Compay Segundo

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About Compay Segundo

Máximo Francisco Repilado Muñoz—a.k.a. Compay Segundo—was born in 1907 in Cuba, but it took nine decades for him to become a global star. As a member of the Ry Cooder–assembled Buena Vista Social Club in the late ’90s, his song “Chan Chan” became a signature of the supergroup’s repertoire. Yet Segundo had made music since he was a teenager, forming a duo with his cousin Lorenzo Hierrezuelo in Santiago to play trova music—a rustic troubadour style once used to convey the latest news set to melody. He got his nickname, which translates to “second compadre,” in 1942 as a member of the duo. They moved to Havana, working together and apart in numerous support contexts, singing and playing guitar, tres, and clarinet. But it wasn’t until 1957 that he formed his own group, embracing the more urbane son sound. For most of his career, Segundo maintained a straight job in cigar factories, but even when he retired in 1972, he continued to perform sporadically, eventually joining Cuarteto Patria, a traditionally minded group led by guitarist Eliades Ochoa. The two would become part of Buena Vista Social Club, which began when American guitarist Ry Cooder visited Havana in search of forgotten greats of Cuban music. Segundo released several albums in the wake of the film project’s success, touring globally with the ensemble and his own until his death in 2003.

Siboney, Cuba
November 18, 1907

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