HAVANA TIMES — When, just a few days ago, Mexico, Colombia and the whole of Latin America was saddened over the death of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Puerto Rico was mourning the departure of Cheo Feliciano and the Dominican Republic received the painful news of Sonia Silvestre’s death, no one in Cuba imagined death was hovering about the Caribbean and would also make a stop on the island to take singer Juan Formell away from us.
The first May rains haven’t started to fall yet, but a heavy downpour of icy water is falling on all Cubans who once danced to the rhythms of the incomparable Van Van, or who fell in love at a park hearing one of the feelings composed by Formell for immortalized singer Elena Burque.
Juan Formell, the bass player, arranger, composer, singer, music producer and director and founder of Cuba’s most popular orchestral band, Los Van Van, has died.
We have lost the alchemist of genres and melodious rhythms. The composer who portrayed the everyday life and idiosyncrasies of Cubans, the charismatic master who would sing ahi, na’ ma’, suddenly left Havana and those who loved him.
He leaves us with his songs and his music, his more than twenty records and his scores for movies, theater and television.
Life did him justice a few short months ago; when in November of last year he received the Special Award for Excellence at the Latin Grammys, yet another acknowledgement in his long list of national and international awards.
On Friday, thousands of Cubans paid tribute to Formell at Havana’s National Theater. Cantatas in his honor will also be held in each province, municipality and town around Cuba.
Singing his popular songs, that is how we remember Formell and how we will drive death out of the Caribbean – singing ahi na’ ma’.