Veteran Puerto Rican singer and percussionist Sammy Ayala, known for his work in the folk genres of bomba and plena, died at a hospital here this week. He was 79.

Musician Marcos Lopez Ayala, a grandchild of Ayala's who studies percussion at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, made the announcement on Facebook, calling his grandfather "one of the most important people" in his life and an "inspiration and mentor."

One of Ayala's last concerts was at a major music festival last year in Old San Juan, where he performed with the Puerto Rican band Plena Libre led by bassist Gary Nuñez.

Nuñez told Efe Thursday that he will remember Ayala, who died the day before after a battle with cancer, as a "wonderful person," noting that he contributed throughout his life to the development of Puerto Rican music and especially the Afro-Puerto Rican genres of bomba and plena.

Ayala is best remembered for his work beginning in 1954 as a singer and percussionist with Rafael Cortijo's orchestra, one of the island's most successful bands of that era. EFE