Soneros: The Best Salsa Singers

Singer Celia Cruz in Paris, France.
Singer Celia Cruz in Paris, France. Wikimedia Commons

For any given Salsa singer to reach the title of sonero is as good as it gets. All the best Salsa artists in history belong to this category. So, What is a sonero anyway?

In very simple terms, there are three elements a Salsa singer must have in order to be considered a real sonero: A unique voice, good improvisation skills and the ability to accommodate voice and improvisation over any kind of melody. On top of that, a sonero is also someone who knows how to make the most out of the stage. That said, let's take a look at some of the best soneros in history.

10. Adalberto Santiago

This Puerto Rican singer owes much of his personal success to the time he spent with the legendary Ray Barreto. However, Adalberto Santiago has also worked with some of the biggest names in the industry including Roberto Roena and Louie Ramirez. His legacy as a real sonero was achieved during the time he worked with the Fania All Stars. Some of his most famous tracks include "Quitate La Mascara," "La Hipocresia Y La Falsedad," and "La Noche Mas Linda."

9. Tito Rodriguez

Tito Rodriguez had a wonderful voice for Bolero. In fact, because of his enduring interpretation of the Bolero song "Inolvidable," he is usually remembered as "El Involvidable" (The Unforgettable). Besides his voice, Tito Rodriguez was also a talented songwriter as well as a complete musician able to play different instruments. His influence on Mambo was significant.

8. Benny More

Benny More is one of the most important names in Cuban music. From Cuban Son and Mambo to Bolero and Guaracha, Benny More felt comfortable adding his voice to all the rhythms of its native land. He was also a member of the legendary Trio Matamoros.

7. Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez

"El Conde," as he was known, had a wonderful, powerful voice that fit the heaviest Descarga in the same way it fit the sweetest Bolero. He gained worldwide exposure with Johnny Pacheco and the Fania All Stars. Some of hist best singles include "Catalina La O," "La Escencia del Guaguanco," "Micaela" and "Sonero." His version of the Bolero song "Convergencia" is one of the best in its genre.

6. Ruben Blades

Besides having all the features that define a sonero, Ruben Blades has produced some of the most meaningful lyrics in Salsa music. His glory has not only touched music but also acting and even politics. Some of his most popular hits include "Plastico," "Decisiones" and "Te Estan Buscando." His single "Pedro Navaja" is considered one of the greatest Salsa songs of all time. This Panamanian artist built a big chunk of his initial success alongside Willie Colon.

5. Cheo Feliciano

Cheo Feliciano is the owner of one of the sweetest and most romantic voices Salsa music has ever known. This Puerto Rican singer started his career back in the 1960s with the legendary Joe Cuba Sextet. Right from the very beginning, Cheo proved to be a gifted artist who later on consolidated his own name with the famous Fania All Stars. Some of his hit songs include "Anacaona," "El Raton" and "Amada Mia."

4. Oscar D'Leon

Oscar d'Leon is Venezuela's greatest Salsa artist in history. "The Lion of Salsa," as he is often referred to, has been shaping Salsa music since the 1970s. Besides having an amazing voice and a large music repertoire, Oscar D'Leon is also one of the best performers on stage, especially when playing his bass. His name is a must have in any list dealing with best Salsa artists in history.

3. Celia Cruz

Not all the big soneros have been male artists. In the history of Salsa, there is a big exception to that rule. The name of that exception is not other than Celia Cruz, the Queen of Salsa. The legendary Cuban singer has been, in fact, one of the best soneros (soneras?) in Salsa music. Her powerful voice, charismatic style on stage and ability to improvise lyrics in the middle of a Salsa melody gave Celia Cruz the highest status that any Salsa artist can achieve. Some of the top songs by Celia Cruz include "Tu Voz," "Burundanga" and "Sopita En Botella."

2. Hector Lavoe

Regarded by many as the best Salsa artist in history, Hector Lavoe revolutionized this music genre with his unique, nasal voice and the amazing ability to come up with lyrics able to fit any note. Known as "La Voz" (The Voice) or "El Cantante" (The Singer), Hector Lavoe is definitely one of the best soneros of all time.

1. Ismael Rivera

Ismael Rivera was known as "El Sonero Mayor." That title defined this Puerto Rican singer as one of the best soneros in Salsa history. His unique voice and style shaped a whole generation of Salsa artists. Some of his best songs include "Mi Negrita Me Espera," "Las Caras Lindas," and "Sale El Sol."