Mambo creator ‘Cachao’ dies at 89
Cuban-born jazz musician Israel “Cachao” Lopez, credited with inventing the mambo, has died in Miami at the age of 89.
The bassist and composer left Cuba for the US in the early 1960s and continued to perform until his final months.
The mambo emerged from his improvisational work with his late brother, multi-instrumentalist Orestes Lopez, in the late 1930s. A family spokesman said Lopez died with his relatives around him. He had fallen ill in the past week and died at Coral Gable Hospital, the spokesman added.
Cuban-American actor Andy Garcia, who made a 1993 documentary about the musician, praised him as the “musical father” of Cubans.
“He is revered by all who have come in contact with him and his music,” Garcia said in a statement.
“Maestro… you have been my teacher and you took me in like a son. “I will continue to rejoice with your music and carry our traditions wherever I go, in your honour.”
Lopez, a classically- trained bassist who began performing with Havana’s symphony orchestra as a teenager, was a prolific composer of songs and pieces of music based on the Cuban music style of son.
In the 1930s, Lopez and his brother pioneered mambo after experimenting with Afro-Cuban music.
In a 2004 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he said the origins of mambo “happened in 1937”.
“My brother and I were trying to add something new to our music and came up with a section that we called danzon mambo,” he said. “It made an impact and stirred up people. “At that time our music needed that type of enrichment.”
The new genre enjoyed popularity in the 1950s and, since then, has been a jazz staple.
After he emigrated in 1962, Lopez performed at New York’s Palladium nightclub with the leading Latin bands of the day.
He collaborated with Latin music stars including Tito Puente, Tito Rodrigues and Gloria Estefan.
But, after moving to Miami in the 1980s, he fell into relative obscurity.
In the 1990s, thanks partly to Garcia’s documentary, Lopez came back to international attention and released several successful albums.
In 2003, he was honoured with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
Accepting the award, he said: “Imagine, this is for all of you. “I want to dedicate this award not only to my country, but all Latin America and the United States.”
In 2004, he received a Grammy Award for his album Agora Si.
A funeral service will take place on Wednesday.