Category Archives: Obituaries

Award-Winning Czech Fiddler Jitka Šuranská Dies at 41

Czech Violinist and winner of three Anděl Awards, Jitka Šuranská passed away on Monday, October 28, 2019 after a severe cancer illness.

Jitka Šuranská had been actively involved in music since her childhood. She played traditional folk music for ten years with the Dulcimer ensemble of Stanislav Gabriel. Jitka also devoted herself to classical music. She was a member of the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic in Zlín.

The meeting with musician and journalist Jiří Plock was essential for her. Together they recorded “Písňobraní” (i.e. Song-gathering) for which they won the Anděl Award in 2005. In 2012, Jitka Šuranská moved on. She bought a Loop Station and started playing and singing solo. This was followed by cooperation with the Slovak trio Pacora, producer Stan Palúch, and in 2013 the first solo album “Nězachoď slunečko”. She received the second Anděl Award in the World Music category for her album.

Jitka Šuranská

In 2014 she fulfilled her dream of having her own band. “What more could I have wished for – the Jitka Šuranská Trio,” she said on her website. In 2016, the debut album of the trio called Divé husy (i.e. Wild Geese) was released. In the same year, she began to cooperate with the Women’s Choir of Kudlovice.

She won the last Anděl Award in 2017 for a music project with the eponymous album name Beránci a vlci (i.e. Lambs and Wolves). This happened in the Folk category. Together with her trio, it was awarded to the Women’s Choir of Kudlovice, the Association of Independent Jazz Artists and the Beskydy band RukyNaDudy.

Czech record label Indiescope stated in a press release: “The passing of the energetic musician, who was breaking the borders of folk music and pushed it into new spheres, is an irreplaceable loss not only for the Moravian music scene.”

headline photo: Jitka Šuranská in 2015 – Photo by Barka Fabianova

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Latin Jazz Maestro Ray Santos Dies at 90

Ray Santos receiving an honorary doctorate of music at the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest on March 20, 2016. From left: Luis Alvarez, producer of the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFestwell; Ray Santos; and Darla Hanley, dean of the Professional Education Division at Berklee College of Music. Photo by Joe Colón.

Musician and composer Ray Santos died October 17, 2019.

Ray Santos was born December 28, 1928 in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. Known as “El Maestro” by his fans and fellow musicians, was a leading expert on Afro-Caribbean music. His Juilliard School training allowed him to cross borders with success, honesty and class. Over his 90 years, Santos became a legend in the world of Latin music and left a deep-rooted mark with his artistry. The Latin Recording Academy honored him with 2011 Board of Trustees’ Award.

Known for the layered complexity of his arrangements, for more than 50 years, Santos performed, composed, and arranged for leading Latin music orchestras, including the legendary ensembles of Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez, Mario Bauzá, and Machito.  He was also essential in albums recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Eddie Palmieri and Paquito D’Rivera, to name a few. In addition, he was a respected professor of music at the City College of New York, where he taught for nearly 30 years and directed the college’s Latin band.

We are forever thankful to the amazing gentleman Mr. Ray Santos, who was also committed to music education, fostering the next generation of music makers,” said Gabriel Abaroa Jr., President/CEO of The Latin Recording Academy. “His legacy lives on in his music and the hearts of our music community, forever inspired by his commitment and remarkable craft.  Our hearts go to his family during this difficult time.”

 Ray Santos received an honorary doctorate of music on March 20, 2016.

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Egyptian Percussion Master Hossam Ramzy Dies at 65

Hossam Ramzy

ARC Music announced today that Egyptian percussionist and composer Hossam Ramzy passed away on Tuesday, September 10th September 2019. He was 65. Hossam was undergoing treatment for a heart condition in Brazil, though the condition was very advanced.

Known as Egypt’s Ambassador of Rhythm, Hossam succeeded in injecting Egyptian rhythms into multiple projects. Hossam Ramzy worked with Jimmy Page & Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Shakira, Ricky Martin and A.R. Rahman, appeared on recordings by Peter Gabriel and Jay-Z, and composed music for numerous films.

Throughout the last three decades, Hossam traveled the world, educating in the art of true Egyptian dance. His concepts of dance and rhythm helped tens-of-thousands of dancers and percussionists perfect their techniques. During this time, he also found the time to release over thirty albums of Egyptian dance and world music, and produce countless more for artists from all around the world.

More about Hossam Ramzy .

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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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