Compay Segundo

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Jul 14 07:12:45 MDT 2003

Legendary Cuban jazzman dies

Compay Segundo of Buena Vista Social Club fame dies at 95


HAVANA, July 14 —  Compay Segundo, who catapulted to world stardom in 
his 90s with the Grammy-winning record “Buena Vista Social Club,” has 
died. He was 95. Born Maximo Francisco Repilado Munoz, the wiry, 
cigar-smoking musician carried traditional Cuban music to the world and 
was honored with a Grammy in 1997, when he was 90 years old.

COMPAY SET audiences dancing from Havana to Paris with “Buena Vista 
Social Club” hits including “Chan Chan,” which brought modern appeal to 
a musical genre that had largely been forgotten even at home in Cuba.

His record company, Warner, said he died on Sunday, two days after 
attending a tribute concert hosted by his sons at Havana’s Hotel 
Nacional, where a concert room is dedicated to him.

Details of his death were not immediately available, but Compay had been 
ailing in recent months and his sons told Cuban media that his health 
had deteriorated in recent days.

Born Nov. 18, 1907, in the eastern town of Siboney, Compay was 9 when he 
moved with his family to nearby Santiago, the heart of Cuban musical 
culture. By age 14 he was playing the clarinet in his hometown’s 
municipal band.

Cuban “son” — mixing harder African rhythms with Spanish lyricism — was 
coming into its own, breaking down discrimination against “black” music 
and laying the groundwork for modern Cuban music like salsa.

Compay emerged as a well-known musician in Cuba, playing with Nico 
Saquito, the Cuarteto Hatuey and his own duo, Los Compadres, until 1953.

He developed a unique seven-string guitar that he called the “armonica” 
that had a doubled middle string to add harmonics for Cuban son rhythms.

He got his nickname when he was about 40 and performing as the second 
voice in the duo “Los Compadres” — a word Cubans shorten to “compay.”

In the late 1950s, Compay formed a group called “Compay Segundo y sus 
Muchachos” (Compay Segundo and his Boys) for a tour of the Dominican 

After the 1959 triumph of the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro, 
Compay continued to perform intermittently as a solo artist and 
occasionally made appearances on local radio stations. His day job was 
rolling H. Upmann coronas in a local cigar factory.

Compay already was in his 70s, working at Havana hotel in the late 1980s 
when a Spanish tourist heard him and invited him to perform in Spain. He 
was a hit, and went on to make several records there.

A decade later, he was packing concert halls in Europe and his fame grew 
far wider when he was featured on the hit record “Buena Vista Social 
Club,” a record of traditional Cuban son produced by Ry Cooder, which 
won a Grammy in 1998.


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