Artist Essentials

Yomo Toro

Arguably the biggest selling Salsa Christmas album, ever, is Fania’s “Asalto Navideño” by Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe. Much of the success of this album can be attributed to the dynamic performances by Yomo Toro and his cuatro; a ten-stringed guitar recognized as the national instrument of Puerto Rico, which Yomo plays left-handed. He learned to play the cuatro from his father who had formed a small band with relatives and travelled around the island of Puerto Rico.
When Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe decided to produce Asalto Navideño they planned including the guitar music so relished by boricuas during the weeks of the parranda festivities, leading up to La Navidad, and the honoring of ‘El Dia de los Reyes” or Three Kings Day, which is traditionally celebrated throughout Latin America.
But, as Yomo has stated, they wanted to use an electric guitar to sound Santana-like. But Yomo arrived at the studio with his cuatro hung over his back. Upon his arrival, Johnny Pacheco, who was directing the recording replied “Ha! Who are you coming to record with, Ramito?” Pacheco was referring to historic recordings by Yomo and time-honored aguinaldo singers Ramito and Odilio Gonzalez and what was typically recognized as jibaro music.
Yomo recalled that at the end of the recording session Willie came over and said “Never in my life have I had such a happy time as this. I think this will be a big hit.” And it became one of Fania’s greatest hits; a standard forever as Yomo recollected “because it is one of those records that when people break, they buy another one to replace it.” The album’s success led to sequels in 1973 and 1979 with Yomo recording along with vocalists Hector Lavoe and Daniel Santos.
By the mid-sixties Yomo had become very popular and recorded with several Fania artists including the iconic Fania All Stars in addition to Trio Los Panchos, Eydie Gorme and several well-known trio ensembles. Yomo’s music was included in Woody Allen’s “Bananas” movie and also in recordings by Linda Ronstadt as well as children’s shows like Dora The Explorer. In the late sixties, Yomo hosted “El Show De Yomo Toro” on New York’s Spanish Channel 41 which made him a fan favorite.
This writer had the honor of producing a Christmas album by Yomo and Puerto Rican vocalist Miguelito Poventud in the early seventies. As soon as Yomo stepped into the studio it became a joyous occasion. He was truly loved and respected, and his funny tales kept the mood light. When I mentioned to Yomo that I had to complete this recording in time for the holiday season he replied, “Send out for a bottle of rum for the boys and we’ll finish this album tonight”; which we did.
Yomo was born Victor Guillermo Toro Vega Ramos Rodríguez Acosta, on July 26, 1933, in the town of Ensenada in Puerto Rico. He died at the age of 78, in The Bronx, having suffered from kidney failure. Puerto Rican writer/performer Aurora Flores has said,”Yomo brought that salt-of-the-earth jibaro mind-set to music and taught us to be proud of our culture.” Thank you Yomo Toro for making us proud.