RIP: Juan Formell and Dennis Kamakahi

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Dennis Kamakahi: 1953 – 2014 (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Two more musical giants have passed. Dennis Kamakahi, called the “Ambassador of Aloha”, died from lung cancer at 61. He was part and parcel of the Hawaiian renaissance that began in the 1970s, when cultural traditions were saved from extinction and celebrated again. He was a master of the slack key guitar; the guitar was brought to Hawai’i in the 1800s by Mexican cowboys, and slack key guitar is a uniquely Hawaiian musical style.

Music’s other loss was Juan Formell, founder of the top Cuban band Los Van Van in 1969. Los Van Van rose to the top of the Cuban music scene, experimenting with new styles such as timba. He was 71. According to his obit in the New York Times, “The lyrics of his songs told the social history of the island and reflected Cubans’ joys and concerns, always with a sense of humor and a picaresque touch.”

Here are youtube clips of both artists:

Kamakahi performing Koke’e:

Los Van Van in concert: