Buena Vista Social Club's Manuel Galban dies

Cuban guitarist and arranger Manuel Galban, a member of the celebrated Buena Vista Social Club musicians and Grammy winner, has died at the age of 80.
Cuban Manuel Galban, of the Buena Vista Social Club, plays the guitar during a 2010 show in Havana. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Cuban guitarist and arranger Manuel Galban, one of the celebrated Buena Vista Social Club musicians and a Grammy winner, has died at the age of 80.

Galban died Thursday after suffering a heart attack at his home in Havana.

"It is a very sad day for Cuban music and fans of Cuban music," said Daniel Florestano, the guitarist's manager.

He added that Galban's "unique guitar sound and warm smile will be missed by many."

Born in 1931 in the north-eastern Cuban seaside town of Gibara, Galban got into the music business as a teen. He first gained fame as a member of the 1960s Cuban vocal group Los Zafiros, which combined traditional Latin music with other musical genres, like doo-wop and rock.

In the 1970s, he served as head of Cuba's national music ensemble, Direccion Nacional de Musica, and formed the band Batey, which helped build an international fanbase for Cuban music.

Galban was one of the veteran artists captured in Wim Wenders' influential documentary Buena Vista Social Club, named after the defunct 1940s-era Havana venue where Cuban musicians met and performed.

The film was inspired by a celebrated recording project spearheaded by Cuban bandleader Juan de Marcos Gonzalez and U.S. guitarist Ry Cooder. The pair assembled traditional Cuban musicians, some retired, for an album recalling the music played at the original club.

Both the album and documentary helped revive interest in Cuban music around the globe and sparked a popular musical tour featuring the musicians. The buzz also helped shine a light on recordings by the individual artists, like Galban.

Along with solo work, Galban reteamed with Cooder for the album Mambo Sineundo, which rose to the top of Latin music charts and earned the duo a 2004 Grammy for pop instrumental album.