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The legendary salsa singer Roberto Roena, file image.
The legendary salsa singer Roberto Roena. Photo: Twitter

Salsa legend Roberto Roena dies at 81

Iconic Puerto Rican Fania All Star musician Roberto Roena passed away on the night of Sept. 23.

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Roberto Roena, one of the pillars of salsa music, passed away on Thursday night, Sept. 23 in Puerto Rico after a heart attack. The legacy of the Puerto Rican musician can be found in emblematic orchestras, such as Cortijo y su Combo, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Fania All Stars, Puerto Rico All Stars and Apollo Sound. 

"I must report without words that maestro Roberto Roena, great father of the Museo de la Salsa, has just passed away," the cultural entity released on social media.

Carlos Molina, director of the Museo de la Salsa, told El País that shortly after 10 p.m. on Sept. 23, the iconic salsa dancer said he was feeling ill, to which his relatives soon responded by calling an ambulance to take him to a medical center.

'The great dancer' suffered a heart attack on his way to the hospital.

Roena began his musical career with Rafael Cortijo and the group Cortijo y su Combo as a dancer at the age of 16. After several months dancing with the orchestra, Roena joined the group as a bongocero, choreographer and member of the ballet corps alongside the legendary Ismael Rivera and Sammy Ayala.

After six years with Cortijo, Roena joined Mario Ortiz's All Stars Band. He made the leap to the orchestra El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico along with former colleagues of Cortijo y su Combo, and years later, formed a new group, Los Megatones. 

His biggest and most important music project was the creation of Apollo Sound, an orchestra composed of two trombones, two trumpets and two saxophones that fused salsa with rock and bossa nova.

In a tribute to Roena, many musicians were present and thanked the opportunity the Puerto Rican gave them to make them part of his projects. The salsa world is in mourning and the salsa heaven is in celebration. Farewell maestro.

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