Pablo Milanés, emblematic figure of Cuban music, is dead

Pablo Milanés at the Latin American Film Festival, at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana, December 4, 2014.

Cuban singer and songwriter Pablo Milanés died on Tuesday, November 22, at the age of 79 in Madrid, where he had been hospitalized for several days.

“It is with great pain and sadness that we regret to inform you that the master Pablo Milanés died this morning on November 22 in Madrid”wrote his agency on the official Facebook page of the singer.

“Cuban culture is in mourning after the death” by Pablo Milanes, tweeted Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz. On the announcement of his death, social networks in Cuba were flooded with messages of tribute and support for his family, embellished with photos and videos of the artist.

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The singer had recently been hospitalized in Madrid. He had suffered for several years from “onco-haematological disease” which had forced him to settle in 2017 in the Spanish capital to “to receive treatment that did not exist in his country”had informed his talent agency on November 11, indicating that his condition was ” steady “. He had canceled concerts planned in Spain and the Dominican Republic.

Support for Castro’s revolution before stepping away from it

Born on February 24, 1943 in Bayamo, in eastern Cuba, Pablo Milanés began his career in the 1960s. First a follower of the “feeling” genre, a musical style with romantic themes influenced by North American jazz, the young singer then turns to the text song.

He joined Silvio Rodriguez in the beginnings of Nueva Trova, this musical genre based on poetic and committed texts that arose in the wake of the Cuban revolution of 1959 and the global movement of “folk-music”.

He had supported Fidel Castro’s revolution in its infancy, before moving away from it. After the historic demonstrations of July 2021 in Cuba, where thousands of people took to the streets to cries of ” We are hungry “, ” Freedom “ and “Down with the dictatorship”Pablo Milanés had strongly criticized the government. “It is irresponsible and absurd to blame and repress a people who have made sacrifices and given everything for decades to support a regime which, in the end, only imprisons them”he lamented.

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A recital with a taste of farewell to Havana

Pablo Milanés has recorded dozens of albums, created film scores and set numerous poems to music. This great admirer of the French composer Michel Legrand (1932-2019) – he said he had seen the film fifteen times Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) – received two Latin Grammys in 2006 (best album) and in 2015 (Award of musical excellence).

Although living in Spain, he managed to maintain through his music an unbreakable link with the Cubans. At a particularly moving concert in Havana in June, some 10,000 spectators sing along to one after another of his great hits, such as Yolanda and live. After three years without coming to Cuba, the singer who traveled with difficulty, had reconnected with his audience for this recital which also had a taste of farewell.

He had a voice “of infinite island and dry land (…) gentle and at the same time powerful”said of him José Maria Vitier, pianist, composer and his close collaborator.

The World with AFP

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