MAYITO RIVERA El Poeta de la Rumba
Mario “Mayito” Rivera is without a doubt one of Cuba’s most notable singers. He spent more than 20 years as the characteristic voice and face of the extremely successful Cuban band, Los Van Van. It doesn’t matter whether Mayito sings son, rumba, salsa, bolero, or timba, in a modern or traditional style, powerfully dynamic or tender and soft—whenever he performs, vibrantly adding color to his vocal interpretations, it’s of award-winning quality.
“Mayito” was born as Mario Enrique Rivera Godínez on January 19, 1966 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba’s westernmost province, where the art of making Cuban cigars is based. He began his musical education while still a child. Eventually he graduated in percussion from the renowned Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA) before going on to complete an advanced degree at the Instituto Superior de Arte, Cuba’s university for the arts.
After finishing his 15-year training, Rivera first joined the band of famous Cuban singer Albita Rodríguez, then played bass in Grupo Moncada, a Nueva Trova formation. At the age of 26, Mayito was discovered for the already-legendary orchestra Los Van Van by its musical director, Juan Formell. Initially integrated for bass and background vocals, he rapidly advanced to become the lead singer. During the following two decades, he defined the band’s face like no other. And with him, a new, younger generation of musicians took the stage. The freshness of his style enabled Los Van Van to achieve lasting success worldwide. He was the one who sang the band’s many salsa dance hits, for which he was rewarded with a Latin Grammy and two nominations.
He also worked concurrently on other projects. In 1999 he released his first solo album, Pa’ bachatear … Chappotín, on which he brilliantly catapulted traditional Latin tunes by a master of a past era—Jesús Ángel Chappotín—into the modern age.
But Mayito Rivera is more than just a singer and percussionist. In 2005, his second solo album, Negrito Bailador, was published under Germany-based Termidor’s Timba label. Mayito himself composed all of the songs, which are based on rumba rhythms: powerful, upbeat, and timelessly good. The album was subsequently released in the United States under the title Llegó la Hora and almost immediately nominated for a Latin Grammy in the category “Best Salsa Album of the Year”
As Cuba’s most sought-after guest singer, Mayito has been invited to perform in just about every Cuban All Star formation of the last decade. That activity also continued after his departure from Los Van Van in 2011, when he proceeded to tour the whole world and give concerts in Canada, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, France, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Italy, and other countries.
Guest appearances with salsa greats including Oscar d’Leon, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Issac Delgado, Adalberto Álvarez, Mayimbe, Son Como Son, Timbalive, Pupy y Los que Son Son, Charanga Latina, Havana d’Primera, Tumbao Habana, and Elio Reve, Jr., to mention just a few, demonstrated the huge popularity and multifaceted talent of the “poet of the rumba”, Mayito Rivera.
Since 2012, Mayito has been a permanent member of the Soneros de Verdad, which is currently the most successful Cuban son band under the leadership of its singer, Luis Frank Arias. Two three-month tours across Europe, Asia, Russia, and the U.S. bear witness to the outstanding, fascinating quality of its unique combination: traditional Son plus Cuba’s most dynamic rumbero.
In 2014, the superstar will go on tour with his own band. Meanwhile, the Soneros de Verdad are spending the months from June to September of 2013 playing the songs of his new, soon-to-be-released album, Alma de Sonero, live in concert. This project took him back to his musical roots: son, rumba, bolero, and guaguancó played in the traditional manner with modern trimmings.
Retail sales of the album, which features 11 songs, will begin in September 2013. It was recorded in the studio with a lineup of remarkable musicians including Alexander Abreu (of Havana de Primera) on trumpet, San Miguel Pérez on tres and bongos, and Luis A. Chacón “Aspirina” Bruzón on cajón.