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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