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Cuban mambo pioneer Israel Lopez dies

Latest update : 2008-03-23

Cuban-born bassist, band leader and mambo pioneer Israel "Cachao" Lopez died on Saturday in Miami, media reports said. He was 89.

Legendary Cuban musician Israel Lopez, known to the world as Cachao and credited with being one of the originators of the mambo musical style, died on Saturday in Miami, his spokesman announced. He was 89.

A gifted bassist and an innovative composer, Cachao was born in Havana in 1918 and began his career playing music for silent movies.

By the 1930s he was well known as a Latin jazz virtuoso along with his brother Orestes Lopez. The two had a prolific musical output, recording scores of records.

In this period he wrote songs in the style that became known as mambo by combining the traditional danzon music with upbeat Afro-Cuban rhythms.

Mambo became popular around the world in the 1940s when Cuban band leader and composer Damaso Perez Prado -- known as the King of Mambo -- came up with a special dance for the music and it began to be treated as a separate genre.

In the 1950s Cachao and his brother recorded a series of successful records of jam sessions with local musicians that combined mambo and jazz.

Cachao fled Cuba in 1962, three years after the triumph of the revolution led by Fidel Castro.

After a brief exile in Spain he moved to New York, then Las Vegas, and eventually to Miami in the 1980s, where he performed along with other renowned Latin musicians such as Tito Puente and Gloria Estefan.

Cuban-American Hollywood star Andy Garcia produced a documentary on Cachao's life in 1993.

Cachao and his brother Orestes won Grammy record awards in 1995 and 2005, as well as a Latino Grammy in 2003.

Cachao died early Saturday due to kidney failure, spokesman Nelson Albareda told local media.

Date created : 2008-03-23