Screen shot from Claudia Valdez’s Youtube Tribute
Juan Formell, who died this past Thursday at the age of 71 from a liver ailment, is now the subject of a massive amount of tribute concerts all across Cuba in honor of his contributions to Latin music. The largest of the concerts is in Havana where friends and fellow musicians of the Bass playing legend gather to sing and dance for their fallen icon and friend. Formell is most known for his work with the Band Los Van Van, who are known for their musical celebrations of Cuban culture and nationalism.
Born to piano player and arranger Francisco Formell in 1942, Juan Formell grew up surrounded by the culture of Cuban music. His professional career began in 1957 as he picked up odd jobs with cabarets, radio gigs, and television performances. Around 1959 Formell played bass for the Musical Band of Revolutionary Police. After playing with the band for the better part of a decade, Formell became musical director of Elio Reve’s Charanga Orchestra only to move on a year later to form the now iconic Los Van Van orchestra in 1969.
Throughout the next forty years the band would release over thirty albums with their most recent one being the 2011 CD La Maquinaria. Throughout their long and accolade filled history they were touted as the most recognized post-revolution band in Cuba. In 1999 the band received their first Latin Grammy for Best Salsa Peformance. This was followed ten years later by a lifetime achievement award for Formell.
Fox News Reports that Formell’s ashes were put on display at his final resting place in the Cuban National Theatre. The ceremony was followed by hundreds of political figures, artists, writers, and fans saying their goodbyes before celebrating a music career that has touched so many.