(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba – Cuban musician Compay Segundo, who became a worldwide celebrity in his 90s, is now seriously ill, the office in charge of his affairs confirmed to Prensa Latina Tuesday. Less than a month ago this office acknowledge Compay’s ill health, although at that time, his son Salvador Repilado said it was nothing to be worried about and that his doctor recommended he take some rest. However, Compay’s kidney ailments intensified, and the artist had to cancel contracts and presentations abroad. Now he is in his home in Miramar, Havana, scented by the smell of tropical fruits and vegetables coming from the eastern region of Cuba, which he always has at his table.
In December 2002, a Prensa Latina reporter talked to him in Mexico City, where he spent a little time before heading to the Guadalajara International Book Fair. Later he went back to Mexico in February 2003 and had the National Auditorium at his feet, just as in every other place in the world where he has performed. Máximo Francisco Repilado Muñoz, the birth name of Compay Segundo, displayed his personal humor and the music he wrote on that occasion, and assured he had more songs ready to record in a new album, and that he expected to live for many years, “100 years at least, and then, ask for some extra time.” Maybe to get married again, and between jokes, he assured he was looking for a beautiful woman to seduce.
In his home in Miramar, he celebrated the triumph for the nomination of his CD Las Flores de la Vida to a Grammy Award in 2002, in the category of Best Tropical Album. He held that CD as particularly intimate, because it constituted a sort of tribute to himself. “Everybody has their special moments in life, but it is important to always be aware of them, so as not to lose them. For instance, mine came when I was in my 90’s.”
Born in the small mining town of Siboney, in the eastern Province of Santiago de Cuba, he has always preserved his faithfulness to customs and traditions from his birthplace. An addict of Creole dishes, he always celebrates New Year Eve with the traditional pork meat and green banana chips along with a good drink of “aguardiente” liquor and a cigar as a final touch.
Compay is a nickname taken from the popular greeting among the natives of the eastern part of Cuba, especially those living in Santiago de Cuba. He still keeps his eastern melodic accent with strong reminiscence of the vocabulary inherited from Spain. A tobacco roller himself, but with music still attracting him like a magnet, Compay worked with other famous Cuban musicians such as Ñico Saquito, with whom he formed a quintet, and Miguel Matamoros, who was “a striking mestizo with Carlos Gardel’s looks.” “Matamoros was the king of Cuban son -Compay said recently- and that’s why I joined his group.” In 1995, Compay recorded an anthology of his songs with Spanish producer Santiago Auserón, among them his hits “Macusa” and “Chan Chan.” Later, he took part in the Buena Vista Social Club project, sponsored by Cuban Juan de Marcos Gonzalez and US guitarist and record producer Ry Cooder. His charisma and the quality of songs did the rest. Compay Segundo is an idol, but more important than that, he has never lost his personal modesty.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.