Roberto Roena y Su Apollo Sound
Roberto Roena y Su Apollo Sound
In 1969, he went on to form a band by the name of "Roberto Roena y Su Apollo Sound", arguably one of the best Latin salsa bands in Puerto Rico. Roberto Roena’s new orchestra was baptized "El Apollo Sound" because the launch of NASA's Apollo 11 lunar mission coincided with the day of the band’s first rehearsal. The band eventually recorded hits such as Y Tu Loco Loco, Traicion, Que Se Sepa and Herencia Rumbero. Roberto Roena has also been a long-time member of the Fania All Stars, the showcase group for the Fania Records label, which has enjoyed worldwide success since the 1970s. He recorded his signature song, "Coro Miyare", with the group; live performances of the song featured Roena playing the bongos and dancing with his uncle, legendary salsa dancer Aníbal Vázquez, in a choreographed section that almost always received standing ovations from the audience. Mr.
Roena took a giant step in the fusion of salsa with jazz, in the 1970s, by joining forces with African superstar (saxophonist) Manu Dibango of "Soul Makossa" fame. Even without knowing how to read or write music, and probably because of it, Roena knew how to surround himself with excellent musicians and arrangers. "Apollo Sound" featured musicians from the ensemble of Tito Puente, "Cortijo y Su Combo", "El Gran Combo" and "Los Sunsets", among others. Some of the well renowned arrangers and composers who nourished his repertoire were Mario Ortiz, Bobby Valentín, Elias Lopés, Luis “Perico” Ortiz and Papo Lucca. With "Apollo Sound", Roberto introduced a “new” sound to salsa music by utilizing two trumpets, a trombone and a saxophone, a combination he took from the influence of the wind section of the rock group Blood, Sweat and Tears (in honor of which his band recorded a successful version of “Spinning Wheel”). Roberto always considered variety as the key to success, leading him to include in his musical repertoire everything from go-go to the romantic, the same in English as in Spanish.
Roberto Roena and his Apollo Sound’s first album produced hits of great impact like “Tú loco loco y yo tranquilo,” “El escapulario,” and “El sordo.” In fact, it was Apollo Sound who popularized the Bobby Capó classic, “Soñando con Puerto Rico.” Apollo Sound recorded under the label International Records (a subsidiary of Fania) for a decade, in which they harvested successes like “Traición,” “Chotorro,” “Mi Desengaño,” “Fea,” “Marejada feliz,” “Cui cui,” and “El progreso,” among others. His popularity on the radio waves came accompanied with tours around the United States and Latin America. Complementing the musicality of the salsa group was always the showmanship inherent in Roberto Roena. Dying his hair in new colors, playing percussion in his underwear and sporting a harness so he could “fly” around the stage of New York City's Madison Square Garden were some of the tricks that he used to stand out among the other groups in vogue. In fact, a noted journalist that followed Apollo Sound once remarked that they were “the first group in Puerto Rico with a system of psychedelic lights and go-go girls.” Beginning in the 1980s, Roberto Roena and his Apollo Sound experienced a fade in popularity, reflecting a crisis that was sweeping through the salsa movement in general.
Nevertheless, Roberto maintained himself by collaborating and recording independently with local groups. In 1990, Roena tried to revive the concept of Apollo Sound. He opened a concert for British rock singer Sting at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente, where he presented his hit salsa version of "Every Breath You Take" (with an amused Sting watching from the sidelines). In 1994, he celebrated 25 years with his orchestra in a successful concert at the Centro de Bellas Artes in San Juan. This performance was recorded and released, validating his music for a new generation. Read more on Last.fm.
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