General information about Juan Formell
Juan Formell was born in Havana on August 2nd, 1942. He made his first musical studies with his father Francisco Formell who was flutist, pianist and composer – and then he continued as an autodidact.
In his professional career he worked in various musical groups such as the one of Pedro Justiz (Peruchín), Guillermo Rubalcaba and the Carlos Faxas Orchestra.
A particularly important fact of the artistic development of Formell was when he joined the Reve Orquesta in 1967.
There, he made valuable stylistic and structural contributions to Cuban orchestras called “charanga”. Some examples of these contributions were: the incorporation of electric bass and organeta, the rhythmic processing and acoustic amplification in the violins, some employment of the flute system and battery – which replaced the five keys flute and pans – vocal work at three voices in place of the unison, among others.
Juan Formell and Los Van Van
In late 1969 Juan Formell created Los Van Van, with this he expanded his creative work full of search, experimentation and relying primarily on the maximum use of expressive resources.
Formell musicalized poems by Nicolas Guillen like Cuando vine a este mundo (When I came into this World), from the series Mi Son Entero (My whole son).
He wrote music for theater, among which stand Barbecue directed by Abraham Rodriguez and Life in Santa Fe by Cuban playwright Nicolas Dorr.
Regarding films, he composed the soundtrack for the Cuban film “The Birds shooting at the gun” by director Rolando Diaz and in television he made La Rueda de Casino directed by Jose Milian.
He made numerous presentations as an author and performer, both in national events organized by cultural institutions and international tours worldwide.
His creations and artistic results achieved with his band have become models for other musical groups in Cuba and abroad.
Awards received by Juan Formell
Juan Formell in 1976 received the people´s recognition Barranquisimanto.
In 1988 he was awarded with the plaque of appreciation from the Quito City and in the same year he received the “Alejo Carpentier” Medal.
In 1989 he is awarded with the of popularity honour. In 2002 he was awarded the “Felix Varela Order of First Grade” by agreement of the State Council.
In 2003 he was awarded the National Music Award and in 2008 received the “Special World Music Award”, awarded by the jury of the World Entertainment Organization (WEO).
In March 2010 he received an honorary doctorate from the Higher Institute of Arts for his work displayed at the head of the orchestra Los Van Van, in 2010 he received the Key to the City of Cardenas.
In July 2012 he received the “Gitana Tropical” award, the highest honor awarded by the Provincial Directorate of Culture in Havana.
In 2013 he received the WOMEX Artist Award. The Latin Recording Academy also decided to recognize the Special Award for Musical Excellence in 2013.
The award was presented in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States on November 20th, 2013.
Irreparable Loss of Juan Formell
Juan Formell died on May 1, 2014 in Havana. His death came as a result of complications from a liver ailment that kept him hospitalized in Havana during his last week of life.
Upon the death, a posthumous tribute underwent, as his ashes – guarded by wreaths, bass and microphone – were exhibited in the lobby of the National Theater of Cuba, from where the Cubans had the opportunity to give him a final goodbye.
Council of State, Doctorate Honoris Causa, Francisco Formell, Superior Art Institute, Felix Varela Order of First Grade, Reve Orquesta, Music World Special Award, National Music Prize, National Theatre of Cuba, Van Van, World Entertainment Organization.