Manuel Galbán died as a result of cardiac arrest at the age of 80 at his home in Havana, Cuba on July 7, 2011. Galbán is best known in the U.S. for his guitar work on various Buena Vista Social Club projects. But he is perhaps better known in his native country for his time as guitarist and musical director of Los Zafiros, one of the most popular Cuban groups of all time. He was the last of two surviving members of the popular vocal group that fused American styled, doo-wop, close harmony singing with a distinctly Afro-Cuban groove, and one of a sadly dwindling number of Buena Vista Social Club alumni.
Billboard Magazine reached the lone surviving Zafiro, Miguel Cancio, at his home in Miami on Friday for comment: "There was something unique and so beautiful about his sound...Galbán was like a one-man orchestra. Meeting him was the best thing that could have happened to us as a band," said Cancio.
This video is one of my absolute favorite things on YouTube, and in it you can see a young Galbán on guitar:
If you don't already own them, I highly recommend picking up the album Galbán recorded with Ry Cooder in 2003, Mambo Sinuendo, as well as the compilation album Bossa Cubana, which collects some of Los Zafiros' best recordings.
Galbán is survived by his wife, Magda, and daughters, Taby and Leyva. My thoughts go out to them.