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  • Friday, July 8, 2011
    Manuel Galbán, Legendary Cuban Guitarist, Dies at 80
    Michael Wilson

    World Circuit and Nonesuch Records are deeply saddened to announce that the legendary guitarist Manuel Galbán suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away in a hospital in Havana on July 7, 2011.

    Manuel Galbán was born in 1931 and grew up in the small fishing town of Gibara in the Holguin province of western Cuba. After playing guitar and tres in various local youth groups Manuel began performing with the Orchestra Villa Blanca, aged 14. In 1956, he moved to Havana where he spent seven years playing in bars and clubs and making frequent appearances on radio.

    In 1963, Galbán joined the legendary vocal group Los Zafiros. With their unprecedented blend of Cuban music with R&B, calypso, bolero, and bossa the group went onto be one of the most successful Cuban groups of all time, generating a rapid stream of hits in Havana’s EGREM studios, beginning with the virtuosic "La Caminadora." One highlight is a fabled performance at Olympia in Paris. The audience included the Beatles, who, so impressed by Los Zafiros, changed their own itinerary to stay in Paris an extra week and see the group play. Galbán left the group in 1972 after working hard for years to allay the personal problems that plagued its various members. The group dissolved soon after. In 1999, World Circuit / Nonesuch Records released Bossa Cubana, a collection of 17 Los Zafiros tracks made in Havana from 1963 to 1966.

    Following his ten years with Zafiros, Manuel Galbán spent three years with Cuba's national musical ensemble Dirección Nacional de Música and then a further 23 years with the Grupo Batey as a guitarist, vocalist, and pianist, touring extensively across four continents and recording two highly acclaimed albums.

    Galbán went onto work extensively on several Buena Vista Social Club projects. The first World Circuit / Nonesuch Records release on which he appeared was the Latin Grammy–winning debut solo album from Ibrahim Ferrer. Following this, Galbán played on both of Buena Vista diva Omara Portuondo’s Latin Grammy–winning albums. Galbán was also a key member of the group assembled for Cachaíto López’s groundbreaking solo album.

    During his time on World Circuit / Nonesuch recordings, Galbán developed a rich musical exchange with Ry Cooder, the creative dialogue between them resulting in recording sessions in Havana that would become Mambo Sinuendo. The Perro Verde / Nonesuch album won a Grammy in 2004 for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

    In 2004, Galbán was involved in two additional albums, appearing on bandmate Guajiro Mirabal’s debut solo album and as part of Ibrahim Ferrer’s group that won a Grammy for the album Buenos Hermanos.

    Manuel Galbán toured extensively with the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club over the years, their international sell-out tours praised for “taking the atmosphere up to a breathless level” (The Independent) and leaving audiences “awestruck” (Financial Times).

    "Manuel Galbán, Cuban maestro of Doo Wop Noir, has died," says Cooder. "This was the music you heard, walking down a dark street, behind old walls, in a ruined garden. You left the party—the talking and the laughter was much too loud. You felt something, and you listened. You listened to 'Herido de Sombras.'"

    "An absolute one-off," says Nick Gold, the founder and head of World Circuit Records, in remembering Manuel Galbán. "A treasure of Cuban music. Irreplaceable."

    Journal Articles:Artist News

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Manuel Galbán, Legendary Cuban Guitarist, Dies at 80

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on July 8, 2011 - 10:42am
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Friday, July 8, 2011 - 14:30
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Legendary guitarist Manuel Galbán suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away in a hospital in Havana on July 7, 2011. From 1963 to 1972, Galbán performed with the legendary vocal group Los Zafiros, which blended Cuban music with R&B, calypso, bolero, and bossa and was one of the most successful Cuban groups of all time. He went on to work extensively on several Buena Vista Social Club solo projects with Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, Cachaíto López, and Guajiro Mirabal, and joined Ry Cooder for the 2004 Grammy-winning duo album Mambo Sinuendo.

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World Circuit and Nonesuch Records are deeply saddened to announce that the legendary guitarist Manuel Galbán suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away in a hospital in Havana on July 7, 2011.

Manuel Galbán was born in 1931 and grew up in the small fishing town of Gibara in the Holguin province of western Cuba. After playing guitar and tres in various local youth groups Manuel began performing with the Orchestra Villa Blanca, aged 14. In 1956, he moved to Havana where he spent seven years playing in bars and clubs and making frequent appearances on radio.

In 1963, Galbán joined the legendary vocal group Los Zafiros. With their unprecedented blend of Cuban music with R&B, calypso, bolero, and bossa the group went onto be one of the most successful Cuban groups of all time, generating a rapid stream of hits in Havana’s EGREM studios, beginning with the virtuosic "La Caminadora." One highlight is a fabled performance at Olympia in Paris. The audience included the Beatles, who, so impressed by Los Zafiros, changed their own itinerary to stay in Paris an extra week and see the group play. Galbán left the group in 1972 after working hard for years to allay the personal problems that plagued its various members. The group dissolved soon after. In 1999, World Circuit / Nonesuch Records released Bossa Cubana, a collection of 17 Los Zafiros tracks made in Havana from 1963 to 1966.

Following his ten years with Zafiros, Manuel Galbán spent three years with Cuba's national musical ensemble Dirección Nacional de Música and then a further 23 years with the Grupo Batey as a guitarist, vocalist, and pianist, touring extensively across four continents and recording two highly acclaimed albums.

Galbán went onto work extensively on several Buena Vista Social Club projects. The first World Circuit / Nonesuch Records release on which he appeared was the Latin Grammy–winning debut solo album from Ibrahim Ferrer. Following this, Galbán played on both of Buena Vista diva Omara Portuondo’s Latin Grammy–winning albums. Galbán was also a key member of the group assembled for Cachaíto López’s groundbreaking solo album.

During his time on World Circuit / Nonesuch recordings, Galbán developed a rich musical exchange with Ry Cooder, the creative dialogue between them resulting in recording sessions in Havana that would become Mambo Sinuendo. The Perro Verde / Nonesuch album won a Grammy in 2004 for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

In 2004, Galbán was involved in two additional albums, appearing on bandmate Guajiro Mirabal’s debut solo album and as part of Ibrahim Ferrer’s group that won a Grammy for the album Buenos Hermanos.

Manuel Galbán toured extensively with the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club over the years, their international sell-out tours praised for “taking the atmosphere up to a breathless level” (The Independent) and leaving audiences “awestruck” (Financial Times).

"Manuel Galbán, Cuban maestro of Doo Wop Noir, has died," says Cooder. "This was the music you heard, walking down a dark street, behind old walls, in a ruined garden. You left the party—the talking and the laughter was much too loud. You felt something, and you listened. You listened to 'Herido de Sombras.'"

"An absolute one-off," says Nick Gold, the founder and head of World Circuit Records, in remembering Manuel Galbán. "A treasure of Cuban music. Irreplaceable."

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Manuel Galban

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