Buena Vista SC’s Galbán 1931-2011 RIP

Guitarist was key in helping bring Cuban music to the
attention of the masses.

 

Manuel Galbán guitarist for
the Buena Vista Social Club and born in 1931 (Gibara, Holguín
Province Cuba),
died Thursday of a heart attack in Havana
at 80 years old.

 

Long-time manager of Manuel
and the Buena Vista Social Club Daniel Florestano said, in a statement,
“it is a very sad day for Cuban music and fans of Cuban Music. Galbán’s
enormous impact world-wide with his unique guitar sound and warm smile will be
missed by many.”

 

Making his professional debut
in 1944, Galbán joined the internationally acclaimed Los Zafiros in 1963, which
combined the traditional filín movement with other music styles such as bolero,
doo-wop, calypso music, bossa nova and rock. This fusion transformed Los
Zafiros into one of the most popular Cuban groups of the time. They group
achieved international fame and performed at several venues in Europe including the Paris Olympia, a concert that was
even attended by the Beatles. Although Galbán wasn’t the first guitarist to
perform for Los Zafiros, he did remain with the group for the majority of their
careers, becoming one of their key members. He was so important to the group’s
success that the prominent Cuban pianist Peruchi once said of him: “You’d
need two guitarists to replace Galbán”.

 

From 1972 through 1975,
Galbán led Cuba’s
national music ensemble, Dirección Nacional de Música, before forming his own
group Batey where he remained for 23 years. With Batey, Galbán toured the world
and became one of the key ambassadors of Cuban music. During this period he
recorded number of albums documenting popular Cuban music with the prestigious Cuban
record label Egrem and the Bulgarian label Balkanton.

 

Galbán later joined the group
Vieja Trova Santiaguera for two years before answering Ry Cooder’s call to take
part in a project featuring Ibrahim Ferrer which subsequently lead to his long
standing membership with the Buena Vista Social Club along with, Ibrahim
Ferrer, Rubén González, Compay Segundo, Omara Portuondo and Cachaito Lopez.

 

Wim Wenders’ film on the BVSC
allowed an entire generation of Cuban musicians to experience a new beginning
and revived Galbán’s recording career. Galbán not only was the guitarist for
the other members of the Buena Vista Social Club’s recordings such as Ibrahim
Ferrer and “Cachaíto” López, but his duet world-wide internationally
acclaimed album Mambo Sinuendo with
Ry Cooder catapulted him to a household name in world music circles.

 

Explained Cooder, referring
to the album sessions, “Galbán and myself felt that there existed a sound
that had yet to be explored, there was scope for a Cuban band with an electric
guitar to once again convey that fifties atmosphere in a smooth, simple yet
lush manner.  Our group has two electric
guitarists, two drummers, a conga player and a bassist: a sextet with the
potential to sound like a big band and unveil the mysteries of classical
melodies. The result is powerful, lyrical and entertaining music.”

 

In 2003 Mambo Sinuendo was nominated for a Latin GRAMMY Award, and was
recognized by Downbeat magazine for
best jazz performance. In 2004 the album received a GRAMMY Award for the Best
Pop Instrumental Album.

 

For more than a decade Manuel
Galbán has toured the world performing with the Orquesta Buena Vista Social
Club Orchestra, and over the past three years preparing his latest album BlueChaCha.

 

Galbán reworked some of the tracks
that he himself has stated formed his musical identity. “Initially we had
a list of more than one thousand tunes”, he revealed, when discussing the
album’s initial plans. Galbán surrounded himself with some of his long-time
colleagues including Omara Portuondo, Rosa Passos, and is joined by Trío
Esperança, Eric Bibb, Marcelo Mercadante and Sissoko Ballaké. His daughter
Magda Rosa Galbán and Juan Antonio Leyva contributed to the arrangements.

 

[Photo Credit: Alejandro
Perez]

 

 

 

 

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