra and was a lead singer of La Grande Orchestra.

Gilberto Santa Rosa

Bandleader and pianist Eddie Palmieri is another Puerto Rican musician, known for his distinctive blending of funk and jazz rhythms with traditional Latin music. He’s won nine Grammy Awards and performed worldwide. Eddie is the brother of the ”Giant of the Keyboards,” Salsa bandleader Charlie Palmieri.

His music career started in the 1950s. He was with the orchestra of Eddie Forrester then. He only formed his own band, La Perfecta in 1961. They made their unique sound by using trombones rather than trumpets.

La Excelencia

This orchestra was formed by Julian Silva and Jose Vazquez-Cofresi in 2005 and made New York City their home base. La Excelencia’s aim was to bring a different outlook to Salsa music. They wanted it to be young and hip, touching on social issues but never straying from its true Salsa roots. Their first hit album was “Salsa con Conciencia” that they released in 2006. Their second album, released in 2009, called “Mi Tumbao Social” was also well-received worldwide. The orchestra is still very much in demand and they are currently doing world tours.

Other notable bands

Some members of different Salsa bands started out as singers before joining orchestras. While they were already famous as singers, they equally attracted bigger audiences when they collaborated or became band members. Some of them include the Princess of Salsa – La India; Jerry Rivera; Oscar de Leon who later formed the orchestra, ”The Salsa Mayor;” Terry Gibbs, who founded ”The Dream Band,” and Ray Barretto.

Literally hundreds of musicians and bands were formed when Salsa became a hit in New York and elsewhere. Since the 1960s until today, numerous bands remain active. They do public performances in clubs and dance halls. They are also available for private parties. Some are active in their own region while some are available for cross-country performances. Most of them are located either in San Francisco, Florida or New York. It does not mean though that there are no Salsa bands in other states. Here is partial list of bands, some of which may be your favorites or you may already have seen perform.

Nationally, these bands are popularly known, respected and in great demand.

El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico

Sonora Carruseles

Fania All Stars

Grupo Niche

Le Brón Brothers

La Sonora Ponceña

Orquesta Guacayán

Orquesta La 33

Tipica 73

Fruko y sus Tesos

Richi Ray

Son by Four


De Facto

Grupo Galé


Calle Real


Grupo Latin Vibe


Los Amigos Invisibles

Pacific Mambo Orchestra

La Misma Gente

La Sonora Dinamita

Likewise, Florida is one of the major bases of several great Salsa bands. With its diverse Hispanic and Latin communities, Salsa is very much alive in Florida.

Caribbean Salsa Band

Continental Brass Band (Trio & Quartet)

Expresion Latina

Jorge Laureano

Gumby Navedo y su Tumbao

Fondo Blanco Latin Band

El Tumbao

The Latin Ensemble

Cache Live

CK Band

Miami Stars Band

Mariachi Pancho Villa

J&B Allen Corp

Florida Latin Beat

Eli Magic Sound

Bauer Group

Orquesta iNFINIDAD

Big Night Out

Jerry Wayne's Private Party Band

Conjunto Impacto

Bay Kings Band

Havy Rodriguez

Mojito Groove Band

SG Music Entertainment

Caribeño Tropical


Perfect Twist Band

Blond Ambition Band

Son2 Latin Band

Orquesta Los Soneros

Orquesta Guayacol

Virgy Latin Entertainment

Mambo Lebron Orchestra

Cali Aleman & Kiki Sanchez

Grupo Salsa Mia

Mercy Silva Conjunto de Musica Cubano

Frank Bello & the Xpressions All Starz

Nueva Dimension de Cali

Conjunto Pepe Montes

Miami 305 Band

Marcel Portilla Band

From the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll also find quite a number of bands and musicians that play most of your favorite Salsa and Latin rhythms.

Andy y su Orquesta Callao


Edgardo Cambón & Candela

Edgardo Cambón & LaTiDo

Grupo Bakkán

Julio Bravo y su Orquesta


Montuno Swing

Orquesta Borinquen

Orquesta La Moderna Tradición

Orqueta Latin HEAT

Orquesta N'Rumba Pa'gozar

Pa'l Bailador

Pacho y Orquesta Evolucion

Pacific Mambo Orchestra

Pepe y su Orquesta



Somos El Son


Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet

If you want to experience a fantastic Salsa scene, then New York is the place to be. This is where Salsa was born and where it continues to thrive, drawing followers exponentially year after year. This is the place where you’ll find some of the best Salsa bands and musicians in the land.

Mambo Blue Latin Band New York

Hector Jr y su Orquesta Cani

El Galan De La Salsa

El Son De La Loma

Edgardo Rosa y su Orquesta y Los Super Stars

Grupo Encanto NY

Yerason Charanga Orchestra

Jose Conde y Ola Fresca


Los Ciegos Del Barrio

Mariachi Tapatio de Alvaro Paulino


Gerardo Contino y Los Habaneros

Trio Los Claveles

Zagat Group

Luisito Rey y La Dinamica

Jonny Hirsch Music


Silver Arrow Band

Empire State Soul

Tito Puente Jr

Saoco Latin Orchestra


Sonido Costeno


Sammy Gonzalez Jr & his Orchestra

Javier Luis

Hector Manuel y su Orquesta


Los VIP Orquesta


Goza Latin Brazilian Band

Grupo Waranchado

De Tierra Caliente

White-Eyed Lizard Band

Karen Rodriguez Latin Jazz Ensemble

Mamadou Band

Bachelor Boys Band


The Island Guys

Rock Capital Productions and Talent

Mark Thibodeau

Trio Caliente

Grupo Quimbao

Mambo Tropical

Pellejo Seco Premier Latin and Wedding Band


Sitara Son

Mariachi Nuevo Sonido

Lenny Frisch


Los Boleros

Potts and Pans Band

Otro Mundo

Island Boogie Steel Drum Band

Nigel Thomas

L'Esprit D'Afrique



Mambo Soul Music

Los Angeles Mambo All-Star Orchestra

Zero Gravity Fighters (ZFG)

World Music


Blue Water Kings Band

SG Music

Justin Ancheta Band


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