Today I bring very sad news… Juan Formell, founder of Los Van Van, one of the most influential personas in the history of Latin music in the XX and XXI centuries, passed away yesterday at age 71 from liver ailment complications, after a week long hospitalization if Habana.
Juan Formell was born in Habana, Cuba, on August 2nd, 1942.
By the age of 15, he became a bass player, and in 17 joined the band of the newly formed revolutionary police force in Habana.
During the 1960’s Formell played and composed for several bands, including Orquesta Peruchin, Orquesta Rubalcaba y la Orquesta del Cabaret Caribe.
In 1967 he joined Orquesta Reve, becoming musical director at 1968, and empowered by the newly available electric instrumentation, created a new musical style, Changui 68′.
In 1969, Juan Formell retired from Reve, and founded his own band, Los Van Van, creating yet another new musical style, Songo, which would later revolutionize Cuban music, and is the base of Timba.
Over the years Los Van Van included many key figures in Cuban music, some of which will form great bands of their own; Cesar “Pupy” Pedroso, Pedrito Calvo, Jose Luis “Changuito” Quintana, Jose Luis “el Tosco” Cortes, Mario “Mayito” Rivera and others.
The band quickly became the most popular in Cuba, and over the years released more than 25 albums and countless hits such as Te traigo, Chirrín chirrán, La Candela, Sandunguera, Que No Que No, El Baile Del Buey Cansao, La Habana Si, Anda Ven y Muevete, La titimanIa, El Negro Esta Cocinando, Temba Tumba Timba, and many, many more.
Over the years Juan Formell and Los Van Van received many awards in Cuba and abroad, including several Grammy awards, toured the world with concert tours, several of which were recorded on DVD, for example, the famous concert at Teatro Karl Marx.
Juan Formell was currently working on the band’s next album, “La Fantasia”, which will come out this summer.
In 1998 a homage album, “Gracias Formell”, came out, and included some of Formell’s most well songs performed by some of Cuba’s best singers and musicians.
The song I present you here tonight is “La Habana Si”, a Los Van Van classic from the 1980’s , sung by great Los Van Van (and former Pachito Alonso y Sus Kini Kini) singer Roberto “Guayacan \ Roberton” Hernandes in a new and exiting arrangement.
You can purchase the whole album following the link above.
Rest in peace, maestro Formell… your legacy will live forever in the hearts and minds of todos los amantes de la musica Cubana!