Home - NewsletterEditor's PicksPower SearchCategory SearchArtist SearchJournal ArchivesGlossaryContributorsAbout Descarga



Soulful Panamanian-born sonero, now residing in Cali, Colombia.

Profile by John Child (


Gabino Lazo Espinosa, 19 July '49, Concepción, Panamá; father Nicaraguan, mother Panamanian) Sonero (improvising salsa singer), coming forward just as the art seemed to be dying, and described by UK broadcaster Tomek as a "gravelly, soulful, intimate, tasty, sassy panameño. His albums show he has learnt well from the consummate vision of Hernán Gutiérrez." Pampini's interest in singing began at the age of seven, performing waltzes and rancheras at school; also played guitar. Worked with groups Mozambique, Cofradía and Roberto y su Zafra. Made recording debut '66 with El Combo Impacto, with whom he had the hit "La Luna Y El Toro". Songs he recorded with Roberto y su Zafra and El Combo Impacto were later collected on Otra Vez...Gabino Pampini '88 on Victoria.

He relocated to Costa Rica, where he joined the group Caribú, and travelled to the US with them. There the Colombian timbalero Alex Léon (a member of Orquesta Inmensidad before launching his bandleading career with the notable Aquí De Nuevo '84 on Race Records; a "best of" of Léon's material is available on 15 Años de Oro '00 on Max) recommended Pampini to the extraordinary Colombian pianist, arr., composer and flautist Hernán Gutiérrez, who played and arr. for Fruko y sus Tesos in the '70s, appearing on that band's El Violento '73 and El Caminante '74, both on Colombia's Fuentes label.

Pampini took up residence in Miami, where he sang lead vocals on half of Gutiérrez's Y Ahora...La Tremenda Salsa De Hernán Gutiérrez y su Orquesta '80 on Common Cause Records (reissued in Colombia as La Hermandad Latina '86 on Codiscos under Pampini's name) and shared lead vocals with Cuban Israel "Kantor" Sardiñas (ex-Los Van Van) and Colombian Oscar Alberto Abueta on Gutiérrez's classic Con Sacrificio '84 on Martínez Records, definitely one of the most outstanding salsa albums of the '80s.

Gutiérrez died soon after his masterpiece, but Pampini perpetuated his original sound as a solo artist backed by his group Fuerza Noble, co-led by bassist, arr. and composer Ricardo Lance (from Barranquilla, Colombia), and made three albums with them on Mercy Records in Miami '87-88, all titled Fuerza Noble. The Fuerza Noble album trilogy spawned a series of notable hits in Colombia: "A Nuestro Modo" from volume one, "Cuerpo de Guitarra" and the bolero "Ilusión" from volume two, and "Gotitas de Dolor" and "Me Cai de la Nube" from the third album. Fuerza Noble's line-up comprised of two-three trombones, two trumpets, rhythm section (conga, bongo, timbales, bass and piano) and voices, incl. ex-Sonora Ponceña lead singer Yolanda Rivera in the chorus.

In '90 his patronage by Colombia's salsa audience was consolidated there and in Colombian enclaves abroad with the monster hit "Mi Vecina," a track he recorded in Colombia as a guest on Frivolo '89 on Codiscos by Grupo Galé (led by percussionist, arr., composer, singer and prod. Diego Galé). Also in '90 Pampini made Las Aventuras Musicales de...Gabino Pampini on TH-Rodven (now Rodven/ PolyGram Latino) in Miami. His Con Mas Fuerza '92 was recorded in Bogotá on Colombian BMG/ RCA. He made Colombia his home, taking up residence in Cali.

The essential 2-disc set 20 Exitos de Gabino Pampini '00 on DM Productions compiles his hits with El Combo Impacto and Grupo Galé, together with tracks from both Hernán Gutiérrez albums, his trio of Fuerza Noble releases (incl. most of the aforementioned hits) and Las Aventuras Musicales .

Gabino resurfaced '97 as a house singer with Fuentes, contributing lead vocals to La Sabrosura's Tango, Salsa y Arrabal '97 (well executed salsa interpretations of tangos), one track on Renaciendo '97 (aka De Nuevo ) by The Latin Brothers and several cuts on La Sonora Carruseles' Heavy Salsa '98 (aka Al Son de los Cueros!!! ). He resumed his solo recording career on Fuentes '98 with Gabino Pampini En Blanco , an homage to Venezuelan sextet Los Blanco, followed by A Lo Billo's '99, in tribute to Venezuela's legendary Billo's Caracas Boys, both co-prod. by Diego Galé. These two porro/ paseaíto/ cumbia oriented projects wasted Gabino's forte for straight-ahead salsa. However Fuentes made amends with the excellent and highly recommended El Sonero: Mis Problemas '00, allowing him to co-prod., co-arr. and contribute eight of his own compositions to the project. The remaining six tracks were masterly covers of Ismael Rivera classics, to which Pampini's voice is particularly suited.

He continued providing lead vocals to Fuentes productions, incl. Tributo a Tite Curet: Salsa de Barrio '99 (interpreting the Ismael Rivera hits "Las Caras Lindas" and "De Todas Maneras Rosas"), The Latin Brothers' Lo Más Sabroso...La Salsa '99 (three cuts), La Sonora Carruseles' Con Todos Los Hierros: Salsa Brava '00 (two tracks) and Power Salsa '00 by Fruko Y Sus Tesos (three cuts).

Fuentes compiled the Pampini song tracks from the '97 La Sabrosura and Latin Brothers albums together with remakes of his earlier Colombian hits with Fuerza Noble and Grupo Galé on the recommended Vuelva La Salsa '98. The collection Greatest Hits/ Grandes Exitos '00 on Fuentes recycles five tracks from Vuelva La Salsa plus two tracks from La Sonora Carruseles' Heavy Salsa , four from En Blanco and one from La Nueva Sonora Matancera's La Nueva Sonora Matancera Con La Chola Zenide '99 on Fuentes/ Paramusica.

In addition to receiving honours in Perú, Panamá and Colombia, he won Best Salsa Vocalist '89 in Tenerife, Spain. He has also participated in the Festival of Orchestras at Barranquilla Carnival on a number of occasions.

-This is a significantly revised version of one of over 130 Latin music entries written by John Child ( for The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2nd Edition, edit. Donald Clarke; Penguin Books; 1998; 1524 pages; US$22.95, UK£16.99.

They are published on the Descarga website by kind permission of Mr. Donald Clarke.

[Home] [Editor's Picks] [Power Search] [Category Search]
[Artist Search] [Journal Archives] [Glossary]
[Meet The Writers] [About Descarga]

© Copyright 2015, All rights reserved.
Use of any editorial content and/or images originating from this website
is strictly prohibited without the expressed permission of