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Peret, the 'father' of Catalan rumba, dies from cancer aged 79

Pere Pubill i Calaf, better known as Peret, died at noon on Wednesday in a Barcelonan hospital, aged 79. The singer, guitar player and composer Peret was considered to be the 'father' of the so-called Catalan rumba, a fusion music style mixing Afro-Cuban mambo with flamenco and rock and roll. This rhythm was born in the 1950s within Barcelona's Gipsy community and became increasingly popular in the 1960s thanks to some of Peret's hits. Soon it became part of Catalonia's culture and common heritage, being extremely popular and receiving institutional recognition. Peret started his musical career extremely young in the 1940s. He published a total of 27 albums, and he was about to release his first disc entirely in Catalan. In his last years, he became particularly active in social and political movements, criticising poverty and supporting Catalan self-determination. A few weeks ago, he issued a press release announcing he was undergoing anti-cancer treatment.

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27 August 2014 09:25 PM

by

ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- Pere Pubill i Calaf, better known as Peret, died at noon on Wednesday in a Barcelonan hospital, aged 79. The singer, guitar player and composer Peret was the most veteran artist of the so-called Catalan rumba, a fusion music style mixing Afro-Cuban mambo with flamenco and rock and roll. He was also considered to be the 'father' of this genre of music and was also known as the 'King of Catalan rumba'. This style was born in the 1950s within Barcelona's Gipsy community and became increasingly popular in the 1960s thanks to some of Peret's hits. Soon it became part of Catalonia's culture and common heritage, being extremely popular and receiving institutional recognition. Furthermore, Catalan Rumba is also part of Barcelona's identity and many consider it one of the main elements of the city's soundtrack. A few weeks ago, Peret issued a press release announcing he was undergoing treatment against lung cancer and was confident to play concerts soon again. After knowing about the artist's decease, the Catalan Minister of Culture, Ferran Mascarell, underlined the "formidable cultural role [Peret] played all his life" and how the musician "linked Catalan Rumba" with "our country". Mascarell announced that he will talk with the family in order to prepare a tribute in the coming weeks "to express the love and recognition" towards this unique artist. The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, defined Peret as "one of the main exponents of Catalan Rumba and its most popular interpreter", saying that the genre is "a music that cannot be understood without the Spanish guitar, its inseparable companion".


Peret was born in Mataró - a coastal city in northern Greater Barcelona - in 1935, and after an air attack during the Civil War he moved to Barcelona's Raval neighbourhood, growing up in a small gipsy community. Peret started his musical career extremely young, in the mid-1940s. In the 1950s he started to invent new rhythms with his guitar and developed a unique style which would be later known as Catalan or Gipsy Rumba.

In the mid-1960s he moved to Madrid, and in the late 1960s and early 1970s his hits became extremely popular throughout Spain. In 1974 he sung in Eurovision with 'Canta y sé feliz' and he is the author of songs such as 'Una lágrima' and 'Borriquito como tú', which became a number one hit throughout Europe, particularly in The Netherlands and Germany.

In the mid-1985 he surprised his fans by retiring and starting working as an Evangelist pastor. However, in the early 1990s he revived his musical career, and in 1992 he made the world dance in the closing ceremony of the Barcelona Olympics.

Besides creating Catalan Rumba, Peret also invented the "fan technique", which involves using the guitar's body as percussion while playing the instrument. This was one of the distinguishing elements of his own style and has become also become a distinguishing element of the Catalan Rumba. During his entire career, Peret published a total of 27 albums. In the coming weeks, he was about to release his first disc entirely in the Catalan language.

In the last years of his career, he became particularly active in social and political movements, criticising poverty and supporting Catalan self-determination. Furthermore, he proudly stressed his gipsy background and worked all his life for living-togetherness and understanding among communities, and encouraged the mix of cultures.

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  • Peret in 2013 in Manresa (by E. Escolà)

  • Peret singing with his guitar (by ACN)

  • Peret in 2013 in Manresa (by E. Escolà)
  • Peret singing with his guitar (by ACN)