Rafael Ithier

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Rafael Ithier (born 1926), is a Salsa musician and the founder of the highly successful orchestra El Gran Combo. Ithier was born in Río Piedras, now a part of greater San Juan.

Early years

Ithier was born in the Puerta de Tierra sector of San Juan. Raised in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, he showed a passion for music at a very young age. His father, Nicolas Ithier, played music together with Rafael Hernandez Marin, another of Puerto Rico's music legends.

Musical career

Ithier became an expert guitarist in the bolero genre, and he was a member of the Tito Henriquez group, Taone. His sister Esperanza later inspired him to learn how to play the piano.

Ithier and his namesake, Rafael Cortijo, knew each other and formed a friendship at an early age; rumors of animosity would later surface but they both denied it, saying they considered themselves to be "like brothers." Ithier joined Cortijo's orchestra, "Cortijo y su Combo", during the 1950s. Before that, he was in a New York group named the "Borinqueneers Mambo Boys."

In 1977 Ithier worked as a music arranger on the debut album for the Puerto Rican ensemble band "Puerto Rico All Stars".

El Gran Combo

In 1962, Ithier formed "El Gran Combo", becoming the orchestra's leader. He has held that position for over forty years, and he continues to tour with the group, as of 2010.

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