Juan Carlos Formell
Latin entertainment is in mourning the departure of one of its most talented figures, who leaves a very big void in all his followers and fans. We are talking about former composer, bassist, guitarist and member of Los Van Van Juan Carlos Formell, who sadly departed from this world on Friday, May 26th after a live performance in New York City.
In view of such an unfortunate loss for those of us who have spent years of experience promoting Latin music in all four corners of the world, we consider it appropriate to recall the most important moments in the life and career of this extraordinary artist and all that he contributed to the salsa movement during his lifetime.
Story of Juan Carlos Formell
Juan Carlos Formell was born in the city of Havana on February 18, 1964 and was the son of Juan Formell and Natalia Alfonso. He was the oldest of three brothers who would also dedicate themselves to music.
Contrary to what people might think, the fact of belonging to the fourth generation of a musical family and being the son of world famous bassist Juan Formell did not make things easier for him on the path with music. When he was barely three weeks old, he was sent to live with his grandparents in the outskirts of the Havana city.
They were through many financial needs and Juan Carlos himself would admit in an interview years later that other children used to make fun of him for having holes in his shoes, but that did not make him desist from his dreams, far from it. He became interested in music at a very young age, which led him to train professionally at the Alejandro García Cartula Conservatory and the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory.
In the 1990s, he concluded his studies at the National School of Arts in Cuba with almost three decades of life, so he made the decision to move to New York City to fully exercise his career as a musician. Before this, Juan Carlos had already accompanied several jazz orchestras on stage, but Cuban authorities banned him from traveling due to his regular yoga practice (considered subversive in his native country).
Since he could not leave Cuba directly, he had to use a tour with the Rumbavana orchestra in Mexico to cross the Rio Grande in Texas and later settle in New York. His process of adapting to this new country was not easy from any point of view, but it was all so worth it.
From then on, what came was success for the artist. During the course of his solo career, he recorded some five solo albums, one of which earned him a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Traditional Tropical Latin Performance in 2000.
Entry into Los Van Van
Los Van Van is one of the most important Cuban musical groups of recent times, which was founded by Cuban bassist Juan Formell, Juan Carlos Formell’s father. After having participated in several son and jazz groups, the musician decided it was time to innovate and change the style he was using until now.
It was then that he decided to incorporate new instruments and voices, which gave rise to a completely different concept baptized as Los Van Van and that gave much to talk about among critics of the time, and for the better.
After a very successful career in the group, Juan Formell died on May 1, 2014 at the age of 71 as a result of a heart attack during a concert in his hometown, Havana.
This unfortunate event is what led his son, Juan Carlos Formell, to join Los Van Van as a bassist. His brother Samuel was on the drum kit and his sister Vanessa was on backing vocals, so it can be said that this was a bit of a family business.
Since that moment, the intense activity that he had together with the rest of the group in performances, concerts and new songs earned him the recognition of the public in a very short time.
In spite of carrying the fame of his father on his shoulders, he did not let this stop him or be a limiting factor for him. On the contrary, he always left his family name and his father’s legacy high.
Unfortunately, 10 years passed before the artist left a huge void among those who respected and loved him.
On May 26 of this year, Los Van Van was performing at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in New York. About 40 minutes after the start of the concert, Juan collapsed on stage in front of all the attendants.
Minutes later, he was aided by ambulances and a fire truck. He was then taken to the nearest health-care center, but unfortunately the doctors could do nothing for him. This is how his bandmates announced the sad news through their social networks.
At the end of the concert, Eduardo Livia himself confirmed the death when he walked off the stage and greatly regretted what happened. The cause of death was determined to be a heart attack and his life came to an end at the age of 59.
After this, the group continued with the rest of the tour they had planned and the performances they had outstanding were in honor of the great Juan Carlos Formell and all that he gave to music during his life.