Roberto Roena

Decades: 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s


16 January c.1940, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico; his last name is occasionally spelt as Rohena. A salsa band leader, Roena began his musical career as a dancer with various bands in Puerto Rico - he later became known as ‘El Gran Bailarín’ (The Great Dancer). While performing as a dancer and chorus singer with Cortijo Y Su Combo, the band’s leader Rafael Cortijo gave Roena his first percussion lessons. He settled for the bongo and became a member of Cortijo’s band between 1957 and 1962. Roberto was among the seven accompanists, led by pianist Rafael Ithier, who defected from Cortijo’s Combo in May 1962 to become the basis of El Gran Combo. During his tenure with Gran Combo he appeared on Kako’s classic Latin jam outing Puerto Rican All-Stars Featuring Kako, recorded in 1963, and 1967’s Los Mejores Mujsicos De Puerto Rico, directed and arranged by Ray Santos. In 1966, Roena made his recording debut as leader with a band called...

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