by Rosie G.
New York, New York, the Big Apple….those of us who are natives to this city remember New York City as full of life with music everywhere. So many great clubs to go to whether you wanted Disco, Freestyle, Jazz, Salsa, etc… One of the legendary clubs was The Village Gate and that’s where I got to meet and see the most amazing Salsa band, El Gran Combo play.
Back in the day when you strolled down Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village—then known as musician’s row—you could run into some very well known people. There were several club/bars there but the one that was best known was The Village Gate. Many years ago I was at a club, Bitter End, watching the then bass player of Spyro Gyra, Oscar Cartaya play with a friend’s band. After the show, he said let’s go check out my friends who are playing at the Village Gate. I had no idea who he was talking about until I got there when I was introduced to one of my Mom’s all-time favorite Salsa bands, El Gran Combo. I’m not usually star struck but this was one of those times that I was. El Gran Combo has won many awards around the world and many Grammys. They are the premier Salsa band and one of our pioneers in Latin music. They are still going strong after over 40 years of playing around the world.
I was introduced to their founder, Rafael Ithier. He was very charismatic and with a great sense of humor. Ralphie, as he’s known, founded El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico in 1962 and is still their musical director after 40 years. Known as La Universidad de la Salsa, they are one of the most popular Salsa bands in the world. They were the opening band for the legendary, Fania All Stars’ sold-out Yankee stadium concert in 1973.
Interesting sidenote: A couple of years before that concert, one of the band members had a very bad feeling about the flight they were about to take from the Dominican Republic. Thank God they didn’t since that flight from Domicana Airlines because that plane crashed in the Caribbean.
There standing at the Village Gate that nite and watching El Gran Combo playing live was the most awe inspiring moment in my life. Oscar Cartaya and I were dancing Salsa to this amazing band. The place was crowded and people were cheering and screaming as El Gran Combo played hit after hit. About a year later the Village Gate closed it’s doors, it was 1993 but I’m so glad and I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to meet and dance to the music of El Gran Combo. So I think I’ll put on some “Arroz con Habichuela,” “Oye Titi.vamos a baila un poco de Salsa”!
To learn more about Rosie,
visit the About Us section
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.