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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Amsterdam, the Netherlands – Irshad Hussain Khan died in Amsterdam on March 5th, at the age of 29. His health had been declining for a couple of years and he died of total exhaustion.
Music, especially the music of India, was his passion. Irshad was a well respected tabla player and his playing was characterized by technical virtuosity and tonal quality.
Irshad stemmed from a long line of Indian musicians (the Jaipur Gharana). His father Ustad Zamir Ahmad Khan, also a tabla player, introduced him to the tabla at the age of three. Irshad’s approach was strongly based on the old styles and the traditional repertoire, but he combined this with much of his own improvisational creativity.
As a very promising tabla player of the younger generation he has had the opportunity to accompany many great musicians of Indian classical music such as: Pandit V.G. Jog, Ustad Munir Khan, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ustad Sayeeduddin Dagar and G.S.Sachdev.
Irshad was always open for new possibilities and combinations with different musicians, styles and traditions. He performed with many well-known musicians in the fields of jazz and worldwide music traditions such as: Theo Loevendie, Joachim Kühn, David Vriessen, Philip Catherine, Ross Daly, and with percussionists like the Iranian zarb maestro Djamchid Chemirani and the African master drummers Fodé Youla, Adama Dramé, Omar Diabaté and Alfa Camara.
Irshad recorded and produced numerous CD recordings. He recorded a solo tabla album for Pan Records. His last production, released just several weeks before his death, was an album with the sarangi playing of his grandfather Ustad Munir Khan.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Eusebia Silva de Oliveira, the founder of Rio de Janeiro’s famous Mangueira samba school, died in her sleep on Wednesday, January 22nd. She was 89 years old and better known as Dona Zica. She was the inspiration for some of Cartola’s biggest samba hits.
(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba – Cuba’s famous singer and composer Polo Montañez died on Tuesday night of severe cranial traumas caused by a traffic accident on November 20, according to national TV. The health of the renowned artist, who was reported as “seriously ill” by the multidisciplinary team taking care of him at Havana’s Carlos J. Finlay Hospital, had worsened after presenting irreversible multi-organic failures.
Known all over the world as Guajiro Natural, the title of his first CD, Fernando Borrego Linares (Polo) was born 47 years ago in Brujito, on Sierra del Rosario, Pinar del Rio. He was influenced by music since he was a child, a family tradition as he said on many occasions. In 1994, he began playing with his band in Pinar del Rio.
In 2000, he recorded his first CD, “Guajiro Natural“, with Lusafrica Record Company, and was promoted for the first time in Colombia.
He will be internationally known his song “Un montón de estrellas”. He sold 40,000 albums and won a platinum record. Polo Montañez’s songs became popular in several Latin American and European countries.
The popular singer was a member of the Cuban delegation attending Guadalajara’s International Book Fair, in Mexico, which will is dedicated to Cuba this year.
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