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Vega, Tony

Internationally known salsa singer and band leader, Tony Vega, was born 13 July 1957 in Salinas, Puerto Rico. He is one the new breed of salsa performers emerging from Puerto Rico in the 1980’s, but has worked with many of the greatest salsa stars from the beginnings of the genre, to the present.

It has been said that “Tony Vega defines his music as salsa with class and swing, a fresh sound, modern and uncomplicated, with a romantic flair and with traditional roots.” Vega was exposed to music at a very early age; influenced by many adults in his family who were musicians. At the age of 10, he was playing conga with a band called “La Preferida” and by the age of 13, he was playing in a Latino rock band called City Trash.

But even in those early days, it was clear to Vega that nothing could satisfy his musical preferences like the music of his native Puerto Rico. He was greatly influenced then by Ismael “Maelo” Rivera and Cortijo y su Combo, Rafael Ithier and El Gran Combo.

Vega began his professional career in 1978 and recorded his first album, as one of two lead vocalists with La Selecta, a band led by Raphy Leavitt. Among the songs he sang with Leavitt, were the very popular “Cosquillita”, “Sheila Taína” and “El Picaflor”. He stayed there for a year and a half and then moved on to another famous ensemble, La Mulenze, where he stayed a for only three months.

After two years with Leavitt, Vega left and joined Willie Rosario‘s band where he stayed for six years, between 1980 and 1986. On six of the albums Vega subsequently recorded with Rosario, he shared lead vocals with the now famous Gilberto Santa Rosa. His experience with Rosario was a sort of training ground for the young artist and included hit songs like “Mi amigo el payaso”, “Caramelito del campo” and “Busca el ritmo” and he was an important contributor to Rosario’s “La nueva cosecha” album that went on to earn a Grammy nomination.

After living and working in New York and Philadelphia for three months, where he recorded “La Super Banda” and the hit songs “Prohibiciones” and “Cómo es posible”, with Louie Ramírez, Vega went back to Puerto Rico. There he got in contact with Eddie Palmieri via his friend and virtuoso conga-player Giovanni Hidalgo. Palmieri gave Vega a song to record entitled “El Cuarto,” which he did in one afternoon. In the process, Vega secured a job with Palmieri, one of the most important innovators of contemporary Latin music.

Later on, the album “La Verdad” featuring Vega, helped Palmieri garner his fifth Grammy award. The album’s success led to a European tour for Palmieri, Vega and the band, where Vega saw the great popularity of by salsa outside his native Puerto Rico. The tour included stops in Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Yugoslavia.

Vega then signed with the then new RMM record label and released his solo debut with Yo Me Quedo! in 1988. The album was co-produced by arranger/trumpeter Humberto Ramirez who was formerly a producer and member of Rosario’s band. It was a bestseller and Ramirez produced Vega’s hit follow-up single: “Lo Mio Es Amor”, perhaps Omar Alfanno‘s greatest composition, in 1990. The album went gold and included “Ella”, “Me quito el nombre” and even an English language salsa track: “Love is Forever”.

Vega then followed with the release of his Uno Mismo album. Released in 1991, it was also produced by Ramirez and reached platinum. It included several hit songs, such as the title track “Uno mismo”, “Esa mujer”, “Dame tiempo” and “Ya es tiempo de olvidar”. It was yet another great success for Vega that led to a successful appearances in Venezuela and at the New York Salsa Festival, in Madison Square Garden.

The album also earned Vega the Agüeybaná award for Best Orchestra of the year in 1992 and made Vega an internationally known salsa star. The gates had opened for a string of foreign appearances, starting with the “Abrazo caribeño de Puerto Rico a España” concert in Spain, followed by Chile, Colombia, and several in the United States, and back to Spain again for the 1992 World’s Fair in Seville.

Since then he has recorded Hablando del Amor, Greatest Hits, Aparentemente, Hoy Quiero Cantarte, the self-titled Tony Vega, and Si Me Miras a Los Ojos which included the song Si Me Miras a Los Ojos, and quite typical of his style. These have established Vega as a highly regarded salsa star.

Vega’s riveting voice and his innate ability to perform contemporary salsa in the best tradition of the classic “soneros” has been honed and refined over 19 years as an artist, first as a percussionist and then as a singer. Thus far Vega has participated in the recording of 17 albums, including the last four on the RMM label with his own band.

Discography

Despues de Todo (2001)

Dear Sweet Goodness (2001)

Hablando del Amor (2000)

Hoy Quiero Cantarte (1998)

Tony Vega (1996)

Si Me Miras a los Ojos (1994)

Aparentemente (1992)

Yo Me Quedo (1991)

Uno Mismo (1991)

Lo Mío Es Amor (1990)

Oro Salsero (2003)

Serie 32 (2002)

The Best... (2002)

Greatest Hits (1997)

Solo Unico (1992)