The man who created the mambo died four years ago. Today, we mambo in Cachao's honor. Originally published March 2008 on Obit-Mag.com.
Israel Cachao Lopez, a bassist who in the late 1930s sped up a traditional Cuban song to create the first mambo, died on Saturday, March 22, 2008. He was 89. Cachao and his brother, Orestes, were performing a Cuban danzón, the elegant national dance music of Cuba. They chose to speed up its ending, adding elements of swing and syncopation. Thus was born the Mambo, a playful Cuban dance music that influenced Latin music for the better part of the 20th century.
Cuban bassist Cachao accepts applause after performing at the 6th annual Latin Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
Cachao, as he was universally known, performed for over 80 years. He played bass for the Havana Philharmonic at the age of 13 and led dance orchestras in Havana clubs with his brother. He left Cuba in 1962 and settled in New York where he performed with mambo groups as a sideman. After a stint in Las Vegas, Cachao moved to Miami where he gently fell into obscurity, playing hotels lounges, bar mitzvahs and the occasional club. He did have one very influential fan, the actor Andy Garcia.
Mr. Garcia helped Cachao regain the recognition he deserved, and, in the 1990s and 2000s, Cachao traveled the world touring. He received a National Heritage Fellowship and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
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