Courtesy of the artist
Productive and acclaimed Mexican accordionist Celso Piña died Wednesday of a heart attack in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. He was 66 years old.
His record label La Tuna Records announced on Thursday the death of Piña.
Piña contributed significantly to the development of Cumbia . The Colombian folk genre has had an interesting life span since its beginnings in the 17th century, and few musicians have contributed more to this colorful history than Celso Piña.
As we explained in this Alt.Latino episode, the genre has roots in the African slave trade and seeped in as a regional dance form until it became the soundtrack to the upscale ballrooms and nightclubs of Mexico in the 1950s and 1960s. A young Celso Piña heard it for the first time in the 1970s and was eventually attracted to the Colombian Accordion Masters, who played both Cumbia and his musical cousin Vallenato . He channeled this passion into Celso Piña and Ronda Bogotá, a band he founded with his brothers Eduardo, Rubén and Enrique.
How a child from the dusty mountain town of Monterrey on the northern edge of Mexico became famous for transporting Colombian folk music on stage The world is part of the colorful legend he leaves behind. He became known as "The Rebel of the Accordion" when he sent Cumbia and artistically incorporated it into a wide range of contemporary Latin American music from hip-hip to rock to electronics and beyond , Barrio Bravo (2002) earned him a Latin Grammy nomination, but more importantly, it launched a series of high-profile collaborations with artists such as Cafe Tacvba, Lila Downs, Gloria Trevi and Natalia Lafourcade. He was just on a single by the Mexican-Cuban artist Leiden entitled "Tu Boca" to see.
Perhaps the best measure of an artist's success is not the awards and the sales figures, but the respect and admiration of his colleagues. Productive Mexican producer and performer Camilo Lara produced several songs for Celso Piña and overseen his last recording session just last week. Lara wrote this about his musical compadre for Alt.Latino: [19659014<Thelastoftherebelshasdisappeared
Celso Piña was not a typical music star. He was the last outsider. An idol who came from the Barrio to the Barrio and later to the world. He sent a universal message through local songs that spoke about specific things in his church. In the end, we all laugh, cry and dance.
The legacy left by Celso is really important. He let the rich know that there is a huge culture in poor Mexican neighborhoods. He was a proud ambassador of his beloved Barrio Independencia.
Celso was more punk than any punk I've ever known. He undertook experimental escapades with pop artists, hip-hop, electronica and all sorts of sounds. He was the architect of Nu-Cumbia and created the landmark song "Cumbia Sobre el Rio" that blended traditional cumbia with hot and exciting electronic beats.
He was the crystal ball that announced that Cumbia (again) would be THE music for children in search of answers. He was the soundtrack of the new counterculture.
Gabriel García Márquez called him El Acordeonista de Hamelin (Hameln accordionist). Celso was a unifier. His music was the true meaning of democracy: whether you were old, young, fat, thin, tall or short, you would certainly dance to his music.
I always wanted to be like Celso. An outsider, a rebel. Someone proud of his roots, but looking to the future. Now he is next to all my idols. Strummer, Marley, Malcolm McClaren, Augustus Pablo.
One thing I know for sure: His music has made this world a little better. Those of us who knew him will remember him as a generous teacher and friend.