Pioneering Rumba King Peret Dead at 79

Peret, 2011.
Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

Pedro Pubill Calaf aka Peret.

Barcelona bids goodbye to the father of its urban gypsy sound.

Peret, the singer and guitarist known as the king of the Catalan rumba -- Barcelona's original party music -- died Wednesday, Aug. 27, at 79.

Peret once described the rumba catalana as a fusion of gypsy music, Afro-Cuban rhythms and Elvis Presley. He was one of two musicians (along with El Pescailla) credited with inventing the genre, which was the Barcelona gypsy community's answer to rock n' roll.

Born Pedro Pubill Calaf, Peret, the son of a textile salesman, was raised in a gypsy neighborhood of Barcelona. He was performing professionally by age 12, when he played a concert attended by Eva Peron, according to his official biography.

After gaining local fame in the late '50, Peret recorded his first album in 1962. He toured South America, performed at MIDEM in Cannes, on Tom Jones' television variety show, and in the 1974 Eurovision Song contest, where he placed ninth. Like Elvis, he appeared in a string of lowbrow movies, performing his songs.

Peret abandoned his musical career in 1982 and turned to religion. He became an Evangelist pastor. He came back in 1991 with a new album and performed at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

In 2000, a tribute album, Peret, Rey de la Rumba was released. Peret was discovered by a new generation of Spanish fans and musicians, who created a rumba revival. He toured internationally, and collaborated on a song with David Byrne.

Earlier this summer, Peret revealed he had lung cancer, but continued making music. He was reportedly finishing his first album in Catalan and recording another in Spanish at the time of his death in a hospital in Barcelona.