Rafael Ithier

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Rafael Ithier Nadal[1][note 1] (born August 29, 1926) is a Puerto Rican salsa musician and the founder of the highly successful orchestra El Gran Combo.[2] Ithier was born in Río Piedras, now a part of greater San Juan.[3]

Early years[edit]

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 Hernández, another of Puerto Rico's music legends.

Musical career[edit]

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

El Gran Combo[edit]

In 1962, Ithier Nadal formed "El Gran Combo", becoming the orchestra's leader. He has held that position for fifty years, and continues to tour with the group, as of 2012.

A tale about Ithier Nadal and the members of "El Gran Combo" sharing a near-death experience when they supposedly were stranded at Las Américas International Airport in Santo Domingo and failed to board the Dominicana Airlines DC-9 that crashed in the Caribbean when a member of the group had a bad feeling about the flight is not true. The orchestra was at Venezuela at the moment of the accident and arrived at Santo Domingo the day after the crash.[citation needed]


  1. ^ About us. Archived August 23, 2012, at the Wayback Machine El Gran Combo. San Juan, Puerto Rico. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  2. ^ Harris, Craig. "Biography: Rafael Ithier". Allmusic. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  3. ^ http://www.prpop.org/biografias/r_bios/rafael_ithier.shtml


  1. ^ This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Ithier and the second or maternal family name is Nadal.

See also[edit]