Issac Delgado (born Issac Felipe Delgado-Ramirez on September 11, 1962 in Marianao, Habana, Cuba) is one of the founders of the band NG La Banda and is a popular salsa and timba performer.
Early life and family
His father, Luis Delgado, was a tailor and his mother, Lina Ramirez, was an actress, dancer and singer in the Teatro Musical de La Habana. When he was ten years old he entered the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory where he studied violoncello, an instrument that did not interest him. At twelve he left the conservatory, and pursued the study of sports and football. He later graduated in sport education. At 18, Isaac joined the group “Proyecto” at the request of the pianist, Gonzalo Rubalcaba. This sparked his innate love for music. It was at this point that he decided to study vocal technique with one of the best vocal instructors in Cuba, Mariana De Gonish. He also enrolled in the school for professional musicians, “Ignacio Cervantes”.
Issa Delgado began his professional career in 1983 when he joined Orquesta de Pancho Alonso. He travelled internationally with the orchestra and recorded a CD with them, his first commercial recording. In 1987 he became the vocalist for Galaxia who also recorded a CD.
NG la Banda and the birth of timba
In 1988, Delgado became the lead vocalist for the group NG La Banda. It was with this group that he found fame. NG was the band that launched the timba revolution, the first new popular Cuban music genre in decades. As NG’s lead vocalist, Delgado was at the cutting edge of Cuban dance music. His singing talents soon brought him to superstar status within the fast growing timba field. Delgado became one of timba’s best composers and a uniquely creative melodic improviser. In concert he often improvises words and melodies for periods of several minutes. He recorded three CDs with NG and was awarded the EGREM prize for 1990-1991.
In 1991 Delgado put together his own band and recorded the CD, Dando La Hora under the artistic direction of Gonzalo Rubalcaba. This album received the 1992 EGREM Prize. His second CD, Con Ganas, again with Rubalcaba, received two EGREM prizes in 1993.
Perhaps inspired by his work with Rubalcaba and the virtuosos of NG La Banda, Delgado has tended to stock his band with the most sophisticated jazz musicians available and to give them an exceptional amount of creative freedom. The result has been a long string of unique and fascinating groups. It’s almost easier to list the great Cuban pianists who haven’t played in Delgado’s band, but here’s a partial list of those who have: Tony Pérez, Javier “Caramelo” Massó, Iván “Melón” Lewis, Pepe Rivero, Yaniel “El Majá” Matos, Roberto Carlos “Cucurucho” Valdés, Rolando Luna, Tony Rodríguez and Issacito Delgado (Moore 2012: 93).
In 1994 he received another EGREM award for his CD El chevere de la salsa y el caballero del son. His next album was El Ano Que Viene. He later travelled to the United States to perform in the Festival of Salsa in New York’s Madison Square Garden with Celia Cruz, El Canario, and Grupo Niche. In New York he recorded another album, Otra Ideal. In 1997 he performed at the festival, Guerra de la Salsa with La India, Rey Ruiz, and Tony Vega.
At this point in his career, Delgado was recording with both New York salsa musicians and Cuban timba musicians. Some of his recorded material sounds like salsa, but with distinctive timba elements periodically emerging to the surface. While some timba fans may have been disappointed hearing Delgado in a tamer and more polished salsa sound, the singer continued to record songs with leading timba musicians. Consequently, much of his post-NG material contains some of the most innovative instrumental accompaniment within the context of Cuban-style dance music.
The overall sound of Delgado’s recordings from this period sound far more like salsa than timba, However, little details in the arrangements reveal the handiwork of some of Cuba’s most important innovators. Delgado’s 1994 hit “La sandunguita” (composed by his bassist Alain Pérez) took unprecedented liberties with clave, that are considered “sacrilegious” to old school musicians (Peñalosa 2012: 246). While such innovations further aggravated the salsa—timba clave schism, there is no disagreement that “La sandunguita” swings.
Delgado’s most famous group (1996‐1998) was with Alain Pérez on bass and Iván “Melón” Lewis on piano. Of particular note was the band’s ability to spontaneously change the arrangement during performances. They were able to produce changes spontaneously by using flexible rhythm section schemes allowing them to alter the form of an arrangement to fit the flow of each performance (Moore 2012: 91). When the entire rhythm section of this band moved to Spain, Delgado added Antonio “Pachá” Portuondo on timbales and Denis “Papacho” Savón on congas. He then convinced drummer Yoel Páez, bassist Joel Domínguez, and pianist Yaniel “El Majá” Matos to leave Paulito FG’s band to join him.
The following piano guajeo (or piano tumbao), created by Lewis is from “No me mires a los ojos.” It is a prime example of one the most critical timba piano innovations—the idea that the piano tumbao be a “hook” by which the song can be identified and that contributes greatly to the song’s popularity. There are three places where the left hand adds an extra note between two right hand notes, a technique never used before in timba, which has become a major timba piano innovation. Melón was the first to use it as a central part of his style (Moore 2010 pt. 6.). Listen: “No me Mires a los ojos” by Issac Delgado.
“No me mires a los ojos” guajeo (1995). Piano: Iván “Melón” Lewis.
Lewis’s piano guajeo on Delgado’s “La temática” incorporates the technique of pattern displacement. A series of repeated octaves invoke a characteristic metric ambiguity (Moore 2010: pt. 4. 96-108).
In 2006 Delgado walked across the U.S.-Mexico border into Laredo, Texas and defected, bringing with him only his family (his wife, Massiel Valdés, and his two daughters, Dalina and Alessia), talent and reputation. In May 2007 he released En primera plana. His album, Así soy was released in October 2008. Delgado moved to a condo in Miami, Florida after living in Tampa for a short period. In 2011 Delado released a maxi-single with La India in four different versions titled, “Que no se te olvide.”
- No te compliques (NG La Banda) (1988)
- En la calle (NG la Banda) (1989)
- No se puede tapar el sol (NG la Banda) (1990)
- Dando la hora (1992)
- Con ganas (1993)
- El chévere de la salsa y el caballero de son (with Adalberto Álvarez) (1994)
- El año que viene (1995)
- Otra idea (1996)
- Exclusivo para cuba (1997)
- La primera noche (1998)
- La fórmula (2000)
- Grandes éxitos
- Versos en el cielo (2002)
- Prohibido (2004)
- En primera plana (2007)
- Así soy (2008)
- L.O.V.E. (2010)
- Supercubano (2011)
Year Album Artist 2013 I Love Salsa 2013 Primary Artist 2012 Desde Nueva York a Puerto Rico Eddie Montalvo Vocals 2012 Radio Latina Party 2012 DJ Roberto Primary Artist 2012 Simply Salsa  Primary Artist 2011 I Love Bachata 2011 Primary Artist 2011 Salsa Caliente Primary Artist 2011 Supercubano Issac Delgado Mezcla, Primary Artist, Producer 2011 Viva Havana: The Essential Voices of Cuba Primary Artist 2010 L-O-V-E Issac Delgado Primary Artist, Producer, Vocals 2010 Mi Salsa Tiene Sandunga Colección: Esencia De Cuba Primary Artist 2010 Salsa Fever, Vol. 2 Primary Artist 2009 100% Cuba Primary Artist 2009 100% Salsa [Union Square] Primary Artist 2009 Cafe Cuba Primary Artist 2009 Salsa Club, Vol. 2 Primary Artist 2009 Simply Latin Party Primary Artist 2008 Asi Soy Issac Delgado Composer, Primary Artist, Unknown Contributor Role 2008 Gusto Latino 2008 Primary Artist 2008 I Love Latin Primary Artist 2008 Salsa Fever [Wagram] Primary Artist 2008 Simply Salsa: Dance Class Primary Artist 2007 Aubade, Vol. 2: Sensualidad Primary Artist 2007 Cuba Carnaval Primary Artist 2007 En Primera Plana Issac Delgado Primary Artist 2007 Latino 22 Primary Artist 2007 Latino Greatest Hits Primary Artist 2007 Los Nuevos Boleros Primary Artist 2007 Salsahits 2008 Primary Artist 2007 Simply Cuba Primary Artist 2006 Cuba’s Salsa Kings Primary Artist 2006 Cuban Legends: The Essential Voices of Cuba Primary Artist 2006 Grandes Exitos, Vol. 1 Issac Delgado Primary Artist 2006 Havana Masters Present: The Best of the Cuban Music Awards Primary Artist 2006 La Rumba Que No Termina Clave y Guaguancó Guest Artist, Vocals 2006 Latino, Vol. 13 Primary Artist 2006 The Gringo Guide to Salsa Primary Artist 2006 The Very Best of Cuba Primary Artist 2006 Tributo a Lilí Martínez Guest Artist 2005 A Life in Music Juan Pablo Torres Musician 2005 Beginner’s Guide to Cuba Composer, Primary Artist 2005 Cuba Caliente! [Wagram] Primary Artist 2005 Prohibido Issac Delgado Primary Artist 2004 Azul: Floral Island Primary Artist 2004 Cafe Salsa: A Spicy Mix of Hot Rhythms and Latin Spirit Composer 2004 Hecho en Havana Primary Artist 2004 Oro: Salsa Primary Artist 2004 Salsacional Primary Artist 2004 Simply Salsa [Box Set] Composer 2004 Viva el Caribe, Vol. 2 [CD/DVD] Primary Artist 2003 Cuban Grammy Winners Vocals 2003 San Francisco Jazz Festival: CD Sampler, Vol. 6 Primary Artist 2003 Tributo a Celia Cruz Haila Direction, Liner Notes, Musical Direction, Producer 2003 Versos en el Cielo Issac Delgado Concept, Executive Producer, Liner Notes, Primary Artist, Producer 2002 A Puerto Padre: Tributo a Emiliano Salvador Juan Manuel Ceruto Guest Artist, Vocals 2002 Aqui Estamos los Que Estan Composer 2002 Bajando Gervasio Amadito Valdés Vocals 2002 California Dreamin [Rerooted] Primary Artist 2002 Definitivamente Jueves Waldo Leyva Interpretation 2002 Mas Alla de la Habana La Timba Loca Liner Notes 2002 Salsa: Edition Speciale Primary Artist 2002 Super Exitos [Egrem] Composer, Primary Artist 2002 Versos en el Cielo [Japan CD] Issac Delgado Primary Artist 2001 Caribe 2001: El Verano Ya Llego Performer, Primary Artist 2001 Last Word in Cuban Music Composer, Performer, Primary Artist 2001 Los Hombres Calientes, Vol. 3: New Congo Square Los Hombres Calientes: Irving Mayfield & Bill Summers Vocals, Vocals (Background) 2001 Malecon Issac Delgado Primary Artist 2001 Newman’s Own: Salsa Songs Primary Artist 2001 Trip Around the World, Vol. 2 Performer, Primary Artist 2000 Bailame, Vol. 2 Performer, Primary Artist 2000 Cuban Dancing Rhythms Composer 2000 Cuban Salsa Jam Composer 2000 Explosion Salsera Performer, Primary Artist 2000 La Formula Issac Delgado Composer, Primary Artist, Producer 2000 La Salsa de Cuba [Milan] Composer, Performer, Primary Artist 2000 La Vida Es un Carnaval Issac Delgado Primary Artist 2000 La Voz Romantico del Caribe Cheo Feliciano Primary Artist 2000 Latina Cafe Performer, Primary Artist 2000 Los Grandes Exitos de Isaac Delgado Issac Delgado Primary Artist 1999 100% Salsa, Vol. 2 Performer, Primary Artist 1999 40 Years of Cuban Music: La Isla del Son Composer, Performer, Primary Artist 1999 Cuba, I Am Time, Vol. 2: Cantar en Cuba Composer, Performer, Primary Artist 1999 Cuba, I Am Time, Vol. 3: Bailar con Cuba Performer, Primary Artist 1999 Cuban Salsa Jazz Composer 1999 Fuerte Navidad David Montes Unknown Contributor Role 1999 Havana Club: Son Puro Cubano Primary Artist 1999 Jazz Caliente Vocals 1999 Musica Popular Cubana Performer, Primary Artist 1999 RMM at the Movies Performer, Primary Artist 1999 Suave Que Me Estas Matando Performer, Primary Artist 1999 Tratame Como Soy Nora Guest Artist, Performer, Vocals 1999 Tropics for the World, Vol. 1 Performer, Primary Artist 1999 Tropics for the World, Vol. 2 Performer, Primary Artist 1998 104 Degrees Tropical Composer 1998 Afro Cuban Roots, Vol. 3: Cuba’s Big Bands Composer 1998 Authentic Salsa Composer, Performer, Primary Artist 1998 Combinacion Latina, Vol. 1 Performer, Primary Artist 1998 Cuba Today Composer 1998 Cuba! Cuba! Primary Artist 1998 Five Star Boleros Performer, Primary Artist 1998 Forbidden Pleasures & Treasures: Best Of Performer, Primary Artist 1998 Gracias, Formell! Performer, Primary Artist 1998 La Primera Noche: Desde Europa con Sabor Issac Delgado Composer, Primary Artist, Producer 1998 Rarities: Forbidden Cuba in the 90’s Issac Delgado Primary Artist 1998 Salsa Sensacion Performer, Primary Artist 1998 Salsarengue Hits Performer, Primary Artist 1998 Toda Cuba Baila con NG la Banda NG la Banda Voices 1997 Cuba Cuba Light, Vol. 2 Performer, Primary Artist 1997 Cuba: I Am Time Choir/Chorus, Composer, Performer, Primary Artist, Vocals 1997 Otra Idea Issac Delgado Primary Artist, Vocals 1997 RMM 10th Anniversary Collection, Vol. 7 Performer, Primary Artist 1997 RMM Salsa Video House Party Primary Artist 1997 Yo Soy del Son a La Salsa Performer, Primary Artist 1996 El Chevere de la Salsa/El Caballero del Son Issac Delgado Primary Artist, Vocals 1996 Havana Club: The Fever of the Salsa Dance Composer, Performer, Primary Artist 1996 Love Fever David Calzado Composer 1996 Made in Havana: Thirty Years of Cuban Rhythms [Nascente] Performer, Primary Artist 1996 Me Sube La Fiebre David Calzado Composer 1996 Palacio de la Salsa Performer, Primary Artist 1996 RMM Salsa Party Mix ’96 Performer, Primary Artist 1996 Ritmo de Salsa Pablo Milanés Unknown Contributor Role 1996 The Son, The Future Elena Burke Vocals 1995 Afro-Cuban Grooves Composer, Performer, Primary Artist 1995 Dando La Hora [Qbadisc] Issac Delgado Composer, Primary Artist, Vocals 1995 Dando La Hora [Spartacus] Issac Delgado Primary Artist, Vocals 1995 El Ano Que Viene Issac Delgado Director, Liner Notes, Mixing, Primary Artist, Producer 1995 Exitos De PM Records, Vol. 1: De Todo Para Bailar Composer, Performer, Primary Artist 1995 Exitos de PM Records: Vol. 1: De Todo Para Bailar Composer, Primary Artist 1995 Lo Mejor de Cesar Pedroso César Pedroso Performer, Primary Artist 1995 Salsa, Merengue, Mambo! Composer, Performer, Primary Artist 1995 Tumi Cuba Classics, Vol. 1 Composer, Primary Artist 1994 Con Ganas Issac Delgado Composer, Mixing, Primary Artist, Producer, Vocals 1992 Cuba Baila [Artex] Composer, Primary Artist 1992 En la Calle NG la Banda Vocals A Dream Come True Cubana All Stars Choir/Chorus, Vocals Beginner’s Guide To Timba: Salsa Cubana Primary Artist Cuba: Tremendo Ritmo Primary Artist Hola y Adios Issac Delgado Primary Artist Latin Master Series: The Essence of Bolero Trini Lopez Primary Artist Latina Fever, Vol. 6 Primary Artist Les Grands Classiques de La Musique Cubaine Primary Artist Patria y Bandera. Special Guest: Issac Delgado Rumbata Primary Artist Salsa Carnaval [Carnaval] Primary Artist Salsa: Un Homenaje a el Gran Combo El Gran Combo Primary Artist Simply Cuba: Los Soneros Primary Artist Super Salsa Summer 2012 Primary Artist