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Sonora Ponceña

Since its inception in 1954, the legendary band Sonora Ponceña, from Puerto Rico, has been one of the most consistent producers of great salsa music. Led by Enrique “Quique” Lucca Caraballo, born in Yauco, Puerto Rico, this group has included many of the most talented in the world of salsa, at one time or another.

The band actually evolved from a group called the Conjunto Internacional, formed by Lucca in 1944. That group included Antonio Tato Santaella on bongos, who would stay with Lucca for many years.

Lucca was a great fan of the famous Cuban band called Sonora Matancera and their musical style that utilized a full percussion section, with only trumpets in the horn section for harmony with the piano and voices. In naming the group, Lucca added the group’s home city of Ponce to that style and thus, Sonora Ponceña.

Enrique “Papo” Lucca Jr. was born in 1946 and displayed enormous talent as a small child. Destined to join and make a major contribution to the Sonora Ponceña family.

The group evolved in 1956 in include pianist Vicentico Morales and the young Papo was already at the piano making arrangements. By age 12, Papo had recorded his first piano solo. Other early recordings by the group included other popular vocalists of that time such as Felipe Rodriguez and Davilita.

By 1960, the band had travelled to New York City to perform at the and the Manhattan Center and the Puerto Rico Theater. The band, and especially Papo, were will received. Papo went on to refine his skills at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, emerging as an accomplished musician and arranger.

During these early years, the group was known mostly for their guarachas and boleros. They also utilized many different singers who also sang with other groups. This stabilized when Tito Gomez joined the band and stayed until 1974.

1968 was a notable year for the group as Quique stepped aside as musical director, leaving his son Papo in charge, and the group embraced the new high fidelity LP technology in their recordings. Papo’s musical direction included a fusion of modern style traditional Cuban sounds together with jazz, coupled with improvisations. The group also expanded to use four trumpets in the horn section. Luigi Texidor came on board as a lead singer and Miguel Ortiz who began as timbalero went on to replace Tito Gomez. Lastly, Yolanda Rivera and Toñito Ledee came on as lead singers. These elements would thereafter define the Sonora Ponceña “sound” for many years.

The very next year, the group recorded its first LP album on the Inca label. It included the hit song “Hachero Pa’ Un Palo” and set the stage for then world’s discovery of this seminal salsa band. They recorded an even bigger hit “Fuego en el 23” and went on to record 30 more albums on the Inca label.

By 1980, the group had become a great success but perhaps their best work was still ahead of them. Salsa romantica was hot and the band adjusted to new styles and commercial forces without abandoning the trademarks of their prior success: straightforward salsa, such as this song, Percusion from their 45 Aniversario album. Papo shone as pianist and arranger in great demand. He was featured as an important part of the Fania All-Stars and collaborated with many artists including those in the Fania stable.

The group continues to perform, often reviving the classic songs that made them great. Their recent association with the Salsa Congress has won them new fans that have delighted in the discovery of a group that was instrumental in the genre’s history.

Discography

Grandes Exitos (2002)

Puro Sabor (2000)

45 Aniversario (2000)

Hacheros Pa' un Palo (1999)

On Target (1998)

Opening Doors (1995)

Apretando (1995)

Lo Mejor (1994)

Birthday Party (1994)

Soul of Puerto Rico (1993)

Sabor Sureno (1993)

Navidad Criolla (1993)

Unchained Force (1992)

Night Raider (1992)

Into the 90's (1992)

New Heights (1992)

Merry Christmas (1992)

La Sonora Poncena (1992)

La Orquesta de Mi Tierra (1992)

Guerreando (1992)

Future (1992)

Explorando (1992)

Energized (1992)

El Gigante del Sur (1992)

Determination (1992)

Desde Puerto Rico a Nueva York (1992)

Conquista Musical (1992)

30th Anniversary, Vol. 2 (1992)

30th Anniversary, Vol. 1 (1992)

Jubilee (1992)

On the Right Track (1988)

Back to Work (1987)

Fuego en el 23, Satin N Lace, Jubileo 30,... (1985)

Jordu (1982)

Mi Lindo Yambu, Nica's Dream, Huracan,... (1980)

Suena el Piano (1978)

Yeyey, La Gotera, Omele (1977)

La Clave (1976)

Tiene Pimienta (1975)

Mayeya, Hachero Sin Hacha, Tumba Mabo (1975)

Algo de Locura (----)

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