The World

2008 Musicians Passings
Ethiopia: Tigist Shibabaw, vocalist
Nigeria: Sonny Okosun
Jamaica: Johnny “Dizzy” Moore, trumpet
Brazil: Dorival Caymmi, songwriter
Algier: Lili Boniche, vocalist and guitarist
France: Henri Salvador, vocalist
Cuba: Israel “Cachao” Lopez, bassist
World Music Central

Sadly, it’s been a busy year for musicians passing away. We could have written an obituary a week. So here are several artists whom we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to.

Vocalist Tigist Shibabaw’s star was rising when she died last January in her native Ethiopia at the age of 28.

�It’s that lost potential that I mourn most about Tigist’s passing. You know. What was to come from this artist.�

A lot probably. That was musician and producer Dave Schommer. He always had wanted to work with Tigist Shibabaw ever since they met a few years ago in New York. Schommer got his chance when she agreed to sing on his Ethiopian-funk album, “Bole 2 Harlem.”

�The pinnacle song on the album I think, representing what she did was a song called “Aya Bellew.” She really wanted to take a track away, and sit and write it, and formulate a song, and she came back with that song that was just so strong, and I know that there’s many Ethiopian listeners that’s moved by that particular piece, and that’s probably the best way to get to a remembrance of her.�

The late Ethiopian singer Tigist Shibabaw there.

Nigeria’s Sonny Okosun was 61 when he died of colon cancer at the end of May.

After the worldwide success in the 60s and 70s of Nigerian artists like King Sunny Ade and Fela Kuti, it seemed the world had had its fill of Nigeria. But Sonny Okosun showed there was room for at least one more. This was Okosun’s big hit from 1978, “Fire in Soweto.”

Sonny Okosun was an adamant anti-apartheid activist. But he was never able to duplicate the excitement he created with that 1978 reggae chart-topper “Fire in Soweto.”

Johnny “Dizzy” Moore from Jamaica was one of the original members of the Skatalites. He died in August. “Dizzy” Moore was also incensed with the situation in South Africa.

Here’s “Dizzy” Moore’s composition “Glory to the Sound.” At least that was the song’s title on a 2002 Skatalites release. “Dizzy” Moore originally wrote it years earlier as “Letter to Botha” — that would be former South African President P.W. Botha.

“Dizzy” Moore learned trumpet at a reform school in Kingston with a strong music program. But he had grown up in a strict religious household. So he had to pretend to be out of control to get in to the school. It was there though that he became friends with fellow student Don Drummond. And the two of them formed the Skatalites.

In Brazil, singer and composer Dorival Caymmi died at the age of 94. Dorival Caymmi wrote his first song when he was 16: “O Que e Que a Baiana Tem?” – what is it about Bahian women?

Carmen Miranda made it her first hit. Dorival Caymmi paved the way for bossa nova. But tropicalistas like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil can also trace their sound to the influence of Dorival Caymmi�and songs like Das Rosas.

Also from another era, Lili Boniche passed away in March. Here’s the Jewish-Algerian singer and guitarist with one of his best known tunes, “Alger Alger.”

Lili Boniche was a central figure in a group of Algerian musicians, some Muslim, some Jewish. In the 30s, 40s and 50s, they all mixed Arab-Analusian styles with mambo, tango and rumba. Boniche moved to France after Algeria gained independence in 1962 and opened a furniture business. But recently, demand for performances got Lili Boniche back in clubs.

Frenchman Henri Salvador who died in February at the age of 90 enjoyed a similar comeback. The crooner had already had a rich life. But in 2000, young hipsters suddenly discovered Salvador’s charms. And as Henri Salvador told me a few years ago, he was having more fun than he had ever had in music.

�I’m back again on stage, on radio, on TV, in interview, and now I do it with pleasure. Before I was working. Now it’s a pleasure for me.�

Henri Salvador even cut an album for Blue Note records. Here’s the title track from “Room with a View.”

And finally, we didn’t get a chance to say farewell to one of the true greats of Cuban music. Bass player Israel “Cachao” Lopez died in March in Coral Gables, Florida.

He had left Cuba after Castro took over. But Cachao’s mark on Cuban music is indelible. At the age of 12, in the 1920s, Cachao was playing in a dance orchestra.

But he and his brother started goofing around, adding pronounced drum and bass sections to the songs. Thus, mambo was invented� I leave you with one of the best tracks to hear Cachao’s instrument:

Cachao bows his bass, bringing back a bit of the luster of his beginnings as a classical bassist in the Havana Philharmonic.

For The World, I’m Marco Werman.

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