Buena Vista Social Club guitarist Manuel Galbán passed away on Thursday night in Havana, Cuba from a heart attack. He was 80 years old.
The Cuban-born guitarist got his start as a teenager in 1944, and became a member of Los Zafiros in 1963. Galbán was well-known for his American-influenced style, and during his decade-long tenure with Los Zafiros, became an integral member of this influential group.
After Los Zafiros dissolved in 1970, Galbán spent three years with Cuba’s Dirección Nacional de Música, the country’s national music ensemble. He then spent 23 years with his own group, Batey, as a guitarist, vocalist, and pianist. With Batey, Galbán became one of the key ambassadors for Cuban music.
Galbón and Cooder collaborated on Mambo Sinuendo, an album that went to top the Billboard Latin charts. It also won a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album in 2004.
Galbón was working on a new album, BlueChaCha.
“It is a very sad day for Cuban music and fans of Cuban Music,” said manager Daniel Florestano. “Galbán’s enormous impact world-wide with his unique guitar sound and warm smile will be missed by many.”