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Cuban maestro Compay Segundo dies
Compay Segundo, the veteran Cuban guitarist and singer who won international recognition late in life as frontman for the Grammy-winning Buena Vista Social Club, has died.

He was 95 years old.

Segundo, whose real name was Francisco Repilado, died of kidney failure at his home in Miramar, Havana, shortly before midnight on Sunday, his son Salvador said.

The musician's rise from oblivion to global popularity helped make traditional Cuban music known worldwide.

He will be buried on Tuesday in his native Santiago in eastern Cuba, where he started out as clarinet player in the municipal band.

Segundo won international fame with the 1997 Grammy Award-winning recording Buena Vista Social Club, produced by American guitarist Ry Cooder.

The record brought back into the limelight a group of talented musicians who had all but been forgotten in Cuba, including Segundo, pianist Ruben Gonzalez and singers Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo.

The group's fame was spread by the film Buena Vista Social Club by German director Wim Wenders in 1999.

After news of his death, Cuban television has aired footage from his popular videos, while the national press eulogised him as one the great figures of music.

"His death creates an unfillable void in Cuban music," the country's official Prensa Latina news agency wrote.

Harry Lapp, director of the Jazz a Juan festival in the French Riviera resort of Juan les Pins, said: "He was without doubt the father of the revival of Cuban 'son' after more than half a century of oblivion.

"He was the first to come to Europe, long before the 1997 Buena Vista Social Club album and the Wim Wenders film," Lapp said.

The "Buena Vista" soundtrack sold more than 4 million copies and the group enjoyed worldwide fame and concert invitations after the documentary's release.

Segundo was born near Santiago, the cradle of the Cuban rhythm "son," in 1907.

He built a musical reputation before the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

During the 1960s and 1970s he disappeared from the music scene, working variously as a cabinet maker, hairdresser, actor and cigar roller.

He only returned to music in the late 1980s, winning wide acclaim and, with the other Buena Vista musicians, introducing a new generation to the lilting melodies of "son".

Son a style of music that sounds deceptively simple but requires technical mastery, improvisational skills and, above all, a high level of complicity between the players.

Segundo was born in 1907 in Siboney outside Santiago.

After his fame spread worldwide, he enjoyed a second youth, travelling around the world entertaining audiences with a repertoire topped by his best-known song Chan Chan.

Affable and unassuming, the veteran performer - instantly recognisable in his trademark white Panama hat - graced some of the world's most prestigious stages, including New York's Carnegie Hall and the Olympia in Paris.

A father of five children, Compay Segundo said the secret of his longevity was cigars, flowers, rum and women.

On his 95th birthday in November, he said he wished he could have an "extension" to 115.

· Registered
1,421 Posts
Thanks for the information. You have a way of bringing depth to this hobby that I really appreciate.

· MoTheMentor
3,261 Posts

A tribute to Compay; I'm lighting up a Boli DC. I never knew his music, but knew his legend well, including the movie Buena Vista Social Club (which runs on HBO every now & then).

James Suckling (CA) writes about the time he & a group of his friends had a small dinner w/ Compay in Feb '98 in Havana. Here's how it ends:

When he was finally getting ready to leave the hotel, I asked him one last question as we were all very happy on good food, rum, cigars and company. "Compay, you look like you are 50 years younger," I said. "How do you do it?"

He was 90 at the time. He looked at me with his bright, energetic eyes and cracked a huge smile. "Boy, it's very simple. I drink a lot, I smoke a lot and I **** a lot."

Here's to you Compay, may we all live such long wonderful lives!

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