The Legacy of Two Latin Music Greats Who Died This Week

Lead Photo: Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla
Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla
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John Jaider Fuentes, 42-year-old member of Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, died suddenly and unexpectedly in Chile on Tuesday. 90-year-old saxophonist Ray Santos reportedly died on October 17 due to complications with congestive heart failure.

Messages of love and appreciation have trickled in for both respectable musicians following the news of their passing.

The Ministry of Culture in Colombia said Fuentes, along with the other members of the respected folklore cumbia ensemble, “have made our musical legacy resonate around the world… His maracas, gaita, and song will be a part of Colombian history for generations to come.”

He is survived by a group of people dedicated to preserving the sound and traditions of the Afro-Indigenous music they’ve played for decades. According to El Espectador, they released a statement in Spanish as well, saying “We lost not just one of us, but also a great friend, brother, husband, father, an exceptional being, who for many years accompanied us on the mission to take cumbia around the world.”

Similarly, Santos – beloved jazz powerhouse known as “El Maestro,” who collaborated with the likes of Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Celia Cruz, and Machito – was on a mission to take his strain of mambo and jazz around the world, and did so very successfully. Throughout his artistic lifetime, he won several Grammys, generously offered his talent to rising talent through his work as an arranger, conductor and even professor (teaching lucky industry hopefuls at City College of New York). The Puerto Rican legend, of course, performed around the world, but always brought his talents back home to New York.

Eddie Palmieri, who last worked with him in 2018, expressed his condolences as well.

The managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Wynton Marsalis, told The New York Times that Santos “represented the quality, the insight and the dignity of a whole idiom, and by that idiom I don’t mean Afro-Latin music; I mean American music.”

Both will be greatly missed, and their impact on Latin music, and beyond, will not soon be forgotten.