Cumbia music pioneer and accordion player Celso Pina died unexpectedly on August 21, 2019 in Monterrey, Mexico at the age of 66 as the result of a heart attack.
Performing for over 40 years, the Monterrey native was in the middle of a U.S. tour at the time of his death.
Pina was one of Mexico’s most iconic entertainers who not only played the accordion but was also a composer and singer who took the cumbia music of Columbia and mixed it with a variety of styles including sonidero, nortena, hip-hop, ska, and reggae to create a new sound.
Known as “the accordion rebel”, he taught himself how to play the accordion to play vallenata music – another Colombian musical style. He joined his brothers – Eduardo, Rubén and Enrique – to form the band Celso Piña Y Su Ronda Bogotá.
Bucking the traditional music of home, Pina’s music not only ruffled some feathers of local authorities, his shows were also shut down by the police.
But all of that changed when Nobel Prize winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez was filmed dancing to Pina’s music at an event in the Monterrey Museum of Contemporary Art.
In 2012, the Latin Grammy Award nominee performed during the gala event with Lila Downs.
He was born Celso Piña Arvizu on April 6, 1953 in Monterrey, Mexico. Before becoming a full time musician, Pina worked as a smelter, a tortilla dealer, a corn miller, an upholsterer, and as a children’s hospital administrator.
feature photo credit: By Secretaría de Cultura Ciudad de México from México – MX TV AÑO DUAL MEXICO-ALEMANIA CELSO PIÑA, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81637445