Juan Carlos Formell, Buoyant Heir of Cuban Musical Legacy, Dies at 59

Juan Carlos Formell, an acclaimed singer-songwriter who settled in New York soon after defecting from Cuba and eventually took around as bassist for his famous father, Juan Formell, in Los Van Van, a person of the most influential bands of publish-Revolutionary Cuba, died on Saturday during a functionality in New York Town. He was 59.

His demise, from a coronary heart attack he suffered onstage at the Lehman Centre for the Doing Arts in the Bronx, was confirmed by his romantic and musical lover, Danae Blanco. Mr. Formell, she explained, experienced hypertension and arteriosclerosis.

Due to the fact fleeing Cuba for New York Town in 1993, Mr. Formell had charted his possess musical system, releasing five solo albums and earning a Grammy nomination in 2000 for finest traditional tropical Latin efficiency for his debut album, “Songs from a Small Blue Household.”

When his father died in 2014, Mr. Formell agreed to have on his legacy as the bassist for Los Van Van, the Afro-Cuban dance band co-started by his father. The band’s recent lineup also incorporates his brother Samuel on drums and his sister Vanessa Formell Medina on vocals.

The band was just a several figures into an energetic established at the Lehman Center when Mr. Formell wandered away from his upright bass, doubled over as if to capture his breath, then lumbered toward the rear of the stage. As the band performed on, Abdel Rasalps Sotolongo, the Van Van singer known as Lele, and Javier León Peña, a seem engineer, have been helping him offstage when he collapsed near the curtain.

After a temporary announcement that Mr. Formell was obtaining a wellbeing issue, the band took a crack of more than a half hour, then returned to complete the set, taking part in for nearly an hour in an obvious tribute to Mr. Formell, a good friend, the musician Ned Sublette, who was current, explained in a telephone interview.

Mr. Formell’s debut album, “Songs from a Small Blue Residence,” was nominated for a Grammy in 2000 for most effective common tropical Latin efficiency.

Mr. Formell was a fourth-technology member of one of Cuba’s most famous musical people. His terrific-grandfather, Juan Francisco, was a well-known bandleader. His grandfather, Francisco Formell, was a conductor of the Havana Philharmonic and the arranger for the Lecuona Cuban Boys, a well-known significant band beginning in the 1930s.

His father, Juan Formell, alongside with fellow giants of Cuban tunes, César Pedroso, identified as Pupy, and José Luis Quintana, regarded as Changuito, founded Los Van Van in 1969, fusing standard Afro-Cuban genres like son cubano with features of rock, soul and disco.

With the blessing of the Cuban federal government, the band toured the earth for many years, producing a global next. It won a Grammy Award in 2000 for very best salsa efficiency for their album “Llego…Van Van/Van Van is In this article.”)

Irrespective of his household identify, Mr. Formell’s path to musical results was not simple.

Juan Carlos Formell was born in Havana on Feb. 18, 1964, the eldest of a few small children of Juan Formell and the cabaret singer Natalia Alfonso.

When he was a few weeks previous, his parents despatched him to live on the outskirts of Havana with his paternal grandparents. His grandfather, the conductor, experienced been ostracized by the Castro govt for becoming part of the aged guard. Mr. Formell told The Los Angeles Times in 2000 that he experienced been teased by other little ones for acquiring holes in his footwear.

Even so, he set his system toward music, learning at the Alejandro García Caturla and Amadeo Roldán conservatories in Havana, and later at Cuba’s National Art School.

Motivated by Afrocubanismo, the Cuban inventive motion targeted on Black identity, as perfectly as the negrista movement in poetry, notably the do the job of Nicolás Guillén, Mr. Formell was currently composing by his teenagers and studying bass with Andres Escalona of the Havana Symphony Orchestra. He went on to engage in bass with the jazz pianist Emiliano Salvador.

He was also a proficient guitarist and hoped to carve out a vocation as a singer-songwriter, but felt not able to categorical himself freely under the constraints of the government-controlled Cuban music market, his former wife, Dita Sullivan, explained in a cellular phone interview.

“While nonetheless in my 20s, at a time when most musicians are full of hope,” he once reported, “I was resigned to a upcoming of marginalization.”

In 1993, even though on tour with the dance band Rumbavana in Mexico, he defected, crossing the Rio Grande around Laredo, Texas, and at some point settling in New York City. The transition was not uncomplicated.

“When you depart Cuba, you don’t exist,” Mr. Formell claimed in a 2005 job interview with The Chicago Sunlight-Instances. “You arrive in this article, you’re invisible. You occur right here and no a single cares. If you want to defect, you’d superior have a support program.”

Even so, he designed a profession accomplishing solo and with various ensembles at New York jazz clubs like the Blue Note and Birdland prior to releasing his Grammy-nominated debut. Mr. Formell followed with “Las Calles del Paraíso” (“The Streets of Paradise”) in 2002 and “Cemeteries of Want,” a 2005 rumination on the Latin musical flavorings of New Orleans, together with “Son Radical” (2006) and “Johnny’s Desire Club” (2008), which a Village Voice evaluate mentioned wove “an unforgettable spell.”

His new music, rooted in filin, a romantic, jazz-inflected genre of Cuban common songs, as effectively as son cubano, a traditional fashion mixing Spanish and African influences, celebrated the purely natural beauty of his homeland as nicely as its difficult history, like of slavery and revolution.

“Although my songs really do not particularly communicate about politics,” he said in a 1996 interview, “they replicate the actuality of Cuba from my viewpoint and not from the standpoint of the procedure.”

In addition to Samuel and Vanessa, his survivors contain his other sisters, Elisa Formell Alfonso and Paloma Formell Delgado, and yet another brother, Lorenzo Formell González. He and Ms. Sullivan separated in 2012 and divorced in 2021.

In a Facebook article asserting his death, Los Van Van mentioned it would go on its tour of the United States, “paying tribute to Juan Carlos in each general performance, each individual musical note, in each individual Vanvanero choice as Juanca would have wished.”

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