Edmundo Ros dies aged 100
Saturday 22 October 2011
The man responsible for popularising Latin American music in the UK has died at the age of 100.
Edmundo Ros was the most accomplished Latin-American musician and vocalist of his generation and the infectious beat of his world-famous rumba band was a cheering sound in wartime Britain and the post-war austerity years.
He first achieved what was to be long-lasting fame when the then Princess Elizabeth in the 1940s arrived with a party at London's Bagatelle Restaurant and made her first public dance - to the music of Ros's band.
From that moment he became a household name and remained as such for decades with the insistent beat and stomp of music redolent of South America which, according to one fan "set dance halls and night clubs alight" the world over.
He was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on December 7, 1910. His mother was a black Venezuelan and his father was of Scottish origin. The family lived in Caracas, Venezuela from 1927 to 1937.
Ros played in the Venezuelan Military Academy Band as well as being a tympanist in the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra. Later he received a music scholarship from the government, under which from 1937 to 1942 he studied harmony, composition and orchestration at the Royal Academy of Music, London.
In August 1940 he formed his own rumba band, and the following year he cut his first tracks, with Parlophone. The group played regularly at the Coconut Grove club in Regent Street. His bands were invariably based in London night-clubs or restaurants. His number The Wedding Samba, 1949, sold three million copies, and his album Rhythms of The South (1958) sold one million copies. Altogether he made over 800 recordings.
In 1951, he bought the Coconut Grove on Regent Street and later, in 1964, renamed it Edmundo Ros's Dinner and Supper Club. The club became popular for its atmosphere and music; but it closed in 1965, when legalised casino gambling had milked many of the best customers
But at the age of 64, in 1975, Ros dismantled the band and destroyed all the arrangement sheets.
Ros, who retired to Alicante, in Spain, became an OBE in the 2000 New Year Honours List at the age of 90. He was a Freeman of the City of London.
Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in December 1910, Ros lived in Venezuela from 1927 to 1937, where he played in the Venezuelan Military Academy Band as well as being a tympanist in the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra.
Later he received a music scholarship from the government, and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1937 to 1942.
He formed his own rumba band, performing at London clubs and restaurants, and cut his own tracks.
His name was made when the then Princess Elizabeth made her first public dance to his music. In later years he and his orchestra were often invited to play at Buckingham Palace.
Ros went on to own a club, dance school, record company and an artist's agency, while his band grew and was renamed Edmundo Ros and his Orchestra. He sold millions of records, making hundreds of recordings altogether.
During the 1950s and 1960s the Ros orchestra appeared frequently on BBC Radio.
But in 1975 he disbanded the orchestra, destroying most of its arrangement sheets.
"He was a major figure, one of the biggest names", Mr Adrian said.
"When you get to 100 you stop working. He retired in 1975, but between '39 and '75 he was a big, big name, had his own club in London and played around the world.
"His discography is massive. He was the one who really popularised Latin American music in this country."
Ros retired and moved to Javea, in Alicante, Spain, and gave his last public performance in 1994.
In the 2000 New Year's Honours List, aged 90, Ros was appointed to the Order of the British Empire.
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