At age seventy, in full creative capacity, José Luis Cortés González, a.k.a. El Tosco, has passed away.
A mournful loss for Cuban culture: he was an artist of marvelous plurality. He is a flutist, arranger, composer, music producer... and founder and director of one of the most influential orchestras of Cuban popular music: NG la Banda. National Music Award in 2017, his was one of the most overwhelming personalities of the artistic world in Cuba.
Time and time again he triggered controversy with his sayings, his choruses, his statements... but he was always protected by his extraordinary talent.
He played the flute masterfully, to the point that he left astonished those who had criticized him just minutes earlier. Music was the best argument from a man who didn't mince words.
The note published by his record label defines him with accuracy: "José Luis Cortés, endearing Tosco, has said farewell. Universal influence and unquestionable charisma. From EGREM we say goodbye to the man, but not to the genius. Thanks for the music Maestro. Your talent and constant experimentation with the most authentic sounds, make him a benchmark for contemporary creation. A tireless contributor since Irakere orchestra or with NG la Banda, José Luis leaves a deep print on popular sonorities. The flute, his magic wand, always sought the way to talk about Cuba and its strengths".
Precisely EGREM label was preparing an anthological record of his work. It will now be a posthumous tribute. One among many, because the contributions of José Luis Cortés assure him a permanent place in Cuban musical creation. He will live on in his work.
He was one of the great forerunners of the timba boom, creator of some of its most emblematic songs. And he was the teacher of several promotions of instrumentalists and singers.
Some even speak of a new way of assuming certain sonorities of the national heritage: a product that goes beyond the individual.
From a very young age in his native Santa Clara, he showed great aptitude for music and dance. While still a teenager, and studying in art schools, he was linked to important musicians and groups. Later with sufficient experience as a flutist, he joined the famous Irakere Orchestra, under the direction of maestro Chucho Valdés.
But El Tosco had the makings of a leader. In the late 80’s he founded NG la Banda. The name was a declaration of principles: NG: New Generation.
He opened another path on the great crossroads of Cuban popular music. Some did not understand. Others, with less prejudice, assessed the worth of the new proposal.
El Tosco was always his persona. He left no one indifferent: they loved him or they hated him, but it was impossible to deny his originality, not to recognize the force of his actions.
The void left by José Luis Cortés cannot be occupied by anyone. He is irreplaceable. Hundreds of thousands of dancers made his songs their own, they sang his songs in unison.
He, who could have easily played a universal classical music concert, devoted himself to popular dance music... that is, to his people, to his roots. And from there he consolidated a paradigm.
Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff