Video: Los Van Van!

6 June 2014 — Cuba50

Juan Formell, who died Thursday, May 1, in Havana, was one of the most internationally recognized Cubans of his time, and an artist whose music transcended boundaries: national, generational, and political.

“The loss of Formell is without a doubt a heavy blow for Cuban culture,” Cuban Music Institute officials said in a statement published in the newspaper Granma, announcing Formell’s death. “An ambassador for Cuban music and a maestro for various generations of artists. With his death Cuba loses one of its greatest and most prolific sons.”

Thousands of Cubans paid tribute to deceased Cuban musician Juan Formell in concerts all across the island over the weekend of 3-4 May.

The main concert was held at Havana’s Anti-imperialist Tribune, where popular orchestras, bands, singers and performers in general joined Cubans to pay homage to Formell, the director of the legendary band Los Van Van, whose former members also participated. Versions of famous compositions by Formell were performed by Cuban musicians, such as renowned pianist Frank Fernández, the children’s theater company La Colmenita, and salsa bands, to the tune of which people who attended the concerts danced.

Juan Formell passed away unexpectedly on Thursday at the age of 71. In 1969 Formell set up Los Van Van, later baptized as “the train of Cuban music”, directed the group until he died and recorded 30 albums, one of which Llegó Van Van (Van Van is here), took home a Granmy Award in 1999. Experts consider Los Van Van as the Los Beatles of Cuban music, and Formell, as the leader of a revolution in popular Cuban dancing music when he created “”songo”, a genre whose basis is Cuban “son”.

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