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El Heredero: Ismael Rivera Jr.



Ismael Rivera Jr
When it comes to iconic musicians and their offsprings, it is quite easy to make comparisons. A recent study done on musical ability and its possible place in the human genome supports the theory of hereditary musical talent. While this study does not guarantee that musical talent is inherent, it certainly point towards it. Some prominent musically talented dynasties include such families as the Bachs, who produced several highly accomplished musicians, the most famous of them being Johann Sebastian Bach. Other related musicians mentioned include the Jacksons, the Dylans, the Coles, the Sinatras, and recently, Julio Iglesias and his son Enrique were also cited as examples.

More often than not, a definite genetic trait may be traced to the sons and daughters of great artists, although not always does one find a musical connection. Musical ability may be genetically inherited, but it absolutely depends on nurture and training to bring its achievements to fruition. This can be said of countless truly gifted artists who came to prominence during the last century, many of whom did not have musical parents. Without a doubt, a person’s upbringing has a lot to do with how they develop (or don’t develop) their musical gift.

Ismael Rivera Jr. 3In the case of ISMAEL RIVERA Jr., the comparison is inevitable. How could it be otherwise? Young Ismael, or “Ismaelito” as he is affectionately referred to, carries his father’s DNA imprinted not only within his physical being but locked within his exuberant voice, his sense of rhythm and his spirited music. What’s more, he is on a passionate mission to nurture the musical legacy left by his father Ismael Rivera Sr., “El Sonero Mayor”. He is strongly determined not to allow his father’s contributions to become a distant memory. You might say that this is to be expected, but it goes deeper than that, as the elder Rivera was just too vibrant and exhilarating to be relegated to a mere footnote. There was magic in his father’s voice and the jubilant repertoire that he chose to sing not only reflected that joy in his face, but in the faces of those whom he enchanted across the afro-hispanic world. The old master was a modern day griot, and his songs often carried a message of hope for the down trodden. Along with his old friend Rafael Cortijo, the elder Rivera made musical history both at home and abroad.

Ismael Jr. is now enjoying a sudden wave of popularity, much as his dad did thirty years ago. He knows all too well that it could all end in a flash. Experience has taught him that when the creative artist passes on, or, that if they fall from grace, their popularity can suddenly and tragically diminish. If not for the efforts of their admirers and followers, who keep their memory alive, their image may well be forgotten within a decade or two. Every time young Ismael steps onto the world stage, he is undoubtedly reminded of his dad’s legacy and the pitfalls that he faced; what his dad’s popularity meant to him as a young man, and what it means to his native Puerto Rico and to the Latin American population in general. Despite the obvious comparisons, Ismael still manages to bring forth his own persona, shinning ever so brightly, molding his own particular image, at times reminiscent of his father, but without seeming a carbon copy. There is a certain roughness to Ismael Jr.’s voice, a hard edge that definitely reminds one of his father’s. He is like a diamond in the rough. It’s a raw talent that needs to be further nurtured, polished and perfected.

Proudly, he states: “Today, people who knew my father say that when they hear my name they invariably feel a connection to him and to that magical time, a kind of nostalgia that makes them glow inside and smile like a Cheshire cat. It’s that particular musical connection, more than the genealogical one, which they treasure, and it’s that particular bond which I personally feel has been his most lasting gift to me. Without that musical upbringing, I may have never made it to the place where I am now. Even from beyond this world, “El Sonero Mayor” continues to inspire me in my own performance, to give the best performance I can. He still serves as a motivating force, now more than ever; it’s like a spiritual flowing that makes me determined to keep his legacy alive and take his music to new heights, thereby spreading both his joy and mine to very corner of the globe”.

Ismael RiveraGreat musical talent seems to flow in many families that have made their mark upon the music world. Like his father before him, young Ismael has acquired a good track record. He has been spreading that joy now for the last thirty five years, performing and recording with such varied groups as Rafael Cortijo, Kako and His Orchestra, Los Hijos de La Salsa, Grupo ABC, El Combo de Siempre, Los Hijos de Los Celebres and of course with his own aggregation. During those formative years when he was “paying his dues”, right up to the present day, Ismael Rivera Jr. has proven himself to be a cultural warrior. He has received many award, nominations and  acknowledgements, both locally and on an international scale. And like his legendary father before him, Ismael Rivera Jr. is a product of a unique Pan-Caribbean experience, undauntedly persevering, transcending cultures and knowing no boundaries. This formidable artist has prevailed on the Latin music scene for more than three decades. While musical trends continue to change, thousands of adoring fans worldwide have crowned him as one of the monarchs of tropical music, and particularly within the category of salsa.

Ismael Rivera Jr. – From Puerto Rico to the World!  Jecuajéy !

Bandleader, vocalist, composer, graphic artist and radio personality Ernesto "Chico" Álvarez Peraza has been performing as a singer and percussionist throughout the New York City tri-state area for the last four decades. Leader of conjunto Mafimba and The Palomonte Afro-Cuban Big Band, he was also the host and producer of New World Gallery, an eclectic world music radio show which had been airing over WBAI Pacifica Radio (99.5 FM) for more than 25 years.

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