One of Cuba’s most charismatic performers, the tropical soul man known as El Gran Fellove, has died in Mexico at age 89.
Francisco Fellove is remembered for his fabulous onstage flair and original vocal stylings which, on songs like “El Jamaiquino,” established him as a pioneer of Spanish-language scat. He is considered a founder of the Cuban jazz-inspired bolero movement called filin.
Fellove wrote his signature song, “Mango Mangué” at the age of 17. Inspired by the calls of street vendors, it was recorded by Celia Cruz and salsero Johnny Pacheco, among other artists.
The singer and composer was a longtime resident of Mexico, where he first traveled by boat from Havana in the 1950s. Soon after his arrival, Mexican artistic director and producer Mariano Rivera Conde dubbed him “El Gran” (“The Great”) Fellove.
El Gran Fellove, performing “Jamaiquino” on Mexican television in the ’60s
Fellove later performed in New York at with orchestras led by Tito Puente and Machito at the height of that city’s Latin dance scene; he also toured throughout Latin America. In 1999, he recorded an album with Cuban trumpeter Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros and the young pianist Osmany Paredes. He later recorded a tropical version of Sting’s “Walking on the Moon”.
Fellove died in a Mexico City hospital on Friday, February 15. His death was reported in Mexican newspapers on Tuesday (Feb. 19), after they were informed of his death via an email from his manager, Rocio Montes.
According to the Mexican press, Fellove will be featured in an upcoming documentary on Afro-Caribbean music being produced by actor Matt Dillon.
“I consider [Fellove] to be a great artist,” Dillon said during a press conference Tuesday for an event celebrating independent film at Mexico City’s Casa de Cine MX. “He left a great musical legacy… it was a privilege for me to be able to work and spend time with him.”