Category Archives: Obituaries

Pioneering South African Musician Johnny Clegg Dies at 66

Johnny Clegg

Johnny Clegg, a singer-songwriter and guitarist known for mixing Zulu music with Western influences, died on July 16, 2019 at his family home in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Clegg founded two highly influential interracial bands, Juluka with Sipho Mchunu and Savuka with Dudu Zulu.

Ms Beauty Dlulane, Chairperson of the the Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts and Culture at the South African Parliament stated: “Not too many people would have taken the stance Johnny took at the height of racial divisions in the country. He identified with the popular struggle for the emancipation of black people and with the values of a free society.”

“He also made an immeasurable contribution in the arts. We will certainly miss ‘the white Zulu’. The committee wishes that his spirit will live long among many in society,” Ms Dlulane said.

Johnny Clegg

Johnny leaves deep foot prints in the hearts of every person that considers him/herself to be an African,” said Roddy Quin, Manager, friend and family spokesman. “He showed us what it was to assimilate to and embrace other cultures without losing your identity. An anthropologist that used his music to speak to every person. With his unique style of music he traversed cultural barriers like few others. In many of us he awakened awareness. “

For more information, read Johnny Clegg’s artist profile.

Johnny Clegg’s family asked that donations be made to Adopt a Future Foundation instead of sending or laying flowers.

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João Gilberto, the Father of Bossa Nova Dies at 88

João Gilberto

Brazilian singer and vocalist João Gilberto died on Saturday, July 6th, 2019. Gilberto was one of the creators of bossa nova, a new musical genre that fused samba and jazz.

One of his biggest international hits was Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema), released in 1963 and covered numerous times by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Kenny G, Amy Winehouse, etc.

Two-time GRAMMY Award winner João Gilberto was a multi-talented singer, songwriter, and guitarist,” said
Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy and Gabriel Abaroa Jr., President/CEO of The Latin Recording Academy in a joint statement. “An architect of bossa nova music in his native Brazil, João’s innovative style and master musicianship helped turn the genre into a worldwide phenomenon. Maintaining an impressive career spanning several decades, he earned six GRAMMY nominations between 1964-2000, and, along with his musical partner Stan Getz, he took home the coveted Album Of The Year award for 1964’s breakthrough album Getz/Gilberto. That milestone recording and his classic “Chega De Saudade” have been inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. João will be missed, but his legacy will live on forever. Our sincerest condolences go out to his family, friends, and creative collaborators during this difficult time.”

For more information and discography visit João Gilberto’s Artist Profile.

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New Orleans Music Legend Dr. John Dies at 77

Dr. John

Influential New Orleans pianist and singer-songwriter Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John, died June 6, 2019 of a heart attack.

“Malcolm John Rebennack Jr.—known to most as Dr. John—was a radiant singer, songwriter, and pianist whose career in music made him a New Orleans icon and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy. “He earned 15 GRAMMY nominations and six GRAMMY Awards throughout his celebrated career, including Best Blues Album for his critically acclaimed 2012 album, Locked Down. His funky approach to blending musical styles and imaginative persona helped diversify the New Orleans Sound, which was on full display during an energetic performance with the Black Keys at the 55th GRAMMY Awards. This is a great loss for our industry and Dr. John will be deeply missed.”

For more information, read Dr. John’s Artist Profile.

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Timbales Maestro Ramon Banda Dies

Ramon Banda

American drummer and Latin Jazz timbalero Ramon Banda died May 30, 2019.

Ramon Banda was born and grew up in Norwalk, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. He was a well-known timbales master and jazz drummer.  He and his brother, bassist Tony Banda, started out playing as teens with conga maestro Poncho Sanchez. 

Ramon performed, recorded and toured with Poncho Sanchez for many years.  He later joined Jose Rizo’s Band Mongorama, a tribute to Mongo Santamaria. He also performed with Joey DeFranceso and Bill Cunliffe. Ramon participated in over 250 recordings, including several Grammy winning albums.

Ramon Banda

Ramon was also a chekere maker.

“Ramon Banda was a legendary timbalero,” says percussionist and band leader Les Moncada. “I was performing with my Latin Jazz Orchestra and as guests, Ramon on my right, Poncho on timbales in front of us and myself, Les Moncada on timbales. All of us performing and soloing Tito Puente‘s composition ‘Ran Kan Kan’. I can only say competition-wise, Ramon went on timbales from 0 to 100 mph in a second, I was more than amazed.” 

Les continues: “He visited me at my home, with the guys, Tony, Poncho, Sal, Papo Rodriguez. My orchestra opened for Poncho on several occasions and Ramon, Poncho, Tony and Sal Carrachiolo, we would perform together.

Ramon and the guys would come as guests with my orchestra.  I did a clinic with Ramon, Poncho and Tony in San Diego, California many moons ago.  He and Poncho and the guys, including David Romero, would frequent my late conguero friend Raul Garcia’s house and stay up all night talking about Latin music

My son Marco and I would speak to Ramon about gourds and chekeres and I believe Ramon has some chekeres submitted to the Smithsonian Institute

He used to tune my timbales for me, when he was around and we would talk about how we both idolized timbalero Manny Oquendo

Ramon told me that the first time he met Manny Oquendo, he kissed his hands out of respect for Manny Oquendo and his timbales playing style

Ramon Banda will be missed dearly, a maestro for timbales students worldwide for generations to come. He was a young guy in Norwalk, California that had the drive to play drum set and timbales, went on to assist in winning Grammys and performed and recorded with the late Cal Tjader.” 

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Samba Star Beth Carvalho Dies at 72

Beth Carvalho

Brazilian vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Beth Carvalho died April 30, 2019 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Elizabeth Santos Leal de Carvalho, better known as Beth Carvalho, was born May 5, 1946 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She was an influential samba artist.

“Beth Carvalho was a Brazilian samba singer, musician, and composer,” said Gabriel Abaroa Jr., President/CEO of the The Latin Recording Academy. “With a career that spanned 50 years filled with multiple acclaimed recordings, Carvalho was known as the “Godmother of Samba” and a historical figure in Brazilian culture.

In 2009 she was recognized with a Latin Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award and at the 13th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards she received a Latin GRAMMY for Best Samba/Pagode Album for Nosso Samba Tá Na Rua.

Carvalho helped bring underrated composers the recognition they deserved, becoming a driving force in the modernization of samba in the ’80s, while preserving its roots. As a philanthropist and activist, she founded various schools to teach samba and used her lyrics to bring awareness of social issues such as poverty and indigenous rights. Our deepest condolences to her family, friends and music lovers during this difficult time.”

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Traditional Breton Singer Yann-Fañch Kemener Dies at 61

Yann-Fañch Kemener

Yann-Fañch Kemener, an influential Breton folk music singer died on March 16, 2019.  He was involved in the revival of a Breton style called Kan ha diskan.

Yann-Fañch Kemener was born April 7, 1957 in Sainte-Tréphine (Côtes-d’Armor), in the heart of Brittany’s Fañch region (France). He grew up in a family of singers and dancers.

Breton was his mother tongue and the transmission was done naturally. At four, he participated in his first fest-noz (Breton night festival) and his first performance on stage was at 15, encouraged by Albert Boloré.

Influenced by the great voices of elders like Mrs. Bertrand, Yann-Fañch performed gwerz (Breton epic folk songs) and other styles at fest-noz events, together with artists such as Marcel Guilloux, Erik Marchand, and Ifig Troadec.

He recorded Deep Songs of Brittany Vol. 1, including the Skolvan Ballade, Gousperrou ar ranned and La Grande Passion. In 1982, the Charles-Cros academy gave him the Grand Prix Heritage for the three album series Deep Songs of Brittany.

In 1988, he founded the influential group Barzaz with Gilles Le Bigot (guitars), Jean-Michel Veillon (flutes), Alain Genty (bass) and David Hopkins (percussion). It became one of the legendary bands of Breton music.

In 1991, he recorded the album Kerzh ‘Ba’ n Dañs’ with the group Skolvan. Later, he met Didier Squiban with whom he recorded three albums, creating a new genre called “gwerz de chambre” (chamber gwerz).

In the early 2000s, Yann-Fañch started a duet with cellist Aldo Ripoche.

In 2010, he was awarded the Knight Medal of the Order of Arts and Letters in 2015.

In 2016, he put together another band, along with Erwann Tobie and Heikki Bourgault under the name Yann-Fañch Kemener Trio. The intention was to entertain the fest-noz.

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Malian Singer Sali Sidibé Dies at 59

Sali Sidibé

Malian vocalist Sali Sidibé died on February 8, 2019 in Bamako at the age of 59. She was a significant artist from the Wassulu region of Mali.

Born in 1959, Sali Sidibé began her professional music career with an album released in 1980 titled L’enfant chéri du Wassolon (The Darling Child of Wassolon), with vocals in Bambara. Wassoulou Foli (Sterns), produced by Ibrahima Sylla, was her first album widely distributed internationally.

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Celebrated Kenyan Musician Ayub Ogada Dies at 63

Ayub Ogada – Photo by Andrew Caitlin

Kenyan musician Ayub Ogada, a virtuoso nyati player, died on Friday, February 1st, 2019. He was 63.

Ayub Ogada, respect Wuod Luo! You are the reason I picked up Nyatiti. Thank you for sharing this fantastic 8 strings instrument with the world. I celebrate you! Rest in Power,” said Kenyan musican Suzanna Owiyo.

In a testimonial, famed vocalist and world music producer Peter Gabriel said: “I was very upset to learn of Ayub Ogada’s death tonight. His was a prodigious talent and when he was on he could mesmerise anyone and everyone within his range with his sensitive and melodic Nyatiti playing, accompanying that legendary gentle and hypnotic voice.

“In the early days of WOMAD and Real World Records many people weren’t interested to listen to music from other cultures and whenever I was trying to convince them I would play Ayub singing ‘Kothbiro’ and invariably win them round.

“It was always a pleasure making music with him and getting to feel that warm sensitive and musical intelligence at work. We will all miss him greatly.

Read more about Ayub Ogada.

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Steelpan Maestro Cliff Alexis Dies

Cliff Alexis

Steelpan master and educator Cliff Alexis died on January 29, 2019.

Cliff Alexis was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1937.  He started playing steelpan at age 14 in various steel bands in the St. James/Woodbrook area.  From 1951 to 1964, Alexis performed in various steel bands such as Trinidad Triopoli, Stereo-Phonics, Invaders and Hit Paraders.  In 1964, Alexis traveled to the United States as a member of the National Steelband of Trinidad and Tobago. He toured the Caribbean, South America, Africa, Europe and the United States with the ensemble.

After the tour, Alexis moved to the United States in 1965.  In Brooklyn, New York, he arranged for BWIA Sunjets, and performed with his own band called Cliff Alexis Trinidad Troubadours.

Alexis was hired by St. Paul Public School District 625 in the state of Minnesota for 12 years, where he worked as a steelband director and tuner.  On two occasions, Alexis received the prestigious Minneapolis/St. Paul “Outstanding Black Musician” award.

In 1985, he joined the staff of the Northern Illinois University School of Music.  Together with Al O’Connor, he created steelpan studies program where students could major in steelpan as a primary instrument.  His responsibilities included maintaining and upgrading the school’s large inventory of steel pans, arranging, composing and co-directing the NIU Steelband with Liam Teague.

He was the recipient of numerous awards from the Percussive Arts Society, Pan Trinbago, Trinidad and Tobago Folk Arts Institute, Northern Illinois University and others. Additionally, he was inducted into the Sunshine Hall of Fame with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.  In 2011, Alexis was featured in the film titled “Hammer and Steel” produced by the University of Akron and Public Broadcasting System (PBS).

In November, 2013, Alexis was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame. 

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World Music Network Founder Phil Stanton Dies

Phil Stanton and Debashish Bhattacharya

The US-publicist for British world music company World Music Network reported the passing this month of producer and entrepreneur Phil Stanton, co-founder of World Music Network. No further details are available at this time.

UK-based World Music Network was founded in 1994 by husband and wife team, Phil Stanton and Colombian native Sandra Alayón-Stanton. Previously, Phil had set up Riverboat Records, envisioned in 1989 on a leaky barge afloat the Grand Union Canal in London.

World Music Network includes a world music website and four record labels: Riverboat Records, Rough Guides, Introducing and Think Global. The goal is to carry on introducing new listeners to the vast array of glorious global sounds.

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