Hard Pass - Robert Figueroa

Nabori Nation had the opportunity to sit with Robert Figueroa lead vocalist and for Nabori. We asked him a few questions. Robert is one of the original founding members and the composer for Nabori which is now in its 10th year of existence:




NN: Good morning Robert; were you born and raised in Milwaukee?  

RF: Good morning, No. I was born in New London, Connecticut and I was raised in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. 24th Street in the Alturas de Flamboyan neighborhood.


NN:What person or event ignited your interest in music? What person or event drew your interest to Salsa music?

RF: My father Pablo Figueroa who had been a band leader in the Connecticut / New York area was my first inspiration and teacher. As a 7 or 8 year old I was the family’s official bongocero. I grew up admiring the musicians in my family such as my father and my Uncle Joe who is one of the most incredible timbaleros I have ever heard.  I was, as a youngster, a fan of the old Puerto Rican and Cuban bands such as Arsenio, Cortijo y su Combo, Tito Rodriguez, and Benny More. But in my teens, my heart and soul was taken over by Salsa and the great Soneros of the day. Hector Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Miranda, and Chamaco Ramirez. And that’s when I started singing!


NN:What is the first Salsa record/cut you remember hearing or buying?

RF: Living in Puerto Rico in the 70’s makes it hard to pin point the 1st cut I heard since Salsa was everywhere, but the 1st  Salsa album I bought was “Asi Se Compone un Son” Ismael Miranda y Su Orquesta Revelacion; 1973. I saved up the $3.15 and bought it at the neighborhood pharmacy (Farmacia Arlivon). The cut “Ahora Si” was my favorite. That album just brought together the foundation of the Cuban son and guaracha with the aggressive Salsa vibe. Perfect!


NN: The Robert Figueroa fantasy salsa band includes yourself and which other salsa musicians (dead or alive)?  

RF: The Robert Figueroa Salsa band would consist of:

 Pedrito Perez on bass

 Papo Lucca on Piano

 Papo Pepin on Congas

 The late Manolito Gonzales on Bongos

 Tito de Gracia on Timbales

 Ellut Cintron on trombone

 Cesar "Albondiga" Monges on Trombone

 Beto Tirado on baritone sax

 Chocolate Armenteros on Trumpet

 Luis Perico Ortiz on Trumpet and as Musical Director


NN: Who’s on Coros?

RF: The late Yayo El Indio, with Pichie Perez and Luisito Carrion


NN: What has been your favorite Nabori gig so far and why? 

RF: For me, so far, I would have to say our 1st performance at Chicago Summerdance in Grant Park. Even though the band has changed dramatically in content and personnel, it was one of our first performances as a band in Chicago and the response was overwhelming. The energy from that greatly diverse crowd was very special. 


NN: What Salsa singer (dead or alive) would you love to sit  and share your favorite drink with? What would you talk about?

RF: Without a doubt I would love to share a Bacardi and Coke with the one and only Hector La Voe. The Willie Colon band was on the forefront of the Salsa explosion of the 70’s but it was Hector’s powerful, effortless voice that peaked my interest.  The conversation would be one sided; I would ask him to tell me his best stories about the recording sessions, the band’s road trips, etc… I would then ask him if he would change anything about his life; I suspect he wouldn’t change a thing. 


NN: In your opinion the “Mount Rushmore” of Salsa includes which four bands?

RF1. El Gran Combo; Willie Rosario y su Orquesta, Bobby Valentin, and La Sonora Poncena; 


NN: 2015 marks Nabori's 10th year of existence. What does Nabori mean to you? 

RF: 10 years of Nabori. Wow! I first have to say that this thing we call Nabori has been possible because of the work and sacrifice of many people involved;  Most of all my family which has allowed me to participate in this project.  I would be remiss if I did not thank my brother Wichy Ayala for the passion he brings to the band every single day. To me Nabori has been a vehicle through which I have been able to express myself and show pride in my culture. I truly feel that Nabori has been the catalyst for new Salsa music in this region of the country. Nabori is a significant part of my life. It has brought significant joy and a sense of accomplishment; even though we have much more work to do…


NN: Thank you Robert for giving us a few minutes of your time today. Good luck in 2015!

RF: I thank you!