Famed Cuban guitarist dies of heart attack

Manuel Galban, the internationally-renowned Cuban guitarist featured in the “Buena Vista Social Club,” has died of a heart attack in Havana.

A statement from Galban’s publicist said the award-winning musician died Thursday.

The publicist said it was a “sad day” for Cuban music and its fans, who he said will miss Galban’s enormous impact worldwide and his warm smile.

The 80-year-old musician got his professional start as a teenager in 1944. He rose to prominence in Cuba as a member of the Los Zafiros group, whose sound blended the Caribbean island’s traditional music with rock and other styles. In the 1970s, Galban formed a group known as Batey, which traveled the world performing Cuban music for international audiences.

And in the 1990s, Galban’s career surged in a new direction, when he appeared in the “Buena Vista Social Club” documentary about a group of older Cuban music stars. The film, a collaboration with a U.S. producer, Ry Cooder, led to a group of the same name, and the resulting album was an international sensation.

Galban teamed up with Cooder again in 2003 to record an instrumental album called “Mambo Sineundo,” which won a Grammy award.

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