Pablo Milanés, legendary Cuban singer-songwriter, dies aged 79 | Music

Cuban singer-songwriter and guitarist Pablo Milanés, Grammy winner, known for pioneering the New Trova movement and for hits such as Yolanda and Amo Esta Isla, died of cancer in Madrid. He was 79 years old.

One of the most internationally known Cuban musicians, Milanés has recorded dozens of albums and toured the world in a career that has spanned more than five decades.

Although an enthusiastic supporter of Fidel Castro’s revolution, the singer was not afraid to speak his mind and recently lamented the lack of freedom and progress on the island.

His death was announced by his agent in a statement on Tuesday.

“It is with great pain and sadness that we regret to inform you that maestro Pablo Milanés passed away in Madrid in the early hours of November 22,” he said. “May he rest in the peace and love he always radiated. He will forever remain in our memory. »

Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz offered his condolences to Milanés family and friends, saying, “Cuban culture is in mourning after the death of Pablo Milanés.

At the request of his family, a vigil will be held on Wednesday at the Casa de América cultural center in Madrid. The center described him as “an indispensable figure in Ibero-American music”, while Gladys Palmera Radio Network and Archives tweeted: “We will always love you, we will always remember you and always sing your songs. RIP dear Pablo Milanés.

The artist rose to prominence after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and rose to prominence on the island and far beyond as part of the New Trova movement alongside fellow Cuban musicians Silvio Rodríguez and Noel Nicola.

New Trovawhich emerged in the 1960s, was smiled upon by Castro’s government for lyrics that gave voice to its stated political and social imperatives, including battles against sexism, colonialism and racism.

In 1970, Milanés wrote the seminal Latin American love song Yolanda, an enduring favorite everywhere from the tourist cafes of Old Havana to the canteens of Mexico City.

In 2003, Spanish newspaper El País asked Milanés how many women he had flirted with, telling them the song was about them. “None,” he said, laughing. “But a lot of people said to me, ‘My child is the product of Yolanda.'”

The singer joined other leading artists and intellectuals in expressing their support for the Cuban government when Fidel Castro resigned in 2006. But four years later he backed a dissident hunger striker who was demanding the release political prisoners.

Milanés told Spanish daily El Mundo that Cuba’s aging rulers were “stuck in time”, adding: “History should move forward with new ideas and new men.”

In 2011, as the island made economic changes that would allow for more free market activity, he lobbied President Raúl Castro to do more.

“These freedoms have been seen in small doses, and we hope that over time they will grow,” Milanés told The Associated Press.

In June, the singer, who had been living in the Spanish capital since 2017, made one last visit to Havana, where he performed an emotional concert in front of around 10,000 fans.

Milanés won two Latin Grammys in 2006, Best Singer-Songwriter Album for Como un Campo de Maíz (Like a Cornfield) and Best Traditional Tropical Album for AM/PM, Líneas Paralelas (AM/PM, Parallel lines ), a collaboration with the Puerto Rican salsa singer Andy Montañez.

He has also won numerous Cuban accolades, including the Alejo Carpentier Medal in 1982 and the National Music Prize in 2005.

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