March 23, 2008 / 1:28 AM / 10 years ago

Mambo pioneer Israel "Cachao" Lopez dies

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Cuban-born bassist, band leader and mambo pioneer Israel “Cachao” Lopez died on Saturday in Miami, media reports said. He was 89.

Lopez, who immigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1962, is credited with introducing the mambo musical genre to generations of adoring fans. He died on Saturday after complications from kidney failure, the Miami Herald reported in its online edition.

Known for years by a singular name, Cachao, Lopez was a Grammy Award-winning artist whose work was chronicled in a 1993 documentary by Cuban-American actor Andy Garcia.

Lopez, a classically trained bassist, continued to perform until the final months of his life. He had lived in south Florida for the past three decades and died at Coral Gables Hospital near Miami.

Cuban-born musician Israel "Cachao" Lopez, known for inventing the Mambo in 1938, waves to the audience after performing at the 2005 Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood June 11, 2005. Lopez died on Saturday March 22, media reports said. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Born in Havana to a musical family in 1918, Lopez took to music early and in his teens had already become an accomplished classical bassist.

His contribution to modern music began in the 1930s. Like many other jazz musicians of his day, Lopez and his brother, Orestes Lopez, improvised with traditional music. He experimented with Afro-Cuban music and developed a new sound that became the mambo.

Though originally rejected, the musical genre took flight in the 1950s and became a jazz staple through much of the next few decades. After a period of obscurity, Lopez regained international attention in the 1990s thanks in part to Garcia’s work.

Lopez received a Grammy Award in 2004 for his album “Agora Si!” He also received accolades in 2006, including concerts at the Lincoln Center in New York.

Earlier this month, Lopez traveled to the Dominican Republic to receive a lifetime achievement award, the Herald reported.

Funeral services were scheduled for Wednesday. Hospital officials declined to comment and Lopez’ daughter, Maria Elena Lopez, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reporting by Michael Peltier; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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