Manuel Galbán, known for influencing contemporary Cuban music and his work with the Buena Vista Social Club, died of a cardiac arrest in Havana, Cuba on Friday.

The Grammy Award winning musician, described as “master of the guitar” in the Communist Party publication Granma, was 80.

"It is a very sad day for Cuban music and fans of Cuban Music," said Daniel Florestano, longtime manager of both Galbán and the Buena Vista Social Club, in a statement issued by Galbán's publicist.

 "Galbán's enormous impact worldwide with his unique guitar sound and warm smile will be missed by many."

Born in 1931 in Gibara, in the eastern province of Holguín, Galbán made his professional debut in 1944, according to the statement.

 In 1963 he joined Los Zafiros, Spanish for "Sapphires," which fused varied styles such as bolero, calypso and rock with Cuban "filin" music, which comes from the word "feeling."

The group became one of the island's most popular until it disbanded in 1972.
Galbán spent the next three years as head of Cuba's national music ensemble.

He then formed a group known as Batey, which performed throughout the world "representing Cuba in numerous acts of solidarity," Granma said.

In the 1990s he became part of the Buena Vista Social Club project, a group of elderly, sometimes retired, musicians who were living quietly in Cuba before U.S. guitarist and producer Ry Cooder brought them together.

The album was an international smash hit and later the subject of a documentary by filmmaker Wim Wenders.

In 2003, Galbán teamed up with Cooder to record Mambo Sinuendo. It won a Grammy the following year for best pop instrumental album.

Galbán follows others from the Buena Vista Social Club who have already died, including Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González, Orlando “Cachaito” López and vocalist Pío Leyva.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press

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