Compay Segundo

A towering, charismatic presence in Afro-Cuban music, Compay Segundo was quite simply – as Ry Cooder once put it -“the last of the best’. Born Francisco Repilado, he composed his first song at the age of fifteen, by which time he was already an accomplished guitarist and clarinettist. Before long he had invented his own instrument, the armónico, a seven-string hybrid between a guitar and a tres, which gave his playing the unique, ringing resonance which was later to characterise his thrilling signature tune, Chan Chan. During the 1920s and 1930s he played with some of the best bands of the era, including the Municipal Band of Havana, Conjunto Matamoros and Nico Saquito’s quintet. In the 1940s he found fame as one half of the Los Compadres duo with Lorenzo Hierrezuelo, before forming his own group, Compay Segundo and his Muchachos, in the 1950s. Both an innovator and a traditionalist, he continued working with his own group until his death in 2003 at the grand old age of 95.