“IF JAMES BROWN WAS THE GODFATHER OF SOUL, THIS LEGENDARY CUBAN ARTIST COULD ARGUABLY BE BEST DESCRIBED AS THE GRANDDADDY OF MAMBO. EIGHT YEARS HAVE ELAPSED SINCE HE SADLY LEFT US. TODAY WE REMEMBER CACHAO…”

Born in Havana in 1918, Israel Lopez was raised in a family of musicians – most of whom were bassists. The nickname “Cachao” is said to have been bestowed by his Andalucian great-grandfather. With his late brother Orestes (the father of Buena Vista Social Club star Cachaito), he is credited with inventing the Mambo. In the late 1930s, the elegant and classical Danzón was Cuba’s most popular music form. Bored with this European colonial import, the two Lopez brothers explored the possibility of incorporating faster rhythms and more improvisational elements to the Danzón. This resulted in the creation of a nuevo ritmo – a new rhythm – that was later dubbed Mambo (a Bantu word that loosely referred to a conversation with the gods).

In the late 1950s, Cachao started assembling some of his musicians after gigs to organise and record late night jam sessions. These sessions gave the musicians the freedom to let loose and showcase their skills in free-for-all performances which eventually became known as Descargas. In the 1960s, he left Castro’s Cuba for New York to further his career. By the 1980s however, Cachao had relocated to Miami and slipped into relative obscurity. In the early 1990s, actor and fan Andy García helped introduce the Cuban maestro to a new legion of admirers. His return to the big time was complete when he was awarded a Grammy Award in 2003. He was also honoured with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in the same year and another Grammy followed in 2005.

In an era where the word “legend” is banded about far too casually, Cachao undeniably earned his right to be regarded as one. Señor Lopez…le saludamos y le damos las gracias a usted por su música encantadora!

To find out more about Cachao, you’re cordially invited to enjoy the following documentary on YouTube: http://bit.ly/1WDYSxD.

Goobi (Mr Boogie a.k.a The Vinyl Junkie), March 22nd 2016