Ismael Miranda: 45 years of Salsa – Part 1


Ismael Miranda, “El Nino Bonito” (The Pretty Boy) of Salsa, is celebrating 45 years of a very pretty career in Latin music.

The phrase “no solo es llegar, es mantenerse” (it’s not just getting to the top, it’s staying there) applies perfectly to “Maelo”. I have admired Ismael Miranda not only because he’s an impeccable dresser, but also because of how he’s maintained an impeccable career.

Ismael is celebrating his 45-year career in Latin music with a series of concerts. In each concert, he brings in special guests, mostly Salsa music singers who share the stage with him to relive some of his old hits.

There are a lot of hits in a Latin music career that accounts for 42 recordings. This is to my count; I could have missed some. Yet, Ismael’s determination and intuition has served him well in reaching and maintaining his status in Latin music.

The Harlow-Miranda Years

Ismael Miranda first recorded with boogaloo king Joey Pastrana while still a teenager. However, he really came to the public spotlight when he joined Larry Harlow’s Orchestra Harlow. Harlow had a fascination for Cuban music, and Ismael’s early style was greatly influenced by the Cuban singers of the late 60’s.

Ismael Miranda with Larry Harlow
Orchestra Harlow Presents Ismael Miranda (1968) was Maelo’s 2nd album with Harlow.

When you listen to Ismael’s early recordings with Orchestra Harlow, you can hear things like “caballero”, and “bele-bele-ben, bele-ben”. These phrases were popularized by the great Cuban singer Benny More. Many singers imitated Benny for years, and then it became the trend among the New York “soneros”.

Harlow and Ismael Miranda made an immediate perfect team in the Salsa music scene. Ismael could sing the “son” and “boleros” as well as anyone in Salsa. He had a polished, powerful, and clear voice, as well as a good sense of the clave. Meanwhile, Larry Harlow had visited Cuba for long stays to study Cuban music.

Harlow based his musical style on the Cuban “son”, adding a Cuban “tres” to his band. Additionally, he gave his band a broader sound by teaming the typical son “conjunto” trumpets with trombones.

Miranda’s good looks and charisma on and off stage, won him many admirers. This helped to skyrocket his and Harlow’s popularity. Harlow is a Latin music genius of his own, and like in so many cases, it’s hard to determine which came first, the chicken or the egg. But one thing we do know is that the combination exploded the Salsa music scene.

Ismael Miranda Salsa Hits with Orchestra Harlow

With Orchestra Harlow, Ismael Miranda had many hits. Early on he started with “El Exigente”, a boogaloo hit song for the 1967 album of the same name. If you are doing the math, that was almost 46 years ago.

However, my favorite Ismael Miranda hits from “Orchestra Harlow Presents Ismael Miranda” (1968) was “La Contraria”. In the next album, “Me and My Monkey” (1969), my favorites where “Jóvenes del Muelle” and “El Malecón”. That album was followed by “Electric Harlow” (1970) which had “Guasasa” and “La Revolución”. This last song came out when there were several revolutionary movements around the world. Salvador Allende’s leftist party won in Chile, the Vietnam war had occurred through 1968, the Civil Rights revolution still ongoing, and the Beatles song “Revolution” was also released.

Three Great Miranda-Harlow Salsa Albums

Next came one of my several Harlow favorite Salsa albums; “Tribute to Arsenio Rodriguez” (1971). Yomo Toro played the Cuban “tres” in this album, which had several great remakes of the great Cuban “tresero”. The title song, “Arsenio” was written by Ismael. “Tumba y Bongó”, “Suéltala” and “A Todos los Barrios” were just great songs that made this tribute a classic.

Ismael Miranda in "Oportunidad" album cover
“Oportunidad” (1972) was Ismael Miranda’s preview into a solo career.

The next 2 recordings, both released at different stages in 1972, really propelled Ismael Miranda to unquestionable stardom. These followed an already hot “Arsenio” album. The album “Abran Paso” was a fantastic album with my favorites “Abran Paso”, “Se Casa la Rumba”, “Donde Llevas El Son”. Additinally, it had the fantastic “boleros” “Ayer Me Enteré” and “Abandonada Fue”.

These albums set up the stage for “Oportunidad”, released in 1972. This album served as precursor to Ismael Miranda’s launch as a solo artist. Ismael appeared solo in the album cover, as supposedly Larry Harlow was experimenting with other music projects at the time. Story has it that he left his band and the album for Ismael to shine.

This album was perhaps the best release of Ismael Miranda with Orchestra Harlow. I loved the songs “Yambu Pa’ Gozar”, “Las Mujeres Son”, “Senor Sereno”, “La Oportunidad”. Additionally, it had the classic “bolero” “Todo de Mi”.

Ismael Miranda Goes Solo

With this masterpiece, and his inclusion to the Fania All Stars for the historic 1972 Salsa music album “Live at The Cheetah”, Ismael Miranda was ready to go solo. In Part 2 of this series we’ll discuss the solo career of Ismael Miranda.

  1. […] 1973 was full of evolution and changes. Larry Harlow had just lost his charismatic lead singer, Ismael Miranda, who started his solo career. Ismael formed his Orquesta Revelacion and released the Salsa music […]

  2. […] very nice Christmas album of Puerto Rican folk music, Salsa music icon Ismael Miranda delivers positive and spiritual messages in “La Mano […]

  3. […] Ismael Miranda wrote this song for his 1975 album “Este es Ismael Miranda“. It’s a heart-felt song performed in top of a smooth son-montuno. I don’t have the information of who arranged the song, but seems to be the work of Jorge Millet, the main arranger of the album. […]

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