Cuban musician Juan Formell dead at 71

Cuban musician Juan Formell dead at 71

HAVANA - Cuban composer and bass player Juan Formell, the Grammy-winning head of the popular dance band Los Van Van, died Thursday at the age of 71, official media said.

The web site of the official newspaper Granma reported his death but not the cause, other than to say it was sudden.

"Our national culture is in mourning with the death of this unparalleled artist," it said.

Formell wrote many songs about everyday life in Cuba. He won the national music award in 2003.

Los Van Van have been popular on the Cuban music scene for more than 40 years.

Formell got into music in 1968, after being fascinated for years watching his father play the piano and compose.

"I am a musician by calling," he said in an interview in 2011. "To be a Van Van is like being the best Cuban."

In 1999 he won a Grammy for best salsa album and another in 2013 for overall career achievement.

The band had been working on a new album when Formell died.

Formell, said Granma, "has been one of the most beloved figures of Cuban music in recent years and his creations have shaped generations of Cubans."

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