Manuel Galban, a man who helped shape the sound of modern Cuban music, died Thursday of a heart attack in Havana. He was 80 years old.
Galban played guitar on the 1997 album Buena Vista Social Club, a collaboration between traditional Cuban musicians and American guitarist and composer Ry Cooder. But Galban's popularity in his home country long preceded that album and resulting documentary.
He joined the innovative group Los Zafiros in the 1960s. They blended doo-wop with calypso, bossa nova and traditional Cuban styles.
Galban traveled the world leading Cuba's national music ensemble and his own successful group. After his career was revived by the Buena Vista Social Club, he recorded a Grammy-winning album called Mambo Sinuendo with Cooder, who told NPR what made Galban special in a 2003 interview:
"Nobody — but nobody — in Cuba has played guitar like this. He's strictly a renegade. It's just his — what can I say? It's in his hands."