Category Archives: Obituaries

Celia Cruz, the Queen of Salsa Dies at 77

Celia Cruz
New Jersey, USA – Celia Cruz, the most popular salsa singer, died from cancer this afternoon at 5 p.m. EST at her home in New Jersey, with her husband, trumpet player Pedro Knight, and family friends, by her side.

Celia Cruz had been in a coma since Tuesday, July 15.

On December 5th of 2002, the 77 year old singer, was hospitalized in New York. She underwent surgery to alleviate a brain injury that affected her nervous system. Celia Cruz was released a week later. Her physician advised her to take 2-3 months to rest and limit all of her engagements during that time.

Celia Cruz was known as the Guarachera de Cuba. A native of Cuba, Cruz was the legendary queen of salsa. Her more than 50 CDs showcased her talent, intensity and determination. Cruz’s fans reach over four generations breaking down racial and cultural barriers. She collaborated with an eclectic group of musicians, ranging from Puerto Rican salsa and Latin jazz celebrity Tito Puente to pop star David Byrne.

In a field so powerfully dominated by male singers and musicians alike, Celia Cruz won global recognition, numerous tributes, a Yale University doctorate, the admiration of her peers, a Hollywood star, a Grammy, a statue in the famous Hollywood wax museum, movie and theater appearances, the key to numerous cities, and the key to the hearts of music lovers everywhere.

Read more about Celia Cruz and her discography.


Cuban Multi-Instrumentalist Tito Duarte Dies in Spain

Madrid, Spain – The Spanish Performing Rights Society (Sociedad General de Autores y Editores – SGAE) reported today that Cuban composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Tito Duarte died yesterday at age 57 at the Hospital Reina Sofía in Córdoba (Andalusia, southern Spain).

He was the son of legendary Cuban pianist and composer Ernesto Duarte, and was in the Andalusian city working on a show titled Sueños de ida y vuelta (Dreams of Come and Go) by flamenco guitarist Víctor Monge “Serranito”, programmed for today at Córdoba’s world famous guitar festival, Festival de Guitarra de Córdoba. In this regard, and as a tribute, his fellow musicians have decided to continue with the project. There is also a recording project, with the same title, that will be released by the Factoría Autor label, owned by the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE). Similarly, Factoría Autor was working this month on what was going to be the new recording by Tito Duarte, La herencia del viejo sabor (The Legacy of the Old Flavor),in which the multifaceted artist had intended to recover old songs from popular cuban music canciones de la música popular Cuban music such as Suavecito (M. Luna), La María (Saumell), Buena Vista Social Club (Israel López “Cachao”), Para Vigo me voy (Lecuona), Mambo in Sax (Pérez Prado), Mambo In (Mario Bauzá) or Como fue (Ernesto Duarte).

Factoría Autor has confirmed today its intention to finish the CD project “as the best tribute we can pay. Most of the songsd are already recorded, as well as Tito Duarte’s performances and arrangements”.
Many well known artists participate on La herencia del viejo sabor, such as Luis Dulzaides, Víctor Merlo, Horacio Icasto and Jorge Pardo, as well as singers such as Miguel Bosé, Moncho and Ángela Carrasco. The album was being recorded at the Sonoland studios in Madrid, produced by Julio Palacios and Luis Miguel Fernández.

Duarte toured Latin America recently with Miguel Bosé, a Latin pop star.


Cuban Music Legend Compay Segundo Dies at 95

Compay Segundo in Raleigh - Photo by Angel Romero
Compay Segundo in Raleigh – Photo by Angel Romero

Havana, Cuba – Legendary Cuban musician and composer Compay Segundo died on Sunday, July 13th in Havana, Cuba. Details about his death were not available, but as World Music Central reported on July 9th, he was seriously ill as his kidney ailments intensified, and the artist had to cancel contracts and presentations abroad.

Máximo Francisco Repilado Muñoz was born in the small mining town of Siboney, in the eastern Province of Santiago de Cuba.

According to the Spanish Performing Society (Sociedad General de Autores y Editores -SGAE), Compay Segundo had 129 songs registered with them, many of which have now become classics. Compay Segundo wrote very popular songs such as Chan Chan, which became a hymn to several generations of Cuban musicians. He also wrote Amor de loca juventud, Balcón de Santiago, Calderito de tomar café, Sarandonga, Se secó el arroyito and Sabroso.

For a detailed look at Compay Segundo’s life and discography, visit World Music Central’s profile of the Cuban musician: Compay Segundo.


Jazz/Bossa Nova Great Herbie Mann Dies at 73

Jazz flutist Herbie Mann died late Tuesday at his home in Pecos, New Mexico, near Santa Fe. At 73, Mann succumbed after a long battle with prostate cancer according to his family.

Known throughout the jazz and world music scenes for bridging multicultural musical styles, Mann popularized the Bossa Nova for the American audience and adoring fans worldwide. Mann was devoted to incorporating such diverse styles as African, Brazilian, Middle Eastern and Japanese into his music, as well as mixing in American soul and blues. Mann leaves behind a wealth of music with recordings such as African Suite, Brasil, Bossa Nova & Blues, Latin Mann, Memphis Two Step and his last CD Eastern European Roots, released three years ago in 2000.

Herbie Mann played with stellar musicians like Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji and Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes. He was also known for having an eye for up and coming musicians like Chick Corea and Roy Ayers. With his own label Kokopelli, Mann put out more than 100 albums.

Herbie Mann is survived by his wife, Susan; sons, Paul and Geoff; and daughters Claudia and Laura. Private ceremonies will be held on Sunday.


Guinean Sax Master Momo “Wandel” Soumah Died June 15

Momo “Wandel” Soumah
Momo “Wandel” Soumah
Guinea – Sunday, June 15, Momo “Wandel” Soumah, musical director of the troupe Circus Baobab, died. The Guinean singer, composer, and alto saxophonist was considered one of the greatest saxophonists in Africa.

Momo Wandel was very influenced by jazz luminaries such as Coltrane, Parker and Coleman. He mixed jazz and traditional music from the lower coast of Guinea (the Soussou and the Baga). Endowed with has superb voice Wandel surrounded himself with a highly talented group of traditional musicians. His band’s line-up included bala player Khali Camara, the flutist Mamady Mansare, Sékou “Kora” Kouyaté (former director of Myriam Makeba’s band), and master drummers Aboubacar Camara and Aly Sylla (soloists of the National Percussion of Guinea).

In 2002 Momo Wandel Soumah was nominated for the BBC World Music Listeners Award.


Legendary Cuban Musician René Touzet Dies

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Miami, USA – Legendary Cuban musician René Touzet, one of the greatest authors of Spanish American popular music died in Miami, United States, at the age of 86, the relatives reported Tuesday. The creator of songs such as “La Noche de Anoche” and “Estuve Pensando,” died from a heart attack and his daughter Nilda Touzet found him dead early Sunday, his wife Merci Remos said. The creative ability of the composer, pianist and orchestra director had no limits and brought together the greatest musicians of his time from including Olga Guillot, Frank Sinatra and Lucho Gatica. Touzet was born in 1917 in Cojímar, Cuba and his music work covers about 500 songs and more than 20 albums, with melodies immortalized by other celebrities such as Bing Crosby, Pedro Vargas, Toña la Negra, Bola de Nieve and Elena Burke. He composed along with his orchestra in 1937, “No te importe saber”, a forerunner to the “feeling” movement in the 50’s and 60’s in Cuba, made popular later by Sinatra under the title “Let Me Love You Tonight.” His songs “La noche de anoche”, “Cada vez más”, “Anoche aprendí” and “Estuve pensando” are part of an entire period of romantic music in Cuba.

His international fame was marked by the spreading of mambo and “Afro-Cuban jazz” in California, in 1946, with Enric Madriguera’s Orchestra. After forming an orchestra with Pete Candoli, Bob Cooper and Art Pepper, he successfully recorded 10 albums for US producer Gene Norman between 1956 and 1966.

Touzet left Cuba in 1960 and after living in Mexico City, San Francisco and New York, he settled in Miami where since 1988 he organized concerts. His daughters Nilda, Olivia and Olga María, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren survived him. His funeral is expected to take place Wednesday, after a mass.


Brazilian Samba Fusion Pioneer Itamar Assumpção Died June 11

São Paulo, Brazil – World music fans are mourning the loss of Itamar Assumpção, who lost his battle with intestinal cancer on Wednesday, June 11, 2003 at the age of 53. Mr. Assumpção struggled for more than four years with the disease and chose to leave the hospital for the comforts of home care.

Best known for mixing samba with rock, funk and reggae, Mr. Assumpção recorded seven albums in the course of his career. His last album PretoBrás was released in 1998. His music struck a chord with artists such as Monica Salmaso, Zelia Duncan Ná Ozzetti, Cássia Eller and Rita Lee, who rerecorded songs by Assumpção.Born José Itamar de Assumpção, in Tietê in 1949, Mr. Assumpção is survived by his wife and daughters, Anelis and Serena, both who share their father’s passion for music and are singers themselves.


Flamenco Singer “Chaquetón” Dies of Cancer

Madrid, Spain – José Antonio Díaz Fernández, known as “Chaquetón,” one of Madrid’s best-known flamenco singers, died of cancer in a Madrid hospital. He was 58.

Born in 1945 in the southern town of Algeciras, he was part of a dynasty of flamenco singers called “los chaqueta,” (the jackets). He was the son of El Flecha de Cádiz, nephew of Tomás El Chaqueta, Antonio El Chaqueta, Adela La Chaqueta, El Chaleco and Salvador Pantalón; and brother of El Flecha.Chaquetón began his career as a child, singing in the bar owned by his father, el Flecha de Cadiz. Later in his career, he performed with other famous flamenco singers, including the legendary Camarón de la Isla.

He is survived by his wife, flamenco dancer Lina Fonteboa.


Drumming Legend Babatunde Olatunji Died Sunday

Babatunde Olatunji
Babatunde Olatunji
Los Angeles, California – Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji passed away Sunday, April 6th, at a hospital in Salinas, California, with his family by his side.

Born and raised in Nigeria, Olatunji was educated at Morehouse College in Atlanta and the New York University Graduate School. In 1959, Columbia Records released Olatunji’s first album, Drums of Passion, which became an unprecedented, across-the-board smash hit. Drums of Passion was the first album to bring African music to Western ears.

Olatunji’s dedication to the preservation and communication of African culture led him to establish the Olatunji Center of African Culture in the heart of Harlem.

In the 1990s, Olatunji was a founding member of Planet Drum, a drums and percussion ensemble that included world renowned musicians from India, South America, the Caribbean and the United States.


Famed Neapolitan Singer Roberto Murolo Dies

Naples, Italy – Neapolitan singer and legend, Roberto Murolo, died Thursday, March 13, 2003 in Naples, Italy after an extended period of poor heath. Murolo, the 91-year-old voice of Neapolitan music, made famous the sounds of Italy with such songs like “O Sole Mio” and “Cu’umme.”

Murolo is credited for influencing many Italian musicians with his brand of Neapolitan song with its foundations based in traditional Italian folk music.

Celebrated as such a fixture of the county’s musical heritage, Murolo was honored with Italy’s highest order of merit in 1995.

Agenzia Giornalistica Italia(AGI) reported Naples’s mayor, Rosa Russo Jervolino saying, “This is a sad day for Naples.” The mayor was also quoted on new steps to honor Murolo. “His songs will be his memorial and will push ahead the project for a museum of Naples’s songs. I think Murolo would appreciate that more than a stone statue.”