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Roberto Roena (1940–2021), legendary salsa percussionist

by Linnea Crowther

Roberto Roena was a Puerto Rican salsa percussionist known for his work with legendary bands including El Gran Combo and Fania All Stars.

Musical career

Roena was best known for playing the bongo drum, though he also played many other percussion instruments. He was still a teen when he joined Cortijo y Su Combo and began touring widely. Members of the band regrouped after the lead singer’s arrest to form El Gran Combo, with whom Roena played before leaving to form Los Megatones. He later formed the band Roberto Roena y So Apollo Sound, named for the Apollo 11 Moon landing on the day of the combo’s first rehearsal. In the 1970s, Roena joined the Fania All Stars, performing alongside notables including Celia Cruz (1925–2003). Roena was beloved for his showmanship and dancing as well as his percussion skills. He is a member of the International Latin Music Hall of Fame.

Tributes to Roberto Roena

Full obituary: NBC News


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